Archaeology Update

Archaeology Update

MSHP staff member Alex excavating in the root cellar.

MSHP staff member Alex excavating in the root cellar.

We have reached the halfway point of the 2017 Michilimackinac archaeology field season. We have known since the project began that this was a fur trader’s house, and the numerous trade artifacts recovered this summer confirm that. We have found over a dozen gunflints, four trade gun caliber musket balls, several fishhooks, fragments from two Jesuit rings and glass beads in many colors and sizes. These have mostly come from the interior of the house. (more…)

2016 Archaeology Season in Review

2016 Archaeology Season in Review

The end of August saw the close of another archaeological field season at Colonial Michilimackinac. This was our ninth season of excavation at House E, one of the units of the Southeast Rowhouse. Historic maps and records indicate that this was the house of Charles Desjardins de Rupallay de Gonneville by 1749 (and probably earlier) through at least 1758. By 1765 it was an English trader’s house. Our excavations indicate that it remained civilian housing throughout the fort’s occupation.

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2015 Archaeology Field Season in Review

The field season at Michilimackinac is over and as we dive into the winter lab work routine, there is time to reflect on what we learned this summer.

Of course the most notable find of the summer was the intact rosary Rosary (1) .  We will devote some time this winter to trying to answer some of the questions it raised.  Why does it have “extra” beads – is it a Brigittine rosary or are they for some other devotion?  Was it made in France?  How costly would it have been?  Other questions will have to wait for further excavation next season.  The rosary was found in the tenth-of-a-foot level above an as-yet-unidentified clay feature.  The clay is surrounded by cobbles and a plank.  It extends into an adjacent quad, which was partially excavated this summer. (more…)

Jew's Harp

Digging up the Past, All in a Day’s Work

Visitors to Michilimackinac get to interact with archaeologists uncovering little bits of history every day during the peak season. What they are observing is only part of the process. For every day we spend excavating, we spend two or three days in the lab trying to figure out what it all means. Following each season, a preliminary report is written, summarizing the season’s findings.

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Lace and Buttons: More than Just Decoration

Dressed in their madder red regimental coats, black hats, and white underclothes, the soldiers of the 8th Regiment who served at Michilimackinac in the 1770s may have looked quite similar to other British troops fighting in the American Revolution. Their uniforms, however, were unique, marked by distinctive buttons, trim, and lace tape. (more…)

Master Map Gets an Update

The archaeological excavation of Fort Michilimackinac has been ongoing for more than five decades and detailed notes and records of each season, each site, and each square are important to our understanding and ongoing research. That accumulated data is presented in one, large document, the master map, which shows all of the major features excavated within the palisade wall from1959 until 2007, when the most recent project was completed.

Much like the time spent in the field excavating artifacts, maintaining those documents can be a time consuming, but fascinating endeavor.

Georgia Wulff updates the Colonial Michilimackinac master map with information from recently completed archaeological excavations at the site.

“The master map shows how all of the features, most of which are structural features such as parts of buildings, relate to each other, tying all of our projects together,” said Dr. Lynn Evans, curator of archaeology for Mackinac State Historic Parks. “This is important because we are interested in understanding the community, not individual structures isolated in space.”

Georgia Wulff, an artist from Minocqua, Wisc., met Dr. Evans on a study tour and offered to help update the map. But, this wasn’t Wulff’s first trip to northern Michigan, far from it.

“My family took a number of trips to the Upper Peninsula when I was younger,” said Wulff, noting that her grandfather served as lighthouse keeper in Manistique and her great-grand father served as lighthouse keeper in Traverse City. “I even remember coming across on a ferry before the bridge was built.”

“The master map is also important for planning because it shows where we have and where we have not excavated.  We don’t want to install fences or underground utilities in undisturbed deposit,” said Dr. Evans.

She added that, ideally the map would be updated at the end of each major project, when the important features are better understood. Things such as rodent runs and modern disturbances aren’t generally  included on the master map for the sake of clarity.