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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.

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