Hamline University

Back in Time...the dig on Plum Island

Activity on Plum Island Continues...
A familiar group returned to Plum Island last month to continue the exploration of the original lighthouse site.

USFWS Regional Historic Preservation Officer James Myster and Hamline University Anthropology Dept. Chair Brian Hoffman (here with their pilot Lew) found many of their first year crew wanted to make the trip as well. Two new members were added to the team for the two week field experience project. 

The thought was:  move the dig to July (from June) to provide opportunity for better weather. Anyone with experience in these parts knows this idea is a great hypothesis ... the result this year proved to be a good idea in theory however,  days on site were cancelled due to uncooperative weather... this experience was to give these archeology aficionados a taste of what can be truly expected if this work is pursued as a career.  Mother Nature did not disappoint!

In year 2, the kitchen was enlarged... with the initial work last year, the time was ripe for discovery. (Brian Hoffman Photo)
Everyone took turns digging, lifting, sifting meticulously. The unit was profiled to establish where artifacts were discovered. 
As artifacts were discovered each was carefully labeled and bagged to ensure it's location. (Brian Hoffman Photo)
Artifacts were cleaned and further cataloged at the team's temporary home base on Washington Island. Those  pieces shown above proved to be plaster fragments which indicated the kitchen was finished off perhaps more than expected given the time and location...interesting. 

The kitchen proved to be a source of finds. The discovery of nails speaks to a question as to how the bullding was constructed. As the dig progressed, more questions were raised. I bet we could all come up with a few questions.
Another query: What would family life be like? Given this isolated location and the known specific time period, this microcosm of life, culture and interests are intriguing to pursue. (Brian Hoffman Photo)
Various pieces of china turned up. Makes one wonder what hands held this "dish" ... What food was served on it ... what conversations went on as meals were prepared and consumed. (Brian Hoffman Photo)
Not all discoveries were still. This critter was found on a tree stump in the midst of digging! After fact checking with nature minded folks.* ANC Naturalist Steve Waldron identified it as a red newt ... it's interesting to think that a similar creature might have been discovered by a lighthouse keeper's child much like today's youngsters who bring their finds - snakes, toads, etc every summer to the Art & Nature Center...such fun to hypothesize! (Becky Strike Photo)
On a recent Work Day, FOPPI Volunteers Tansy & Brian post a new sign noting the work being done here. The site has been "put to bed" and artifacts have been transferred to the archeology lab at Hamline University where the next phase of research and documentation is taking place. Student Steve will be writing up the results in a final paper. This information will be used to provide background information as the Island opens to the public, hopefully next Summer. (Tim Sweet Photo) 
til next time...
*Here's a good source on newts from Melodie Walsh...Writing this Blog leads me to new things every day...never knew we had newts up here!