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Closing up Shop

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Sean Jubb
University of Montana
Fort Missoula Archaeological Field School

After a site is finished being excavated, the site is measured, documented, and prepared to be backfilled. What is the purpose of backfilling? It protects the site from elements such as erosion, weather, and vandalism. The site is on a flood plain where the water may erode layers of soil over a long period of time; backfilling helps prevent erosion of the excavation site. Adverse weather can also erode, damage, or otherwise destroy the site. Another reason to backfill is to protect the site from anybody wanting to vandalize the site for possible artifacts. Before backfilling, however, we will leave a penny in the excavation as a courtesy message to future archaeologists that we excavated the site in 2014.

Sean Jubb backfilling excavation one bucket at a time.

Sean Jubb backfilling excavation one bucket at a time.

 

 

Exciting Days in the Field

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Erik Larson

University of Montana

Fort Missoula Field School – 24MO188

We had a really exciting week at the dig site. We found several items that will help with the continued research of Ft. Missoula. It was hot and the bugs were out in force along the Bitterroot, but no one seemed to bothered by this at all. We were having too much fun, I guess. I found a toothbrush fragment this week that might connect our dig with the previous dig done by archaeologist Carling Malouf in the early 1980s.

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The field crew hard at work in the heat of the day, uncovering the past. 

Artifacts aside,  I also found a painted turtle crawling alongside the road. He had the most beautiful markings. I was not aware that painted turtles could be found along the Bitterroot River. Beautiful scenery, interesting wildlife, and gorgeous weather made this week at the dig site an experience to remember.

Tricks of the Trade

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Paul Buckner
University of Montana
Fort Missoula Archaeological Field School

As the second session Fort Missoula Field School crewmembers prepare to begin their excavation work next week, they have been busy in the classroom learning the essential skills they will use in the field. Perhaps one of the most crucial of these is the art of finding and recording exact locations with the aid of a map and compass. Beginning in the morning, the crew discussed the intricacies of recording sites using the Legal Location and Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM) methods.

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Paul Buckner working alongside his excavation unit at Fort Missoula.

In the afternoon the students were familiarized with the correct use of a compass and learned how to walk transects and set bearings. The crew then took to the field and visited Fort Missoula’s original parade ground. With a period map in hand, they set out to locate the site of the Laundress’ Quarters. Using their newfound skills the crew calculated their individual pace lengths, as well as the expected bearing and distance of the Laundress’ Quarters from a currently existing landmark, also denoted on the 19th century map. After counting out their paces along the calculated bearing from the known landmark, the students were able to come up with a potential site for the location of the Laundress’ Quarters. Although much investigation remains to be done, the crew has certainly helped point future researchers in the correct direction.

 

 

What’s for Dinner? Bison or Beef?

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Gemma (Nico) Heimlich-Bowler
University of Montana
Fort Missoula Archaeological Field School

For those of you who think that an archaeologist goes on digs to uncover dinosaurs, think again. This week we began our adventure into digging, and while the other students have a vested interest in archaeology, I come to the dig site with a background in Forensic Anthropology. This means that I, the excitable bone enthusiast that I am, get far more excited about pulling a bone out of the ground than most other people I know. Although we do not purposefully uncover dinosaur bones, sometimes in places like Fort Missoula there are bones to be found of different species.

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Possible Bos. Bison species scapula.

During our first week of class, Ayme Swartz mentioned that during the last session many potential cow bones were  found, but that there had been accounts of those stationed at the Fort eating bison. With my strong enthusiasm for all things connected to identifying skeletal remains, I quickly read up on the osteological processes of both bison and cows. With basic knowledge and much research, I was able to (reasonably) confidently identify one of the scapula we have uncovered as that of a bison, supporting the accounts that bison was consumed on Fort Missoula property during its occupation.

Weeding Out

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Sean Jubb

University of Montana

Fort Missoula Field School

“…the whole area is going to have to be cleared of vegetation and mapped in detail before we even think of excavation…” (Praetzellis 2003:58).

Clearing the invasive weeds is a tedious but necessary task.

Clearing the invasive weeds is a tedious but necessary task.

On June 18 we trimmed mustard, pineapple weed, common tansy, and cheat grass to clear the site for mapping and excavation. We learned to be careful when removing the plants—not pulling them out by the roots, but trimming them just down to the ground using either shears or a machete to prevent ourselves from prematurely pulling artifacts from below the ground surface, which would cause damage to the site.

