I am the Curator of Archaeology for the Mackinac State Historic Parks in Mackinaw City, Michigan. I am a native of Cincinnati, Ohio. I have a B.A. (anthropology/museum studies) from Beloit College (Wisconsin) and a Ph.D. (American Civilization- historical archaeology) from the University of Pennsylvania.

Michilimackinac 2017

I am the Curator of Archaeology for Mackinac State Historic Parks.  As my previous posts for this project (2012-2013, 2015-2016) have reflected, my primary responsibility is to direct the ongoing excavation at Michilimackinac.  Because of our large public component, the project operates seven days a week in the summer, with staff on a rotating schedule.  I was off on the actual Day of Archaeology, so I documented my work the day before.

In addition to Michilimackinac, I am also responsible for the archaeological resources at MSHP’s other parks, Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse, Historic Mill Creek Discovery Park, Fort Mackinac and Mackinac Island State Park.  This involves pre-construction planning, monitoring, and sometimes mitigation.  I started this morning traveling to Mackinac Island to monitor the excavation of two holes for a directional sign.  The twenty-minute boat ride to the island can be a treat or an adventure, depending on the weather, but today was beautiful.  The sign turned out to be located near a limestone outcrop, not unusual on Mackinac.  Before the holes were a foot deep, the carpenter had to get a jackhammer!  There was no cultural material above the rock, so I headed back to the mainland.

A beautiful day to commute by ferry.

At Michilimackinac, we are still excavating at House E, a French, and later, British, fur trader’s residence in the Southeast Rowhouse.  Our season is almost two-thirds over, and we have had some interesting finds, including an intact furniture lock and trade silver brooch in the root cellar, a second piece of trade silver from under-the-floorboard deposit, and a brass crucifix from the 1781 demolition of the house as the garrison was being transferred to Mackinac Island.

James and Elizabeth excavating at House E, southeast rowhouse, Michilimackinac

The most common items we find on a daily basis are animal bones from the traders’ meals, glass seed beads, lead shot, nails and broken glass.  This summer has also seen over two dozen gunflints, and several musketballs and fishhooks.  Today fit that pattern, with three gunflints appearing.  The animal bones tell us about daily life.  The nails and glass tell us about the structure and the other artifacts are probably trade goods.

Spall and blade gunflints found on Day of Archaeology

In previous seasons, this house has been notable for the great quantity and variety of ceramics found, and also for the surprising number of personal adornment items.  These do not seem to be trade goods, but rather markers of personal style and striving to keep up with London fashions.  Both of these classes of artifacts have been somewhat rarer this summer, but we did uncover a plain pewter button today.

Plain pewter button found on Day of Archaeology

It was warm this afternoon, so in addition to typical field director duties of consulting, assigning level and matrix numbers, and doing a little excavating, I went and fetched popsicles for a shade break.  The day ended with computer issues, so instead of an early post, this became a belated one.  Every day is an adventure in archaeology!

 

Good Things to Eat

Our project goes seven days a week because our site is located in the middle of a living history museum, and public education is a huge part of our mission.  Because of this I am off Friday-Saturday and work Sunday-Thursday, so I did my Day of Archaeology about July 31.

I’m the Curator of Archaeology for Mackinac State Historic Parks and in the summer my main responsibility is to direct the archaeological excavation at Colonial Michilimackinac State Historic Park.  This is the 58th season of excavation at the park and the ninth season of our current project, House E of the Southeast Row House.  You can read more about the project at my previous Day of Archaeology blogs.

We are trying to wrap things up in the southern part of the house this summer, but we won’t get it all done, because we have discovered a root cellar.

John excavating in the root cellar.

John excavating in the root cellar. (Photo by L Evans)

There were no special finds today, just the usual fish bones, glass seed beads, lead shot and broken glass.  Over the course of the summer, we have recovered buttons, cufflinks, a Jesuit ring, hawkbells, fishhooks, a keyhole escutcheon from a piece of furniture and an iron projectile point.

We each take a day a week to talk to our guests, informally as families pass through the site, and four times a day for organized walking tours led by costumed historical interpreters.  This weekend we had a special event, “Gardens and Good Things to East” weekend, so two of my tour talks focused on what we have learned about food ways from archaeology.

Julia offers radish pods to a walking tour.

Julia offers radish pods to a walking tour. (photo by L Evans)

One of the perks of working at a living history site is getting to sample some of the food demonstrations.

John, portraying a British soldier, brings us part of a loaf of fresh-baked bread.

