PORTER | Mark Schurr stood in the dry sun outside on the grounds of Bailly Homestead, holding a pole with a prism on top like Indiana Jones out of a scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Schurr, professor of anthropology and assistant dean in the College of Arts and Letters at University of Notre Dame, gave a demonstration to his students, students from Indiana University South Bend, and volunteers on how to use equipment like the prism pole.
They will use it and other equipment to begin surveying and excavating the site of the early settler and fur trader Joseph Bailly, the first dig since the 1970s.
Josh Wells, assistant professor of anthropology who is working with Schurr on the site, said that equipment like the laser transit, geophysical equipment, electrical resistivity meter, and magnetometer, will be critical this time around since such technology wasn’t used at the site 40 years ago.
“We don’t have a precise goal for what we might find out here, but the work that was done in the ‘70s showed there are some pretty good deposits, so we’re using that as a guide but starting with a whole new project," Wells said. "We should be able to get a pretty good idea of what’s in the ground.”
By using the equipment for initial mapping, the group of instructors and students will be able to do remote testing over the surface as well as shovel testing, digging small holes to see what’s in them.
“We want to create a topographical map of the subsurface and then we’ll look at the data to determine a couple of small excavation sites,” said Wells.
The site is culturally significant because, Wells points out, it was an area rife with activity during the pioneer days, as well as thousands of years prior.
“If Indiana is the crossroads of American, then this area was one of those early crossroads," he said. "Prehistoric people have been here for thousands of years before Joseph Bailly settled it, but the reason Bailly put his trading post here was this was on the Detroit/Fort Dearborn Trail, the main artery from Detroit to Chicago, and at the lakeshore was the shoreline trail. So in the frontier, this site was a gas station at a major intersection,” he said.
Students and instructors hope to find artifacts that will help to give a snapshot of life at the site.
“We want to find prehistoric materials, but since Joseph Bailly’s grandchildren continued to live here after he died, you have a self-contained opportunity to study from the pioneer era into the early 20th century," Wells said. "So we want to study the changes in how a household lived and how trade was done in the area."
The dig continues through the end of the month.