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Fall Archaeological Dig at the Crossroads Cove Estuary Preserve is underway

The Fall Archaeological Dig at the Crossroads Cove Estuary Preserve is underway, and the general public—adults, families, groups –are invited to observe, or even better, to participate in the Dig on weekdays from now until Thursday, October 5.

Anytime you see activity at The Cove Estuary Preserve, you are welcome to park at the lot at 817 S. 20th Place and join in the experience. If school groups are present, visitors are invited to watch, but need to understand that our team of professional archaeologists may be too involved in educational outreach to answer questions. At other times, though, they will be more than willing to discuss their work and help visitors understand that archaeology is far more than a treasure hunt.

The stereotype of archaeologists involved in exotic travel, adventure and the acquisition of fabulous treasures is now far from accurate. Archaeology also is no longer an adult hobby like, say, stamp collecting, in which many families had a cigar box full of arrowheads tucked away, or perhaps an array of artifacts displayed in a shadow box on the mantlepiece. 

Archaeologists of today care less about acquiring treasures and more about learning about the lives of people. At Crossroads this year, we are focused on “foodways” – the ways people gathered, stored, cooked and disposed of food on Crossroads’ property. That will provide a window on our cultural heritage spanning several thousand years. We are particularly interested in the challenging times when people learned to adapt to a changing climate or conditions which presumably also led to changes in their societies, diet, trade and even their spirituality.

So, how, you may ask, can small, chipped stones, pottery sherds and chunks of partially burned wood reveal the stories of past cultures. 

Well, once the artifacts have been underearth at our dig, our archaeology team cleans, sorts, and examines them under a powerful microscope. Selected specimens will be sent off to be analyzed using the following, specialized and high-tech scientific methods.

Appropriate to our foodways theme, our team includes a specialist in ethnobotany who studies the organic materials – seeds, nutshells, fish scales, corn cakes, bones, shells, teeth – to determine what made up the diet of people during any given time. 

Using an electron microscope, trained researchers can look at the edges of stone tools and hunting weapons to examine use-wear marks to determine how and on what materials the tools were used answering questions such as: Was it a scraper? Was it used to scrape fresh hides? Process meat? Make clothing?

Using technologies from medical science, archaeologists use blood protein analysis to determine, with precision to genus and sometimes even to species, the prey animals of various cultures.

Ceramic analysis will determine the source of clay (local or traded) and, because ceramics were not glazed, pots and storage vessels sometimes absorbed oils and liquids which also helps us learn even more about “foodways.”

Organic material samples can be used for carbon dating so we can determine when people lived beside the estuary.

As part of the Archaeological Experience, Crossroads will be offering interpretive tours of the Hans and Bertha Hanson Home. Tours are free and open to the public, though donations are welcome.

So why do we care about environmental history and archaeology? First, we acknowledge and honor all people who lived or worked on the land we now steward, and we endeavor to learn how humans have interacted with nature in both positive and detrimental ways through the centuries. With this knowledge, we can make informed decisions on how best to manage and restore the land for future generations.

And speaking of future generations, Crossroads Junior Nature Club, a six-session program for pre-school children, will begin meeting on October 27. For information and to register, please visit the Crossroads at Big Creek website.

Folks who want to help in our restoration efforts are encouraged to participate in our Pollinator Pals and Habitat Healers programs which will run through the end of October.

Crossroads at Big Creek Learning Center and Nature Preserve is located at 2041 Michigan Street, Sturgeon Bay. Crossroads is a 501(c)3 organization committed to offering education, conducting research and land restoration, and providing outdoor experiences to inspire environmental stewardship in learners of all ages and from all backgrounds. We welcome your support. 

Thursday, September 28

8:30 a.m. Pollinator Pals

If you like to garden and are interested in giving our native pollinators a helping hand, Crossroads at Big Creek could use your help! Volunteers are “editing” unwanted plants which will be replaced by native species. We provide the equipment. Meet at the Collins Learning Center, 2041 Michigan St., Sturgeon Bay.

10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. Archaeological Dig Public Outreach at The Cove Estuary

Learners of all ages are invited to observe or take part in our Fall Archaeological Dig. We provide gloves, instructions and supervision. Please park in the lot at 817 South 20th Place. Free and open to the public.  

Friday, September 30

10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. Archaeological Dig Public Outreach at The Cove Estuary

Learners of all ages are invited to observe or take part in our Fall Archaeological Dig under the supervision of a team of professional archaeologists. Learn about the foodways of the Woodland Era people who are thought to have lived, at least seasonally, beside the estuary. We provide gloves, instructions and supervision. Please park in the lot at 817 South 20th Place. Free and open to the public.   

2:30 - 4:30 p.m. Tours of the Hanson House

Enjoy a free tour of the Hans and Bertha Hanson House to learn about life in the 1880s. No reservations needed. The Hanson House is located at 2200 Utah Street, Sturgeon Bay. Please park across Utah Street in The Cove Preserve parking area, 817 South 20th Place, so as not to detract from the historical character of the area. 

Saturday, September 30

9:00 a.m. Habitat Healers

Help heal the earth! Volunteers of all ages are invited to help with our land restoration efforts. Wear clothing and footgear that can get dirty and wet and bring a water bottle. Instruction, equipment, and gloves provided along with cookies and lemonade at the end. No need to register in advance and all ages are welcome. Meet at the Workshop at 2041 Michigan Street, Sturgeon Bay. 

 

Sunday, October 12:30 - 4:30 p.m. Tours of the Hanson House

Enjoy a free tour of the Hans and Bertha Hanson House to learn about life in the 1880s. Hands-on activities for kids. No reservations needed. The Hanson House is located at 2200 Utah Street, Sturgeon Bay. Please park across Utah Street in The Cove Preserve parking area so as not to damage construction materials, impede progress or detract from the historical character of the area.

Monday, October 2

10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. Archaeological Dig Public Outreach at The Cove Estuary

Learners of all ages are invited to observe or take part in our Fall Archaeological Dig under the supervision of a team of professional archaeologists. Learn about the foodways of the Woodland Era people who, we believe, lived, at least seasonally, beside the estuary. We provide gloves, instructions and supervision. Please part in the lot at 817 South 20thPlace. Free and open to the public. 

Tuesday, October 3 

10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. Archaeological Dig Public Outreach at The Cove Estuary

Learners of all ages are invited to observe or take part in our Fall Archaeological Dig under the supervision of a team of professional archaeologists. Learn about the foodways of the Woodland Era people who, we believe, lived, at least seasonally, beside the estuary. We provide gloves, instructions and supervision. Please part in the lot at 817 South 20thPlace. Free and open to the public. 

6:30 p.m. Crossroads Bird Club

Birders, novice to experienced, are invited to Bird Club the first Tuesday of each month. We meet at the Collins Learning Center, but if weather cooperates, bring your binoculars and come dressed for an outing. Free and open to the public. Meet at the Collins Learning Center, 2041 Michigan, Sturgeon Bay.

Wednesday, October 4

10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. Archaeological Dig Public Outreach at The Cove Estuary

Learners of all ages are invited to observe or take part in our Fall Archaeological Dig under the supervision of a team of professional archaeologists. Learn about the foodways of the Woodland Era people who, we believe, lived, at least seasonally, beside the estuary. We provide gloves, instructions and supervision. Please part in the lot at 817 South 20thPlace. Free and open to the public. 

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