John bringing fresh-baked bread from the clay bake oven. (photo by L Evans)


A Day in the Summer of Michilimackinac 300

I am the Curator of Archaeology for Mackinac State Historic Parks, and my primary responsibility in the summer is to direct the archaeological excavation at Michilimackinac.  This is the third year we have participated in Day of Archaeology, and we are still excavating at the same site, a fur traders’ house at Michilimackinac.  The house is one unit of a five unit rowhouse, built in the 1730s, rebuilt in the 1760s and demolished in 1781.  It was lived in by fur traders, first a French-Canadian, Charles Gonneville, and later an English fur trader, name as yet unknown.

Two of us were working on postmolds from the 1760s south wall of the house today.

Two postmolds are visible in this image.  The top one still has some wood visible in it.

Two postmolds are visible in this image. The top one still has some wood visible in it.

The other feature we were excavating today was much more recent, two concrete piers from old-fashioned stocks that were an interactive display inside the walls of Fort Michilimackinac in 1960-1961.

These two concrete piers are the remains of stocks from a c.1960 display of colonial punishment devices.

These two concrete piers are the remains of stocks from a c.1960 display of colonial punishment devices.

Our site is in the middle of Colonial Michilimackinac State Historic Park and we are surrounded by live interpretive programming every day.  This summer we are celebrating the tricentennial of Michilimackinac with a series of themed weekends.  This weekend’s theme is Robert Rogers of the Rangers.  As part of the celebration, our regular interpretive staff was joined by re-enactors from Jaeger’s Battalion of Rogers’ Rangers and the Massachusetts Provincial Battalion.

French and Indian War-era re-enactors participating in the opening color ceremony.

French and Indian War-era re-enactors participating in the opening color ceremony.


A Day at Michilimackinac – July 25, 2013

I am Curator of Archaeology for Mackinac State Historic Parks.  In the summer my primary responsibility is to direct the archaeological excavation at Colonial Michilimackinac State Historic Park.  We are currently excavating a fur trader’s house within the palisade walls of reconstructed Fort Michilimackinac.  The house was one unit in a five unit rowhouse originally  constructed in the 1730s and demolished in 1781 when the garrison was relocated to Mackinac Island.

I just opened a  new 5′ x 5′ square this week, so I spent most of my day removing sand and a buried sod layer from twentieth century park activities.

 

This is the new square i recently opened.

This is the new square I recently opened.
© 2013 L Evans

Most of the squares we are working on at the moment are below the floor level of the house.

Deep pocket of 1781 demolition matrix with barrel bands and hinge exposed.

Deep pocket of 1781 demolition matrix with barrel bands and hinge exposed.
©2013 L Evans

Because we are excavating in the middle of a popular living history site, we devote a lot of time to educating our guests.

public interpretation

©2013 L Evans

Most of the time it is great to work in a state park with running water and many other modern amenities.  The big excitement today was a broken waterline, snapped during a landscaping project.

Here is the broken line.

Here is the broken line.
©2013 L Evans

Many of the artifacts we find are tiny, the kind of items that were swept through the cracks in the floorboards, such as fishbones, seed beads and lead shot.  To find them, we waterscreen our deposit.

Robert H. spraying down some deposit.

Robert H. spraying down some deposit.
©2013 L Evans

The broken waterline slowed that process down for 1.5 hours, but our park operations crew got the line fixed and we were back to recovering little bits of history.

A Day at Michilimackinac – In Pictures

Due to technical difficulties there were no pictures with my original post, so here they are:

Michilimackinac in the morning.

 

These are some of our typical artifacts, glass seed beads and small bottle fragments:

Typical artifacts at Michilimackinac

 

This is what one of the screens looks like when it has been sprayed down and is ready to be sorted.  You can see fish bones and scales, pincherry seeds, gravel, and, if you look closely, a small glass fragment.

Screen ready for sorting

 

We talk to hundreds of guests every day.  Notice our current reconstruction in the background.  We completed excavating this six unit row house in 2007.

Every day is public day at Michilimackinac!

 

 

 

 

A Day at Michilimackinac

My primary responsibility this time of year is to direct the excavation at Colonial Michilimackinac State Historic Park.  Fort Michilimackinac was established by the French around 1715, taken over by the British in 1761, and dismantled and moved to Mackinac Island with the establishment of Fort Mackinac in 1781.  Archaeological excavation has taken place at Michilimackinac every summer since 1959 and provided the foundation of the reconstruction of about half of this fortified fur trading outpost.  We are currently excavating a fur trader’s house.

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