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  • Draper Park archaeological dig

    Students, community unearth history
  • Draper Park archaeological dig

    Students, community unearth history
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  • Sometime around the year 700, a large encampment of Native Americans gathered near the mouth of the St. Clair River to fish in what is now Draper Park in Port Huron.

    About 1,300 years later, SC4 students and community members unearthed the remains of that camp, literally digging into local history and are finding a wealth of knowledge beneath the soil.

    Last summer, students, faculty and community members participated in an archaeological dig at that fishing camp. The students not only learned the techniques used by archaeologists, but got an in-depth look at the lives of some of the Port Huron area’s first inhabitants.

    The on-site instruction included surveying, mapping, excavating, recording and recovering artifacts on the glacial beach ridge just north of where the Blue Water Bridge now stands.

    In eight weeks, the students unearthed more than 75,000 artifacts ranging from fragments of ceramics to animal bones and chips of stone resulting from tool making. The artifacts tell the story of these tribes.

    SC4 Professor Rob Richardson, who helped lead the dig with local archaeologist John Gram, said the artifacts offer great insight into who these people were, what they ate and how they lived. Learning about the people who came before us can teach us a lot about ourselves, he said.

    “We’re not on a treasure hunt,” Richardson said. “The treasure is in the information we find.”

    Building off earlier excavations from the 1970s, students learned not just about the people but also the scientific process of an archaeological dig.

    And the dig itself was just the beginning. Students today are continuing to wash, identify and catalog the artifacts they discovered. Future students will use this material to conduct research.

    “Our goal is to get to know the people,” Richardson said. “We have enough data to keep our students busy for years.”