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Northern Michigan in Focus: Colonial Michilimackinac Archaeological Excavation

For almost 60 years the has been digging themselves into a hole.

For this week’s Northern Michigan in Focus, Corey Adkins finds out why that’s not such a bad thing.

: an interactive trip back to 1775 when the American Revolution began.

But how do they know this is all historically accurate? Some historic maps and what these folks are doing prove it.

“All the buildings that you see we’ve excavated and that’s helped us understand the layout of the fort better with the specific buildings. It gives us insight to each household, so how the French and British are doing things different,” explained Dr. Lynn Evans, Mackinac State Historic Park Curator of Archaeology.

It’s one of the longest archaeological excavations in the nation. This is their 60th season.

“We’re excavating a fur trader’s house. This we know was a French fur trader originally, and then it became an English trader by 1765, and we been excavating his root cellar this summer and we’re finding all sorts of amazing things,” said Dr. Evans.

Like this knife. 

“The blade is 7 inches long, you can see where the handle was attached,” said Dr. Evans.

And something as simple as a thimble can be exciting.

“You can see it’s very deliberately had a hole punched in it, that’s not a wear hole that’s a punch hole, and in the container next to it that’s the thread that we found inside the thimble. Because the thimble is brass, the copper salts preserved it. That’s the only way we ever find textiles here,” explained Dr. Evans.

A little piece of porcelain came all the way from the other side of the planet.

“Chinese export porcelain. It’s always fun to imagine dishes coming all the way from China to here, so it’s been all the way around the world to get here,” said Dr. Evans.

They even keep the little fish bones. It all helps them understand where we come from.

“We’re getting an insight on to some of the things he traded and also, because there wasn’t a big trade in ceramics out here, we’re getting insight into the choices he made, his consumer choices,” explained. Dr. Evans.

Scrape by scrape, slowly unearthing stories from the past.

“It’s not fast and that’s the problem with archaeology, you only get one chance to get as much information as you can because when you dig a site, you destroy it. So if we’re going to destroy our site, we’re to capture every bit of information we can, even down to fish bones. It’s an awesome place to excavate,” said Dr. Evans.