MACKINAW CITY, MICH. — Mackinac State Historic Parks’ long-running archaeological program kicked off another season of work at Colonial Michilimackinac this week, marking its 63rd consecutive year.
These seasonal digs at the reconstructed 18th-century fort and fur-trading village have unearthed more than 1,000,000 artifacts to date. The collection, which includes examples of military items, trade goods, and religious objects, is considered notable in part because of the sheer quantity and relatively short time frame the fort was occupied.
This year will bring continued excavation work on what’s known as “House E,” which, over the past 14 years, has yielded finds that include a bone-handled table knife, a brass serpentine sideplate for a British trade gun, an engraved “Jesuit” ring, a brass sleeve button with an intaglio bust, the remnants of a second cellar, an isolated structural post that could be a support post or potentially a remnant of the 1715 fort, and more.
“This house has consistently surprised us and it will be exciting to see what this season has in store,” said Dr. Lynn Evans, who has served as Mackinac State Historic Parks’ curator of archaeology since 1996, and has been part of the Michilimackinac team since 1989.
The Michilimackinac archaeology program is one of the longest ongoing archaeological digs in North America, dating back to 1959, when the Mackinac Island State Park Commission contracted with Michigan State University to carry out a season of excavation that has continued every summer since.
Dr. Evans and her archaeology crew are out at Michilimackinac every day in the summer months, weather depending. Visitors can witness the archaeologists continuing their excavations at the site from early June until mid-August. The best artifacts are on display in “Treasures from the Sand,” the archaeology exhibit at Colonial Michilimackinac, as well as in the book Keys to the Past, written by Evans.
“We’ve learned, in a very tangible way, about the variety and quality of objects the people before us used, and how well-connected Michilimackinac was to the wider world,” she said. “We’ve learned how creative they were in answering the challenges of the Great Lakes environment, including adopting Odawa and Ojibwa technology.”
More information, including details on public programming, can be found at mackinacparks.com.
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