Archeology Field Experiences

Child learning archaeology techniques.The archaeology component in the Department of Anthropology at Western Michigan University has long emphasized experiential learning and active student engagement in teaching, research and service. It begins with the field programs first established in the western Great Lakes 34 years ago, and has continued with the Fort St. Joseph Archaeological Project and research projects in other areas of the world, especially South and Central Asia. WMU archaeologists encourage both graduate and undergraduate students to become involved in practicing archaeology. This work often results in close collaboration with faculty conducting research, and making the results available to academic audiences and beyond through publications, public programs and community outreach.

Fort St. Joseph

Fort St. Joseph is an 18th-century mission-garrison-trading post established by the French in Niles, Michigan. The Fort St. Joseph Archaeological Project is a collaborative venture between WMU, the city of Niles, the Fort St. Joseph Museum and other community groups in which students engage in community service learning, public education and outreach.

Undergraduate participation in archaeology

Students in our undergraduate programs:

  • Have presented the results of independent archaeological research through posters and presentations under faculty supervision.
  • Have the opportunity to conduct fieldwork in conjunction with community-based projects led by graduate students and faculty.
  • Regularly participate in Michigan Archaeology Day in Lansing where they prepare a display of French and British artifacts from the Fort St. Joseph excavations in Niles.
  • Have been featured in and have assisted in producing promotional videos that highlight the role of community service learning in archaeology.
  • Have attended and participated in the Society for Historical and Underwater Archaeology Conference (Williamsburg, Albuquerque), the Society for American Archaeology (San Juan, Austin, Vancouver), the French Colonial Historical Society (Quebec City), and the Midwest Historical Archaeology Conference (Ball State, DePaul, Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis) with faculty support.
  • Have traveled to Central Asia and China to examine ancient archaeological sites.
  • Have examined and interpreted rock art from India.

Graduate student participation in archaeology

Master of Arts students:

  • Have designed and implemented a public education program for Fort St. Joseph in Niles, Michigan, as an internship with the Fort St. Joseph Museum.
  • Analyzed a collection of tinkling cones in the collections of the Fort St. Joseph Museum to examine the ways in which labor was organized on the colonial frontier.
  • Collaborated in preparing a poster for the annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association in Washington, D.C., during the 2007 field season of the Fort St. Joseph Archaeological Project, and attended various conferences.
  • Have served as interns with the Fort St. Joseph Museum since 2006.
  • Have developed and implemented public archaeology programs for teachers and adults continuing their education.

Other archaeological thesis work includes:

  • Examination of an ancient burial site at Altyn, Turkmenistan.
  • An archaeological investigation of lumber camps in northern Michigan.
  • Studying and interpreting the significance of the Hero Stones Complex of the Nilgiri Hills, India.
  • Studying nomadic influences in Central Asia.