Field School students working to clear the waist-high mustard from the site.

Field School students working to clear the waist-high mustard from the site.

Even though clearing vegetation was not what I expected to do today, I learned that it is a necessary part of archaeological fieldwork and that it can be rather difficult!  This was particularly challenging for anyone with allergies, as our weed trimming and clearing caused itchiness of the eyes, stuffy nose, and sinus headaches.

Praetzellis, Adrian (2003) Death by Theory: A Tale of Mystery and Archaeological Theory, Altamira Press.

Final clipping to clear the area for the excavation units.

Final clipping to clear the area for the excavation units.

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure…

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Micah Goodman

University of Montana

Fort Missoula Archaeological Field School

When two halves come together!

When two halves come together!

Last week, the crew uncovered an abundance of porcelain, as well as other types pottery, and even fragments of a pipe, possibly made of bone.  The saying, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” truly applies in a case such as this one.

Micah Goodman with an in-field "Mending Moment".

Micah Goodman with an in-field “Mending Moment”.

As the group seeks to put together pieces of the past in an effort to better paint a more realistic view, from a cultural standpoint, these mending moments can truly be considered a treasure trove.  With such an array of styles and patterns showing up at the dig site, the window into Fort Missoula’s past opens a bit more each day!

Dr. Kelly J. Dixon, Tommy Livoti, and Micah Goodman studying artifacts in the field.

Dr. Kelly J. Dixon, Tommy Livoti, and Micah Goodman studying artifacts in the field.

You Must be the Monopoly Guy…

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Andrew Cararra

University of Montana

Fort Missoula Archaeological Field School

Andrew Cararra's find of the day! A mustache cup rim in his unit.

Andrew Cararra’s find of the day! A mustache cup rim in his unit.

A mustache cup was one of many interesting and exciting items found at Fort Missoula’s Historic dump site this year. Mustache cups were prevalent in the 1830’s as it was common for men to use wax and dye on their mustaches, and hot tea or coffee would melt their dignified facial sculpting right into their drinks.

An example of a mustache cup.

An example of a mustache cup.

A Mending Moment and a Cast a Day

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Erik Luis Alvarado

University of Montana

Fort Missoula Archaeological Field School

During our time in the lab last week we were shown a piece of gilded floral porcelain. The plate fragment has intricate designs inlaid with gold and design elements including a bird and floral pattern. We also observed a “mending moment” in the lab. Dr. Dixon loves these moments. A mending moment is when you find two fragments of the same artifact in different places and they fit together (cue Chariots of Fire theme song).

Mending Moment in the field....if you recognize this pattern please let us know!

Mending Moment in the field….if you recognize this pattern please let us know!

While excavating my unit within the block, a fragment of gilded floral pattern porcelain appeared out of the dirt. After a moment of field artifact identification, I was told that the plate fragment from my unit might possibly be from the same vessel as the piece of porcelain that we observed in the lab. We happened to have the piece from the lab on site for an assignment, and Dr. Dixon compared the two fragments in the field, which fit together…. ‘Mending Moment’ achieved (cue Chariots of Fire theme song). Feeling inspired yet?..I love the theme song from Chariots of Fire. I wish I could have a boombox blasting the song when Dr. Dixon, or anyone for that matter, has a mending moment.

Casting on the Bitterroot River.

Casting on the Bitterroot River.

Never thought that I would have the chance to fish everyday in the field….AWESOME. I believe that a cast a day keeps the bad vibes away. Caught a fish on Tuesday as well. I think it was a squaw fish ….which is an invasive species that preys upon native trout and salmon. Should have banked it. Let it be known that the social dynamic of this field school is fantastic. Good people and good vibrations is one way to describe this experience (cue Chariots of Fire theme song).

Good vibes and great people! L-R Fosco Bugoni, Micah Goodman, Kyle Burke, Tommy Livoti, Andrew Carrara, Erik Alvarado, Amanda Gerber, and Sean Jubb.

We provided them with raisins, and they made wine, then we provided them with fruit, and they made wine.

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Fosco Bugoni

University of Milan – Italy

While learning about the history of Fort Missoula during my first week at the archaeological field school, I came across an intriguing story concerning some fellow citizens of mine, happening to be in the wrong place at the wrong time; or maybe – this is derived from their narratives – in the right place at the wrong time.

