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Winter in the Lab

The long winter has given the archaeology staff plenty of time in the lab to process and catalog the artifacts from the over 500 separate contexts excavated at Michilimackinac during the 2018 field season. A context is a single soil type in a tenth of a foot level in a 5’ x 5’ square.


Systematically going through each context bag, sorting, identifying, and counting or weighing the artifacts gives us an opportunity to identify artifacts and patterns not recognized in the field. Despite sixty summers of excavation, every year we find previously unknown varieties of artifacts. For example, this year we found two previously unknown button designs.


With the help of our interpretive staff, we were able to identify one of the summer’s mystery artifacts as a bodkin, a long, blunt-tipped, large-eyed needle used for threading or lacing. Our costumed interpreters use them for lacing their stays.


While excavating, we thought we were finding more musketballs than usual. After cataloging, we can say we found twenty-two musketballs in 2018, all from trade guns. Over half, thirteen, came from the root cellar. In 2017 we found a total of eleven musketballs.


Winter has also given us time to reassemble the large pieces of a feather-edged creamware plate excavated from the root cellar last summer. They form the majority of a 9 ½” plate.

Our next lab project is to catalog all the artifacts recovered during the excavation of the footings and utility lines for the new restroom on Mackinac Island. Watch the blog in April for the results of that project.

In the meantime, please plan to visit the excavation at Colonial Michilimackinac this coming summer. Archaeologists will be on site every day (weather permitting) from June 5 through August 24. Come watch us discover history!