The upcoming field season will see the continuation of the second decade of investigations of the remains of Fort St. Joseph, a mission, garrison, and trading post complex occupied from 1691 to 1781 by the French and British in Niles, Mich. Subsequent excavations under the auspices of the Fort St. Joseph Archaeological Project since 2002 have uncovered various features including structural remains in the form of fireplaces and hearths, a midden (or trash deposit), and thousands of artifacts dating to the 17th and 18th centuries that reflect the fort's religious, military, and commercial functions.
Students receive instruction in fieldwork methods and laboratory procedures in the classroom prior to entering the field and gaining hands-on experience. In addition, they learn about the historical context of Fort St. Joseph, the fur trade and colonialism, and the complex interactions of Europeans and Natives on the frontier. Upon entering the field, work continues in the vicinity of previously discovered features in order to expose the remains of buildings to determine the identities of their occupants. Students clean and sort excavated artifacts in daily laboratory sessions and create a preliminary inventory.
The Fort St. Joseph Archaeological Project also sponsors a public education and outreach program. Field school students help instruct and work alongside adult, teacher, and high school student participants in week-long archaeology summer camps. The field season also includes a two-day archaeology open house in which students interpret the archaeology and history of the fort to site visitors. This event has attracts close to 2000 visitors each year and includes lectures, an outdoor museum, site tours, historical reenactments and demonstrations, period music and food.
The field school represents a unique opportunity to participate in an award-winning community archaeology program, while gaining practical field and laboratory experience.