Internees Eating In Mess Hall At Ft. Missoula ADC, 1943

Internees Eating In Mess Hall At Ft. Missoula ADC, 1943

During World War II, Fort Missoula became a detention center for Italian and Japanese civilians. With war threatening, many Americans in 1941 feared that some German and Italian civilians living in or entering the United States might prove to be enemy spies or sabouteurs. As part of President Roosevelt’s decision to get tough with the European Axis powers (Germany, Italy and their allies), the United States began seizing Axis merchant ships in American waters and detaining the crews.

The first group of Italian internees from Ellis Island, New York, began to arrive in Missoula in the spring of 1941. The internment camp at Fort Missoula was just one of several throughout the United States. Missoula was a logical choice for such a center because of its remote location. On May 18, 1941, 1200 Italian merchant seamen and civilians arrived at the Fort, which they promptly renamed Bella Vista (beautiful view) and were put to work constructing the rest of the camp. Many of these men were crewmen from the luxury liner Il Conte Biancamano, and included entertainers, waiters and chefs; they brought their musical instruments, their tuxedos and three dogs with them. Besides the sailors, 62 former employees of the Italian Pavilion at the 1939 New York World’s Fair were also sent to Missoula for overstaying their visas.

Internee Soccer Game At Ft. Missoula ADC, 1943

Internee Soccer Game At Ft. Missoula ADC, 1943

Accomodations at Fort Missoula far exceeded the guidelines set down by the Geneva Convention: Althought there were many fences all around, the impressive beauty and landscape made it feel like, “Una Villa”, a village rather than a concentration camp. [Umberto Benedetti]

The Italians inside the fence were given the authority to create their own organization to deal with US officials, and were soon rewarded with a high degree of autonomy to conduct their own affairs. Food rationing did not apply to the internees, they were provided with laundry and cooking facilities, personal items, writing materials and tobacco. They were supplied with books, magazines and were guaranteed access to religious service. The detainees had their own carpenters, shoemakers, barbers, a priest and several world-class chefs. They organized a fire department, postal delivery, religious services, formed library, and produced choir, band and symphony concerts. There were many recreational opportunities: the internees played cards, board games, soccer, bocci ball (one is displayed at today Fort Missoula Historical Museum), and tennis. Classes in foreign languages and navigation were offered for detainees, featuring textbooks written at Fort Missoula. Several of the Italian seamen built two large rowboats, which were used on the adjacent Bitterroot River. Building wooden models of their ships (some of them are displayed at the Historical Museum too) became a popular pastime.

One funny circumstance: Alcohol was forbidden at first, but the enterprising internees made their own wine from raisins, figs, and local fruit under the noses of the INS inspectors who roamed the camp. John Moe (one of the camp’s guards) remembered: “We provided them with raisins, and they made wine, then we provided them with fruit, and they made wine”.

Mess Hall Cooks For Internees At Ft. Missoula ADC, 1943

Mess Hall Cooks For Internees At Ft. Missoula ADC, 1943

As wartime tensions relaxed and the shortage of men in the Missoula work force became acute, officials allowed some Italian internees to work in town. They were employed as chefs, waiters, busboys and room cleaners at both the Palace and Florence Hotels, and worked as orderlies in Missoula’s hospitals.

Working on a day-to-day basis, the internees were accepted by the community. Missoulians greatly appreciated their work and some internees made Missoula, as well as Montana, their home.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

  • GLYNN, G., That Beautiful Little Post – The story of Fort Missoula, 2013.
  • BENEDETTI, U., Italian Boys at Fort Missoula, Montana 1941-1943, 1997.
  • VAN VALKENBURG, C., An Alien Place, 1995.

You Call This Archaeology??!!

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Thomas J. Livoti

Doctoral Program

Department of Anthropology

The University of Montana

Thomas Livoti and Erik Alvarrado hard at work sorting artifacts.

Thomas Livoti and Erik Alvarrado hard at work sorting artifacts.

What can a decorative ceramic sherd like this tell us about life at Fort Missoula?

What can a decorative ceramic sherd like this tell us about life at Fort Missoula?

One of the several bullet casings excavated from the research site.

One of the several bullet casings excavated from the research site.

Neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet, (you know the rest) will keep an archaeologist from staying busy.  Below-average temperatures combined with rain and wind brought the Fort Missoula field school crew to the archaeology lab where students learned how to clean and catalog artifacts from last year’s field excavation at Fort Missoula.  The field school staff hopes to be back in the field by the end of the week after the weather clears.

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