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!


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