UMSL students dig up link to past

During the last few weeks, University of Missouri–St. Louis students have been digging in the dirt – and what they’ve found is a solid link to the past. Nineteenth century ceramics, metal fragments and stone tools and debris associated with a 7,000-year-old Native American tribe are just some of the gems they have excavated.

The digs are part of the UMSL Department of Anthropology, Sociology and Languages’ weekend field schools that provide archaeological experiences for anthropology majors, non-majors and students working toward the certificate in archaeology.

“This is a great opportunity for our students,” said Patti Wright, associate professor of anthropology at UMSL. “Missouri is rich in artifacts, so they get the joy of finding something nearly every time we go out.”

Jason Vasser, anthropology major, said he agrees.

“I think that archaeology is important because it allows us to look into the past and learn from the people who lived in whatever era you are studying,” Vasser said. “It’s truly an interesting field, and I am glad I took the course.”

The students spent last Saturday at three locations along South Main Street in St. Charles, Mo. At the first location, students conducted excavations in a structure that is believed to be an outbuilding associated with Louis Blanchette’s house. Blanchette, a French Canadian, established a trading post in 1769 along the Missouri River and founded what is now known as the city of St. Charles. Under the authority of the Spanish governor of Upper Louisiana, he served as its civil and military leader until his death in 1793.

The second location took them to Main Street in St. Charles where they investigated an area that may be the location of the 1791 St. Charles Borromeo Log Church. At the third location, the UMSL contingent worked in the backyard of a bed and breakfast, the Boone’s Colonial Inn. Earlier in the spring, the owners of the property had discovered numerous early 19th century ceramics while workers dug out a utility trench. The students are in the process of excavating two one-by-one foot trenches to learn more about the archaeological sequence. This series of investigations has garnered interest from shoppers strolling along Main Street, and has provided the students with numerous opportunities to engage the public and proudly represent the university.

The students will dig at these same locations Nov. 20. For their last meeting in early December, the students will be assisting St. Charles County Parks by surveying and mapping the architectural features of the Hays Farm. This property, located near Defiance, Mo., was once the home of one of Daniel Boone’s grandsons, Daniel Boone Hays, from 1825-1849.

Wright said the field school combines teaching, research and service in providing the students, volunteers, and faculty with interesting and rewarding experiences.

More information:
http://www.umsl.edu/divisions/artscience/anthro/

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