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…)

Mr. Michilimackinac: Jim Evans’ 47 Years

Mr. Michilimackinac: Jim Evans’ 47 Years

Jim Evans 6Jim Evans isn’t a stranger to attention.

Entering his 47th season as a historical interpreter at Colonial Michilimackinac, Jim is a fan-favorite among visitors and employees alike. However, Jim is known for his soft-spoken, friendly demeanor and isn’t one to boast about his accomplishments. A native of Mackinaw City, Jim has always been fascinated by his hometown’s rich history. (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…)

A New Season – Archaeology at Michilimackinac

A New Season – Archaeology at Michilimackinac

With the summer season rapidly approaching, another archaeology field season is upon us. Even though we are continuing where we stopped last August, there was some preparation necessary before we began excavating again. At the end of each season we line the site with plastic and straw bales to protect it from the weather over the winter. In the spring we have to remove all of this. This process began May 26. Then we re-established the grid strings we measure from, put out our water-screening stations and organized the other field equipment and supplies. Most of the crew arrived June 1, and after a few days of orientation and training, the field season was fully underway June 4. (more…)

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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French Fireplaces of Michilimackinac

Shown on the left are the ruins of the original fireplace for the South Southwest Rowhouse at Colonial Michilimackinac. To the right, a reconstructed version and part of a new exhibit.

Shown on the left are the ruins of the original fireplace for the South Southwest Rowhouse at Colonial Michilimackinac. To the right, a reconstructed version and part of a new exhibit.

The ongoing reconstruction of the South Southwest Rowhouse at Colonial Michilimackinac is an impressive undertaking. It’s the largest in the site’s history, the first in more than two decades, and when completed, will house two new exhibits.

One of the featured components of the new exhibit “France at Mackinac” are the ruins of the original fireplace from the structure constructed more than 250 years ago. This particular fireplace is one of the few remaining structures left standing after British soldiers demolished the fort in 1780-81. As part of one of the longest ongoing archaeological digs in North America, the remnants of the rowhouse and the fireplace were carefully excavated over a number of years from 1963 to 2007. Stone fireplaces such as this were found in nearly every house at Michilimackinac, but this is the only one that remains because it was covered and preserved in a hill of sand soon after the demolition.

Located in the west side of the building, the structure of this fireplace ruin  served as a model for Tom Smith and his crew from Ground Level Masonry to create a similar fireplace on the east end of the building, showing how the stone hearth would have looked when originally built around 1750.