Archive | May 2015

The End is Near

Today was the fourth and final day of field trips for the Michigan Archaeological Fieldwork spring term class 2015. From the tip of the mitten to nearly the border of Indiana, we have traversed the state to visit various archaeological and historic sites as supplements to our archaeological studies.

This morning we visited the Mount Pleasant Indian Industrial Boarding School where we got to help out at with the field school team. Then in the afternoon we toured the Ziibiwing Cultural Center in Mount Pleasant where we learned about the history of Native Americans who were native to Michigan, some of whom would have attended the Indian Boarding School when it was a running establishment from 1893-1934. After spending the morning at what was left of the boarding school, it was easy to picture what it would have looked and been like back then.

Overall, we had a great time on our trips over the past week and have gained invaluable experience and insights from professionals in the field of archaeology. With just one day left, it is almost time to close up the units here at Old Main. But our time and efforts have been fruitful, nevertheless. Thanks to our professors and student mentors, we have learned much and, in turn, contributed to uncovering the secrets of a timeless building of Alma College—Old Main. (MFE LA)


Wrap up!

The final stages of excavation have begun. It is sad to see that the Old Main site will be closing over the summer. There were many great times and some bad times (due to the weather). It is unknown as of now if a class will be returning to excavate next year. Until a few of the units have been filled in, tomorrow the entire site will be closed and student will be heading home. Tonight was the last night for lab work some artifacts were bagged and tagged while others had just been clean. Tomorrow the artifacts that have been cleaned will be bagged and tagged tomorrow. As the time draws to a close students are finishing papers and finishing paper work.

Our Final Week in a Nutshell

Our final field trip is today and it is to Mt. Pleasant, MI to visit the Indian Industrial Boarding School. This will wrap up our week of a cross state visit of multiple historical sites. But before we leave for the summer, it is important to note the things that we have taken away from this class.

This class allowed us to gain knowledge about things that we did not know existed. We visited Fort Michilimackinac, the Michigan Historical Museum, Michigan State University’s archaeological sites, as well as Fort St. Joseph Museum in Niles, MI. These trips included guided tours, hands on excavating, and even the chance to observe a cannon fire! While learning the history of Michigan, we were also becoming informed of what goes on behind the scenes of archaeology and its role in history. Today, we took a trip to the Mt. Pleasant Indian Industrial Boarding School and the Ziibiwing Cultural Center. We learned loads of inofrmation regarding the students who were forced to attend the boarding school. In addition to that, at the Ziibiwing Cultural Center we learned about the rare and rich information regarding the North American Indians.

While the field trips were fun and extremely informative, we could not forget about our beloved Old Main. The class has been constructing research reports that depict graphs, as well as pivotal information regarding the artifacts that we have found. For example, our groups graphs will show how many artifacts we found in what levels and what sort of artifacts were found in our most prosperous level.


Field trip round two and three

After exploring Fort Michilimackinac on Sunday, yesterday we went to Michigan State and had a tour with Dr. Lovis who is the archaeology professor. He showed us the basement where cabinets of artifacts are found and Professor Conell showed us some in the classroom. Also, we got a tour of Michigan State by Professor Conell where previous excavations took place. We then went to the Michigan Historical Museum where we learned a lot about artifacts, people, and culture during different time periods.

Today, we went to the Niles History Center and Fort St. Joseph. At the History center we learned about slavery and Indians such as Sitting Bull whose drawings are stored in the museum. We also got a tour of the Chapin Mansion and learned the background of the Chapin family and got to see their beautiful Mansion. At Fort St. Joseph we got a tour of the area and met up with Western Michigan archaeology students. We observed them excavating the Fort St. Joseph area and helped weed some tall grass for them since that is where their next excavation site will be.

We are having a great time on our field trips so far and looking forward to tomorrow at the Mount Pleasant Indian Industrial Boarding School and the Ziibiwing Cultural Center! (DC & KS)

Travel Week

Sunday, the archaeology class began their journey to different historical spots across the state of michigan to help learn more about archaeology and more broadly, anthropology.  Our trip started at Fort Michilimackinac where we recieved a tour of the fort and also got a behind the scenes look at where the excavation takes place at the fort and where all of the cleaning and cataloging occurs.  As the day came to a close, we made the trip across the Mackinac Bridge into the town of St. Ignace and ate at Clyde’s Drive-In, home of the “Big C” burger.

Today’s adventures took us to the Michigan State University where we met with Dr. Bill Lovis who spoke to us about the artifacts that they hold in their “repository” area.  After looking at all of the items they have found and collected, Professor Conell took us on a walking tour of the MSU campus and showed us many different areas where there was previous excavation units.  Following this process we arrived to the Michigan Historical Museum where we were able to roam around and learn new things about our states that many of us didn’t know before.

All in all, it was a very long but exciting day that ended with us arriving in Niles, Michigan ready to start tomorrow’s adventure which will include us excavating a site.  We are very excited to continue learning more about other archaeology sites over the last couple of days of class and end our spring term with a bang. (DW CN)

Wrapping up Our Excavation

With Archaeology Day coming to an end this past weekend, our class excavation on Old Main has also come to an end. There were many units that had found some intriguing artifacts and others that had found simply bricks, metal, and pieces of glass. Blake and I’s 4 ft by 4 ft unit was turned in to an 8 ft by 8 ft unit with the help of some fellow classmates. Now, let me explain why this was done to our unit.

