Archeologists Sifting Through Centuries at Colonial Michilimackinac

“When you spend so much time looking at dirt you realize it’s not just dirt…”7 23 20 Archeological Pkg 4

Archeologists have been sifting through centuries at Colonial Michilimackinac in Mackinaw City. They pride themselves on being the longest running archeological dig in the United States. The first excavation at this location took place in 1959 and every summer since they’ve been finding tangible links to the past. For over 60 years Lynn Evans, the Curator of Archeology with Mackinac State Historic Parks and her team have been excavating what is left of buildings and homes. This season they’re uncovering what was once a fur trader’s home, dating back to the 1700’s. 

Lynn Evans, an archeologist says, “There’s a lot of things that happened in the past that we can learn from that are still very relevant today and what better place to do history outdoors than the straits of Mackinac?”

This project is offering a window into the lives of people who didn’t leave behind written records. “That’s our mission. To bring those people’s lives to the present and shed a light on that,” explains Evans. 

So far this season they’ve found a Jesuit/Trade ring, a breach plug (gun part), and a sleeve button/cufflink. When the snow starts to fall, this is when they will do a deeper investigation into the history of these belongings. 

Although these are some of their big finds this year, they mostly are finding items that had fallen through the cracks of the floorboard. “We’re talking about fish bones sea beads and safety pins— things like that. That’s the level of detail we’re working at,” says Evans. 

These items that are found are then put on display for all to see. Evans says, “We have over 1 million items in our collection and they’re very well documented.” 

Colonial Michilimackinac is open to the public this summer. Many precautions are put in place— masks indoors and around large groups are required and they are routinely sanitizing this location. Mackinac State Historic Parks is celebrating 125 years this year. They have plenty of events to commemorate this milestone. 

Craig Wilson, the Curator of History with M.S.H.P. says, “We have a brand new walking tour talking about the enslaved community here at Michigan. That’s something that a lot of people aren’t especially aware of— that there was a sizable population of people held in bondage here.”

For more on what you can find at Michilimackinac, click here. If you’re interested in learning more about M.S.H.P. and their programs this summer, click here. 



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