Archaeology Field School

MTU Archaeological Field School for Summer 2015

Archaeology of Mining on
the Keweenaw and Isle Royale

May 11 – June 25, 2015

The 2015 Field Archaeology classes will focus on two sets of remains from nineteenth century copper mining in the Lake Superior District; the Pittsburgh, Boston & Copper Harbor Mine (PB&CH) in Copper Harbor, Michigan, and the Minong Mine and Isle Royale & Ohio Mine (IR&O) on Isle Royale. Both venues are located on Lake Superior, the first in a State Park and the latter two in a National Park.

This class will combine exposure to a variety of archaeological perspectives and practices. Students will be engaged in historical background research, site survey and discovery, shovel-testing, mapping, excavation, photography, artifact processing and documentation.

After some background work on campus, students will join an ongoing research project at Fort Wilkins State Park, where the search for additional remains of the PB&CH Mine is underway. Considerable evidence has already been revealed, but a broader view requires expansion into a previously unstudied area. The research crew will conduct shovel-testing on the west side of Fannie Hooe Creek, expecting to find evidence of both the mining company’s presence during the period 1844-1847, and material related to a later lighthouse keeper’s occupation.

After two weeks at Fort Wilkins, the crew will shift to Isle Royale National Park and examine remains of two additional mining operations. The Minong Mine is located on the north side of the island, west of McCargo Cove, and was one of the largest and most productive mines on Isle Royale, operating 1874-1885. A good deal of research has been done on this site, but some key items require further attention. The primary focus here will be documentation and mapping, in support of the eventual generation of a National Historic Landmark nomination by the Park Service.

The second target for research is the IR&O Mine, operated 1847-1849 and subsequently reorganized as Isle Royale Mine on the south side of Houghton, on the mainland. This was one of the early mines on the island, located within Rock Harbor on the south side, near the Mott Island park headquarters, in the current Daisy Farm Campground. Previous work has identified prehistoric mining and occupation, a number of features from the IR&O operations, and a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) component, as well. Among the key IR&O features is what appears to be the first copper smelter in the Lake Superior District; this will be the target of some excavation to confirm technical aspects of the operation.

The class is available for either undergraduate or graduate credit (SS 3210 and SS 5700, respectively), with variable credit available from 2 to 9 semester credits. Guest student status is available for any student in good standing at their home university.   Tuition will be approximately $467/credit for Michigan resident undergraduates, $973/credit for non-resident undergraduates, and about $820/credit for graduate students. Camping/housing and food will be subsidized by the project within the parks during the active project, and travel from the mainland to Isle Royale will be provided.

Enrollment will be limited to ten students
Inquiries must be filed with Dr. Martin by March 1, 2015.

The Field School Experience

Learning archaeological fieldwork is an immersive experience where teamwork is essential. It takes weeks of work before a person can begin assembling the clues from each discovery into meaningful pictures of the past. As a result, students should expect the work to be exacting, often slow, and physically challenging, as one develops professional skills over time. We work eight-hour days in all conditions, five days a week throughout the six-week summer course.  This summer will be especially immersive, as for some of the time we will be living and working on undeveloped Isle Royale, hours from the mainland by boat.

What will I learn?

During the Summer Field School, students will learn a wide range of archaeological field methods and gain proficiency using important equipment and tools. Examples of what team members learn include the following:

  • consulting documents, maps, aerial photos, and oral history during excavation and survey, including several different types of remote sensing (satellite, aerial, ground-based, and maritime)
  • using traditional mapping technologies, along with new technologies such as LiDAR, Global Position Systems (GPS), and digital Total Station (EDM) tools, in mapping landscape details such as walls, structures, and roadways
  • working with Shovel Test Pit survey for data recovery, including appropriate sampling methodology to ensure that artifacts are representative of the larger area
  • completing measured drawings of architectural remains with traditional tools, as well as digital equipment like EDMs and LiDAR, to produce measured drawings
  • ethically driven decision making about artifact collection, cleaning, identification, analyses, and conservation, considering industrial archaeological sites in particular
  • working with stakeholders of the site in the responsible conduct of public scholarship and research with industrial heritage, including legal and ethical issues surrounding industrial communities, sites, and landscapes.

Prior to the start of fieldwork on the Island, students will have several days of introductory instruction and some field trips. The trips are coordinated with each summer’s excavation topic (and the weather) and usually include local mining sites, the Copper Country Archives and Historical Collections, partner sites in the Keweenaw National Historical Park, Keweenaw County Historical Society museums and sites, and perhaps a curator's introduction to the collection at the A. E. Seaman Mineral Museum. In addition to field trips, students will experience lectures and discussions devoted to the history and technology of early copper mining in the Keweenaw and the communities and landscapes it produced. Guest lectures are often given by published historians, anthropologists, environmental scientists, and many other experts.

Students will live in Houghton, Michigan and then for four weeks in primitive campsites on Isle Royale. Michigan Tech will help guest students to find private accommodations in town for the in-town portion of the field school. Students will need to supply the majority of their personal camping gear for the time on the island.

For additional information contact:

Patrick Martin • Department of Social Sciences

Michigan Technological University • Houghton, MI 49931-1295 • USA

Tel: (906) 487-2070 • Email:

Current MTU Students

Michigan Tech undergraduate students can use the field school to fulfill up to 6 credits for several general education degree requirements: HASS Creative Endeavor, FES Environmental Electives, Performance Activities, SSS Anthropology/Archaeology Electives, and World Cultures. Prior to enrolling, please confirm with your academic advisor that the credits will count toward the desired degree requirements.

  1. Register for the Field Archaeology course on Banweb. The undergraduate course number is SS3210, and the graduate course number is SS5700.
  2. Download the Summer 2015 Field School Application Form, complete it, and email it to Patrick Martin in the industrial archaeology program. You can repeat credits for SS3210/SS5700, so you can take this course again for credit if you have already completed a field school.

Domestic Undergraduate Students Enrolled in Outside Universities

To register for the Field Archaeology course as a guest student, complete the following steps:

  1. Download the Summer 2015 Field School Application Form, complete it, and email it to Patrick Martin in the industrial archaeology program. .
  2. Visit the registrar at your home university and request a guest student application form. Using your own university's form streamlines the credit transfer process. If your university does not have such a form, download the state of Michigan's Guest Student Application Form.
  3. Complete the appropriate guest student application form.
    1. Note that you may enroll in whatever number of credit hours your institution requires. For example, some universities require their students to complete 4 credit hours of field school training. You should enroll for the number of credits appropriate to your home department’s or university's requirements.
  4. You may need to take the form to your university's registrar, and they will certify your application and forward the form to Michigan Tech’s undergraduate admissions office; confirm this step with the registrar. You may be required to pay a $30 application fee. Tech’s admissions office will submit the form to the registrar’s office. If you have questions about registering for this course, email Tech’s registrar’s office or call 906-487-2319.

International Students

International students could participate on a tourist visa, since the Field Archaeology course only lasts for seven weeks. Download the Summer 2015 Field School Application Form, complete it, and email it to Patrick Martin in the industrial archaeology program. You should contact your home university's international studies coordinator or Michigan Tech’s International Programs and Services office.

Michigan Tech has a number of international cooperative and exchange agreements that can facilitate guest students from around the world. We encourage prospective students to email International Programs and Services for advice.