Expanding our unit was a result of a couple of probe tests and one shovel test finding a cultural level approximately 12-14 inches below datum. With clay being a part of most of our unit, these test were nothing short of ordinary. Archaeologist use these tests when their excavation unit becomes “dry” and artifacts are no longer being found. So, we connected three more units to our original, making a 8 ft by 8 ft unit. Our goal was to expose the cultural level in all four quadrants in our unit. A cultural level is the ground where Old Main sat. This would be where the top of the soil was located back then.

With the cultural level exposed in all four quadrants, we began finding whole bricks and multiple pieces of larger glass. This level was also full of nails, along with what we believe is a piece of leather. Our Old Main excavation came to an end this past weekend, so we could only reach the top of level 2 in our additional 3 units that we added on to our original unit.

Although we ended our excavation, this week will be filled with archaeology history. We will be taking field trips around Michigan learning about historical sites and their archaeological importance. These trips will wrap up our archaeological experience, as well as leave us with a bit of history about the state some of us grew up in.


Fort Michilimackinac

Today we went on our first field trip of the week to Fort Michilimackinac in Mackinaw City. Our day started off with a history of the British and the weapons that they used in the 18th century at the fort. They then showed us a demonstration of how they load and shoot the gun. After that was finished we got a tour and a history lesson of how the fort changed throughout the years.

Following our tour we went on another tour with Dr. Evans who focused mainly on the archaeological aspects of the fort and told us about the excavations that have been taking place since the 1950s. This was really awesome to see because we were able to get a good idea of a lot of the artifacts that have actually been recovered throughout their years excavating. Dr. Evans also told us that most of the building have been rebuilt based on the excavations that have taken place, meaning that they excavate before they build the building in order to get an idea of the actual building dimensions and what was used in those structures.

After receiving the tour with Dr. Evans of the fort she took us on a behind the scenes tour where we were able to see where the lab work takes place, as well as the storage of the items. This was an awesome experience because usually the only people who are able to see those building are the people who work there. We were then given free time for the following hour to explore the fort on our own. Following our free time we met again as a class at 3 o’clock to see the cannon get fired! We were then given free time again, but this time to roam around Mackinaw City. We enjoyed walking downtown and most of us bought some fudge to bring home!

Finally, after a long day, we went across the Mackinaw Bridge into St. Ignace to have dinner at Clyde’s Drive In. This is not a chain restaurant, it is a one of a kind drive in. They have a variety of burgers there but their most famous is “The Big C” which is a 3/4 pound burger! Everyone enjoyed their food and then it was time to make the 3 hour drive back to Alma. We all had a great time on our first field trip and are looking forward to the next 3!

(SW & JM)We

Archaeology In The North

Nothing like going up to Fort Michilimackinac for a field trip during the last week of class! We had the chance to tour the fort with experts on the history and learn more about the time period when the fort was in use! There was also another tour (more personal) after. This time we were able to learn about the artifacts that have been found while excavating the site over the years! Then, we were able to get an inside look on how the archaeologists prepare the artifacts for cateloging. We were able to see/learn about Musket and Cannon Firing! Once we finished up in the fort we were able to go walk around Mackinaw City for awhile before we continued our trip! It was a long, but very good day learning about Fort Michilimackinac! (JCAH)

Archaeology Day

Today we finally had our Archaeology Day. It started out with everyone preparing stations and getting all the equipment ready for digging. Because not all of the holes were completed we had to finish some while the festivities were going on.  We started off by finishing our hole. For the past few days we have not been finding many artifacts and were hitting sterile soil. After we were able to level out our hole to 22 inches we probed our unit and confirmed that it was now sterile and we could end our excavation.

Archaeology day started out slow but as the day went on more people came. One of the first people to visit was an older man that had been at Alma when the fire occurred. we were able to ask him some questions and record his responses so we could possibly gain some more information about Old main and the fire.

By far one of our best participants were two little boys that came in the afternoon. They were so happy to get the chance to dig and so curious about learning more. Before Archaeology Day we set some goals to help people learn more about old main and about how important archaeology is to our society. These little boys helped us reach these goals and everyone had a great time teaching them and watching them have a blast. (AW and MS)

Community Archaeology Day

Today was finally the archaeology field day for the community! The day started off like any other, with the usual setting up of the sifters at each unit, and bringing out the needed materials from the lab. It was sort of a cloudy day to begin with, not bringing too many people out to enjoy the fun activities the students had planned. There was more to do this time around, after gaining some much needed experience from last year about what the public liked and what could be added for even more positive feedback! Some of the activities included a cool scavenger hunt that led you around the entire Alma College campus, letting you explore the campus, and teaching you fun things along the way! Another activity that was set up closer to the actual dig site was the ‘mock’ dig site that allowed the smaller archaeology lovers to dig into the rice and find cool ‘artifacts’ that made them feel like one of the team! After the afternoon sun finally came out, many people started to show up to explore the site. Some of the visitors actually were able to tell stories of their own time spent on Alma College campus, and some even were once students taking classes in Old Main! That was fun to hear about real life experiences from people who were actually there during the days of Old Main and the day of the fire, one visitor talked about his professor losing his doctorate paper in the fire causing him to actually lose his hair from all of the added stress! So many people enjoyed all the aspects of the dig day, being a mentor allowed us to go around and help where we were needed and to be able to share in the fun with some of the visitors that took the time out of their day to come and dig with us. In some of the units, the visitors could actually dig for real and help find some interesting stuff with our archaeology team, and that made it even more fun to be a part of something really awesome and history making! Families loved the hands on feel, and the day couldn’t have turned out better with the beautiful weather, and the amazing people that came to visit us to learn more about what happened to Old Main so many years ago.