Historical Museum Hosts MI Archeology Day This Saturday

Oct 2, 2012

This past summer, there were about a dozen active archeological projects underway around the state.  Some of what was unearthed is on display this Saturday in Lansing.

Professional and amateur archeologists will gather at the Michigan Historical Museum for ‘Michigan Archeology Day.’  The free event will give anyone interested in historic, pre-historic--even underwater--discoveries a chance to experience them close-up.

WKAR’s Mark Bashore sat down with state archeologists Dean Anderson and Stacy Tchorsiznky to find out more. 

MARK BASHORE: Dr. Anderson says many people would be surprised to learn how much digging goes on in the state.

DR. DEAN ANDERSON: Just a couple of years ago, there was an excavation that went on (at) a golf course just northwest of Lansing at which the University of Michigan recovered skeletal remains of a mammoth which proved to have bones that were broken in such a way that it was pretty clear that humans had butchered the animal.  And that particular excavation demonstrated that some of our knowledge about how early people were in Michigan was pushed back to about 14,000 years ago, which was absolutely fascinating.

And I should say that in addition to pre-contact native American kinds of sites--that we see a lot of--there's also what we call "historical” archeology going on.  Down in the Niles area, Fort St. Joseph is a site that's been worked on by Western Michigan University for years.  (It) dates to the late 1600's and on through the 1700's.  They have a big archeology program--a public archeology program--where they involve the public at the site.

And last but not least, underwater (archeology).  We have a lot of offshore bottomlands around the state of Michigan and there are shipwrecks and there's been archeological work done on those sites as well.

BASHORE: And what exhibit or exhibits should people be aware of this Saturday?

ANDERSON:  There will archeologists here from places like Michilimackinac (and) from the Fort St. Joseph project. There will be people displaying artifacts from the War of 1812.  There will be, I believe, two underwater exhibits in the museum at that point and a 19th century farmstead as well.

BASHORE:  And I understand you'll have artifacts from an old settlement in the U.P.  Tell us a little bit about Fayette, Michigan.

ANDERSON:  There was an iron company that developed some of the iron mining in Michigan very early in the 1840's in the U.P.  And they built Fayette specifically to process the iron ore.  It was shipped over by boat from Escanaba and they melted the iron down in the blast furnaces, created bars and shipped it back to Escanaba to take it out by rail.  And Fayette existed for a little less than 30 years and was a very picturesque little town on Snailshell Harbor. There's been a lot of excavation done there and we've recovered a lot of information about the daily lives of the people there in a relatively remote location. I would also add that we have a lot of archeological evidence for much, much earlier pre-contact native American folks having lived on that site as well.

BASHORE: Stacy, I know you aim to appeal to young people with this event.  How do you get young people into archaeology?

STACY TCHORZINSKY:  Well, children are naturally drawn to archeology.  They're collectors whether it's acorns or pebbles.  They are inquisitive about the world and archeology encourages that fascination with information about the world and engages them both mentally and physically. We have several events that kids are going to love, including flint-knapping. And then we will also have a mock excavation where kids can sit side-by-side with archeologists and learn how to dig, what types of things archeologists look for when they excavate and how they interpret the past.