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Fort St. Joseph Archaeological Project

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2015 Field School Application is available
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You are invited to participate in the 40th annual WMU archaeological field school directed by Dr. Michael Nassaney. The program will continue archaeological investigations of Fort St. Joseph, a mission-garrison-trading post complex established by the French in 1691 and occupied for nearly a century in Niles, Michigan. Since our initial discovery of the site, we have conducted systematic excavations to demonstrate the presence of undisturbed archaeological remains. Recent work has led to the recovery of significant colonial-era artifacts, features, and faunal remains that provide insight into 18th-century life. We invite you to become a part of our archaeological team as we explore an important multi-ethnic fur-trading site and interpret our findings to the public.

Students will receive instruction in research design and the importance of archaeology in the examination of the fur trade, colonialism, and culture change in the western Great Lakes. Training will include standard techniques of site survey and excavation, as well as the processing, cataloging, and analysis of artifacts and feature data. In addition students will participate in a community service-learning project in which they will work closely with members of the Fort St. Joseph Museum, Support the Fort, the City of Niles, and other community groups who share an interest in the preservation and interpretation of the site. Students have the opportunity to become involved with our award-winning summer camp program and other outreach activities. During the field school we will reside in Niles to increase interaction with the community. Public outreach culminates in our annual open house scheduled for June 27-28 in which we invite the public to visit the site and learn about archaeology and 18th century life. Students will also have the opportunity to reflect on their experience and enhance the learning process through journal writing and community engagement events like dinners, special lectures, and the French Market.

Admission to the field school is limited and by consent of the instructor.  Credits are earned by enrolling in Anthropology 4900 (6 hours of undergraduate credit) or ANTH 6900 (variable graduate credit). Applicable tuition and fees are published in the schedule of classes, with the addition of a $500 field school fee to cover travel, housing, and all equipment and supplies issued to participants for their use. Additional costs include a course pack and communal meals.


The Fort St. Joseph Post

Recent news about the ongoing research, projects and alumni of Fort St. Joseph.

Militia Muster at Fort St. Joseph

See how living history re-enactors have interpreted a militia muster and how they can provide a better understanding of our colonial past. 

Video Documentary Militia Muster at Fort St. Joseph

Watch the 2013 Aurora Award winner "Militia Muster at Fort St. Joesph" documentary video.  For two days, footage was collected and interviews conducted with immersion interpreters and re-enactors at the archaeology site in Niles, Michigan.  Topics cover the muster roll-call, colonial recreational activities, frontier life as experienced by women, and the 18th century artifacts uncovered by the WMU archaeological field school, providing insight into the lives of French, British and native inhabitants of this historically important site on the eve of the revolution.

Reclaiming French Heritage at Fort St. Joseph in Niles, Michigan

The Encyclopedia of French Cultural Heritage in North America explains why Fort St. Joseph was one of the most important eighteenth-century frontier outposts in the western Great Lakes region.

Public Archaeology at Fort St. Joseph Video

See how University students and the community benefit from archaeology at Fort St. Joseph.