Michigan Historical Artifact Recovery Team 

Preserving the Past for Future Generations
The Recovery Process

This page is dedicated to the explanation of what goes into site selection as well as the recovery process itself. This information is very helpful to those who are interested having us conduct a dig on their historic property and to excavating companies who may request our presence in a historic area.

PROCESS WHEN TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE: Recovery prior to Site Research
(ie... Large Scale Excavation Sites, Downtown District Utility Installation, New or Replacement Drainfield Sites, etc..)

This process is backwards, however, when large excavation machines are moving dirt, there is no other option. If a ash pit, cistern, well or other underground pit is located during excavation work, thus showing signs of a prior settlement, then we have little time to do proper site reasearch and must immediately focus on working with the excavation company or contractor to recover remaining objects or uncovered shards that may be of historical importance. We record any data that may help, in our research,after completing our on site work. In other words, "We put the puzzle together after we are done picking up the pieces".

** Note to Excavators- If you are digging and see a bucket of dirt containing grey/white colored ash with glass & pottery, then you have struck a place of interest that we would like to investigate. Specifically, if you are working in a old area, used by settlers prior to 1900, then there is a excellent chance we should have a look at what you have uncovered.

The following is what and how we determine what sites to focus upon and how we recover missing or undocumented history associated with settlements during the 1820-1870 period in time.

1) Research- This is the single most important step.
The better historical documentation that can be found and understood helps significantly in location of potential sites of historical importance. We have been able to find pioneer settlements and recover items in the middle of plowed fields, overgrown wood lots and along riparian systems traveled by early settlers.

2) Site Investigation- The most frustrating part of the process.
After gathering the data and identifying the site, we visit with the owner(s), get permission, then survey and attempt to find potential dig sites. When people observe a dig in progress, many people initially comment that it looks easy and are surprised when we find buried objects in less than 30 minutes or just after a few hours. After 30 years of trying to identify and find such sites, I assure readers of this that although we may make it look easy, it is not. I have lost count of the number of dry holes or pits that had trash burried by someone within the last 50 years. Nothing very old, nor exciting, just common trash like beer cans, plastic and or metal. 

3) Digging a Test Hole- A common practice in the field of Archeology that allows one to assess and verify the value of data gathered, prior to actually digging on a site.
The test holes are generally 1'x1' or 2'x2' square and allow us to determine if the digging should continue or if we should abandon the chosen location and continue our search elsewhere on the subject site.

4) Once we confim that the hole should be investigated further, we Hand Dig the subject pit, carefully removing the sod in a orderly fashion and replacing, as closely as found, when done.

5) When a pit is uncovered that contains items of Historical interest, we open the pit to the approximate dimension we intend to investigate, then hand dig the contents, utilizing a bucket and sifting system. The contents of the pit are sorted, recorded and eventually reassembled. Shards of non historically important items are placed back into the pit prior to refilling, packing and replacement of any sod/foilage. During the dig, we record information as it relates to the contents of subject dig site. This would include the material types found inside pit, construction type (stone, brick, wood or other material), pit dimensions, shards and all objects found.

6) We regularily find objects such as plates, cups, pottery pieces, glassware items and bottles. We always offer to leave a few objects with the landowner if they express interest in the items recovered. We have on numerous occassions cleaned and restored items, and returned them to the homeowner with historical information attached to the restored plate, cup or stoneware item. The items in the photograph below are as they were found, prior to proper cleaning and restoration.

The brown pile of shards in the lower left portion of the photo was a rockingham, Rebecca at the Well, coffee pot that was completely restored and given to the local historical society along with several other items of historical interest for study and display. Our success rate is high, although truly early settlement sites generally offer small quantities of items.

Regardless of what is or is not  found helps us to further understand our ancestry, settlement patterns and common items of utilitarian use during a time period that is interesting and exciting.

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