Greetings from the West Point Foundry. I’m George Carter, and I will be returning to Michigan Tech in the Fall as a first year Grad student in the Industrial Archaeology program. I expect to find the campus quite changed since I graduated with my BS in Mining Engineering in 1969. I am participating in the Field School to find out if I can still bend over long enough to find something in the dirt. I can, I have, and I’m lovin’ it!
For some of us, attending the SIA Conference in Philadelphia last weekend was our first real exposure to the broad range of challenges and possibilities in industrial archaeology. We all returned to WPF with new insights and renewed enthusiasm, and were quickly rewarded.
On Monday, Colleen, Amy and Sarah uncovered a horizontal arc of brickwork in the new excavation unit opened last week at the projected location of the cannon casting pits. Since I was working in the lab that day I did not witness this event, but I am told that project leader Dan temporarily lost his typical demeanor of cool equanimity. As the week and excavation progressed, evidence mounted that this was, in fact, a well-preserved portion of the casting pit liner. This unit will now be expanded to the east in order to more clearly define the limits and surroundings of the pit.
To the south, Carmelo, Sam, Lawrence, and Tom enlarged the unit which had initially exposed a portion of the oven wall. Extending the excavation to the west and then to the south, they found three more massive granite blocks forming a square (with one corner slightly displaced). The position of the blocks, together with the heavy iron castings exposed in the preliminary westward extension, strongly supports the hypothesis that these are remains of one of the copula furnaces.
Between the oven unit and the casting pit, John, Seth, Rob, Sarah and I continued excavating in the area of the smokestack portrayed in the 1866 Weir painting (which has guided much of the work this summer). Below the rail exposed last week, we uncovered a large structure, spanning nearly a third of the unit, composed of mortared stone. Leaving a pedestal of undisturbed material beneath the rail for later examination, we continued digging down around the rock structure in search of a distinctive floor level.
Alessandra and Megan continued exploring and documenting the unit at the molding shop door. Material enclosed within the iron box structures was carefully removed and wet-screened, but no significant artifacts were found. Ale drew a profile of the soil strata as revealed in the unit walls, while Megan worked with Amy mapping site topography.
Dr. Pat Martin returned to MTU at mid-week, accompanied by John who will be starting a field interpretation project in the Porcupine Mountains of Michigan. We were joined at the site by volunteer Rob Yasinsic, who is a Hudson Valley native and has been highly active in other historic preservation and interpretation projects in the area. This week also wrapped up visits to the Preserve by local school children.