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Archaeologists find “exciting” colonial artifact from Michigan Fort

Archaeologists find “exciting” colonial artifact from Michigan Fort
Archaeologists find “exciting” colonial artifact from Michigan Fort

Archaeologists have unearthed a fascinating 18th-century artifact in northern Michigan.

The item in question, a brass ring, was found during an excavation at Colonial Michilimackinac – a reconstructed 18th-century fort and fur trading village west of the Mackinac Bridge.

The bridge connects the Upper and Lower Peninsulas of Michigan and spans the Strait of Mackinac – a body of water that connects Lake Michigan and Lake Huron.

Colonial Michilimackinac has been reconstructed using historical maps and more than 60 years of archaeological excavations. Fort Michilimackinac, which includes several wooden buildings and a stockade, has been declared a National Historic Landmark and is part of the Mackinac State Historic Parks.

An 18th century brass trading ring
The 18th century brass trade ring found at Colonial Michilimackinac in Michigan. The ring was found at the excavation site of a row house within the reconstructed fort.

Mackinac State Historic Parks

The original fort and trading post were built by the French in 1715, but fell into British hands in the early 1760s along with the rest of their Canadian territory, which previously included present-day Michigan.

After Fort Michilimackinac had been a thriving diplomatic and economic center for decades, the British finally abandoned it in the early 1780s after building another limestone fort on nearby Mackinac Island, which lies in Lake Huron just off the coast of the Upper Michigan Peninsula.

On the morning of June 18, 2024, the brass trading ring was excavated as part of the long-standing archaeology program at Colonial Michilimackinac. The find was described as “exciting” in a statement from Mackinac State Historic Parks.

The ring was found in a pile of demolition rubble dating to the 1780s at the excavation site of a terraced house called House E within the reconstructed fortress.

“The archaeological team made a beautiful discovery yesterday morning – a brass trading ring,” said Lynn Evans, curator of archaeology at Mackinac State Historic Parks, in the press release.

“Although these rings are sometimes called ‘Jesuit rings,’ they were strictly secular trade items in the 18th century.”

Such artifacts were originally called “Jesuit rings” because people at the time associated them with Catholic missionaries in the region, said Dominick Miller, a spokesman for Mackinac State Historic Parks. The Detroit News.

House E was built in the 1730s and according to historical documents it has always belonged to a fur trader. The first occupant was a man named Charles Henri Desjardins de Rupallay de Gonneville, but its later occupant was an English trader whose identity is still unknown.

In recent years, several interesting finds have been made at the House E site, including a lead seal dating from between 1717 and 1769, another engraved “Jesuit” trade ring, a brass side plate from a British trade rifle, remains of a creamware plate, a bone or ivory dice, and numerous other items.

While Colonial Michilimackinac is a popular tourist attraction with its costumed historical interpreters and demonstrations, the site is the site of ongoing archaeological research during the summer months.

In fact, excavations at Michilimackinac began in 1959, meaning the archaeological program at this site is one of the longest-running in North America.

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