Re-opening the Book to Fort Laurens’ Past: Chapter 3

Slide1One of the best parts of researching a previous excavation, is when you get to speak with some of the original participants. I asked Dr. Ian Brown if he would like to add an update to our blog on his time working at Fort Laurens and the report he wrote. What I received was a wonderful post. Enjoy! – Kellie Locke-Rogers [T]he thing that most amazes me is that I even had time to work on this report. We labored in the field eight hours a day, but Mike [Dr. Gramly] was always so energetic and exciting, that none of this felt like work and evenings and weekends we are hard at doing archaeology in one form or another. Mike was always visiting local amateurs, giving talks at various society meetings, or taking us to social events (I’ll never forget all the great strawberry dishes we had), and everyone loved him. We had more free food bestowed upon us that we could have fed an army. Plus, Mike and Suzy (his wife) raised a garden in the backyard of the old filling station/diner that we stayed in, so we had ample amounts of fresh vegetables. On weekends we often went on trips, again with archaeology in mind. It was the first time that I had ever seen Hopewell sites (Seip, Serpent Mound, Fort Hill, etc.) or historic fort sites (Necessity and Ligonier), all of which required camping trips. At another time we went to Canada over a long weekend to dig a Huron site as well, why not? I had just finished my B.A. at Harvard and Mike knew I was going to Brown to study historical archaeology with Jim Deetz. He also knew I had done my Honors thesis on prehistoric sites in Mississippi, so he thought a fort excavation (Laurens) combined with studying the aboriginal artifacts would be appealing to me. It was, but I didn’t have the heart (or guts) to tell him that I knew next to nothing about lithics. It wouldn’t have mattered any, because Mike would have just said, “You’ll learn,” and of course I did. In addition to loading me down with books to read he took me to quarry after quarry to gather different types of stone so that I would know the difference (visually that is) between Flint Ridge, Coshocton, Plum Run, etc. We took many samples and numerous collectors also gave us debitage from various quarries to use as comparative samples as well, all of which I donated to the Peabody Museum at Harvard when I left there in January of 1991 to go to Alabama (I was a Research Associate, Lecturer, Associate Curator of North American Collections, and eventually Assistant Director at the Peabody between 1979 and 1990). The collections of aboriginal material that we gathered in 1973 I analyzed in the field, but for the previous year I had to go to the Ohio History Connection headquarters in Columbus to see the materials. Mike said to be sure that I saw the bead, a little white seed bead that was surely the product of the Indian trade. Having just been associated with the Tunica Treasure and the bazillion beads within it, I was not all that excited to see the Fort Laurens’ specimen, but I couldn’t have come back without having done so. I can still remember picking up the canister, opening the lid, and shaking the bead into my hand, and from there it went to the floor. I stood there in shock. I couldn’t move for fear of crushing the little glass bead into smithereens. And to make it worse, the floor was speckled white and gray. I must have spent two hours scouring the floor until I final found the little sucker. There Mike, I finally told you. I can now rest easy in old age.Slide2 All in all, the Fort Laurens dig was very important in my life. It steered me towards a thesis and dissertation (excavating Fort St. Pierre in Mississippi) and a lifelong interest in fort archaeology. The lithic study has served me well in the last four decades. Although I am most associated with pottery studies, I have never been fearful of an unutilized flake or a basal ground projectile point and I have always appreciated just what lithic studies can provide. In reading back through my report I find it is not all that bad and I really do wish that it had been published. Perhaps someday someone will find it of use. -Dr. Ian Brown    

Posted July 22, 2014
Topics: Archaeology

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