WMU News

Archeaological dig open to public June 7

June 5, 2001

KALAMAZOO -- An opportunity to watch Western Michigan University archaeologists unearth centuries-old artifacts from an 18th-century fort will be available Thursday, June 7, from noon to 2 p.m. at the Fort St. Joseph site in Niles, Mich.

Originally scheduled for June 5, this event was postponed due to inclement weather.

WMU's Department of Anthropology and Support the Fort Inc., a nonprofit organization promoting and preserving the history of the fort, are sponsoring Community Day. The event, which is free and open to the public, will allow attendees to view the archaeological dig in progress and learn about the fort, which existed on the shores of the St. Joseph River more than three centuries ago.

Event activities will begin at the Fort St. Joseph Monument on Bond Street where re-enactors from Support the Fort will explain the fur trade that sustained the fort for 80 years. From there, visitors will proceed to the dig site where WMU anthropology faculty members Drs. Michael Nassaney and William M. Cremin and students participating in the University's 2001 Archaeological Field School will be engaged in the excavation process. Artifacts uncovered thus far also will be displayed.

"This event will provide an excellent opportunity for the public to see how archaeologists actually find and use material evidence to piece together the past," says Nassaney, who is co-directing the field school with Cremin. "It's a great chance to visit a dig that is searching for remains of the earliest European settlers in southwestern Michigan."

The dig is part of an ongoing effort by the University, Support the Fort and the city of Niles to investigate and document the physical history of Fort St. Joseph, which existed from 1691-1781. Known as the Four Flags Fort because four different nations' flags flew over it during its history, the fort was established by the French and is believed to be the only colonial fort in western Michigan. WMU archaeologists located the site of the original fort in 1998.

Directions to Fort St. Joseph site: From Kalamazoo, take I-94 west to exit 41 (Rt. 140). Go south on Rt. 140 and follow the signs to Niles. In Niles, turn left at the first light. Turn right at the second light onto Third Street. Go south on Third Street, passing the police station. Turn right onto Bond Street and follow Bond Street to the Fort St. Joseph Monument.

Media contact: Marie Lee, 616 387-8400, marie.lee@wmich.edu

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