More finds at Goose Lake

Archaeologist Dr. Terry Martin, working with the Marquette Regional History Center’s Betsy Rutz and her niece, Amelia Cook, is screening cultural deposits from a 2021 excavation unit. (Photo courtesy of Jim Paquette)

SANDS — It has been 27 years since the historic chance discovery of four early 16th century brass iconographic/Jesuit rings in a remote area near the Sands Plains in Sands Township.

On May 26, 1996, Negaunee archaeologist Jim Paquette uncovered this protohistoric period treasure while conducting a subsurface scan with a metal detector near the location of an early mapped location of an overland “Indian trail from the Chocolate River to the Esconaby River.”

That initial discovery led to a multi-year professional archaeological excavation project at the site where the buried remains of a dwelling structure and a nearby out-door cooking and hide processing area were then found and carefully excavated. Today, it is widely known throughout the entire Great Lakes region as the Goose Lake Outlet #3 site (20MQ140), or simply as GLO#3.

This past summer in 2022, archaeologists finally completed their investigations at the site itself. Small scale excavations had also occurred there in 1999, 2000, 2012, 2013 and 2021. The excavations were carried out through the joint cooperation of the Marquette Regional History Center, Northern Michigan University, and the Cleveland-Cliffs Iron Company (the property owner). Numerous noted archaeologists and other professional researchers from throughout the region participated in the project.

However, the brunt of the onsite excavation grunt work in the bug and poison ivy infested site area was carried out by local volunteers, most of whom were Paquette’s family members, young and some not so young.

Excavator Karen Paquette and grandson, Joshua Smith, smile broadly as they uncover the first of three early 17th century trade beads in one clump of dirt! (Photo courtesy of Jim Paquette)

The most recent excavations in 2021 and 2023 at GLO#3 completed the mapping of the occupation area, plus they added to the site’s inventory of cultural materials that have been recovered. That includes several triangular stone arrowheads, plus other stone tools and numerous tool resharpening flakes.

Among the other European derived trade/gift items were 55 glass trade beads, a pair of iron scissors, an iron eyed needle, the tip of an iron butchering knife, three fragments of cut brass and copper kettles, and an incredible yet dainty circular black glass hoop, perhaps part of an earring.

The most recent excavations in 2020/2021 also added to the GLO#3 winter hunting camp “bone count,” as an additional 1,550 plus fragments of moose and other animal bones, were found amidst several cooking hearth features. In total, over 10,000 pieces of broken and/or cooked/burnt moose, beaver, otter, and porcupine bones/teeth were recovered at the site.

The assessment of what was recovered at the site continues, but enough is now known to conclude WHEN the site was being occupied, and by WHOM. And THAT is why this Marquette County archaeological site has been noted as being one of the “most important” cultural sites in the state of Michigan, and beyond.

The GLO#3 site has been determined to probably be a circa 1630’s Anishinaabe family’s inland winter hunting/camp site. This dating of the site’s occupation was determined primarily through the detailed study of the 55 multi-colored glass trade beads that were evenly spread out and recovered within the excavated occupation areas.

These incredibly tiny glass relics can be dated to specific time periods during the early French explorations and fur trading exploits in the NE wilderness areas of North America. The “newest” of the GLO#3 trade beads are dated back to the 1625/30-1650 period, but most of the beads date back earlier to the 1600 to 1625/30 time period. At least one of beads is a pre-1600 type.

As such, the circa 1630’s chronological placement is actually a “median date” of probable multiple site occupations as it was probably also inhabited even before that decade based on some of the recovered French trade artifacts that date back to the even earlier in the 1600’s.

Supporting this early dating of the site was the recovery during the follow-up excavations of an additional brass iconographic/Jesuit finger ring, plus the broken band of yet another. The five complete GLO#3 rings are known to represent the very first types of these specific trade/gift items brought to the New World from France. They have been assigned distribution dates of between 1625-1660 by archaeologists.

Thus, the GLO#3 site surely dates back to that mysterious time period shortly after the U.P. became the new homeland of the Anishinaabe Ojibwe people after their many-years long migration into Lake Superior Country from the east. No other pre-1650 “protohistoric period” cultural site like this has ever been professionally excavated and studied here in the Upper Peninsula.

“This was an extremely rare ‘one in a million’ archaeological discovery, even though hundreds of similar Anishinaabe family seasonal winter hunting campsites must surely be out there somewhere,” Paquette said.

“What is most important is that we have given those people who once lived there, a chance to speak to us today and to tell us more about who they were,” Paquette added.

At 6 p.m. June 14, Paquette will present a program at the Marquette Regional History Center on the GLO#3 site excavation that will update everyone on the most recent finds, and he will introduce everyone to the Anishinaabe family who once called this place their winter home.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper *

Starting at $4.62/week.

Subscribe Today