Results of the 1996 Notre Dame Field School

The Bennac Village, 1996

The Bennac Village site is a historic site that is now located within a private nature preserve. This historic village was inhabited by Potawatomi Indians and Roman Catholic "metis" (mixed French Canadian/Native American) around A.D. 1830. The field work located a prehistoric camp dating around A.D. 1300 and the possible site of a cabin.

The location of the Bennac Village site was first recorded by land surveyors in 1834. The village location is depicted by the cluster of triangles near the northern-most loop in the river (highlighted here with a red box). An important local trail passed through the village because the river could be forded at that point.

The site is now part of a nature preserve but it was farmed for many years. The first year's investigations were designed to determine if the site had been destroyed. Most of the site has returned to natural vegetation or is maintained in grass. The 1996 investigations included mapping, shovel probing, magnetic surveys, and test excavations. The test excavations were concentrated in a field at the south end of the site.

A magnetometer survey identified several magnetic anomalies. Excavation units were placed to test three of the anomalies (labelled a, b & c in the magnetic color map below).

This data map was produced with ND-View, a user-friendly computer program that field school students use to view their data.

Anomaly "a" (on the upper right) was apparently caused by scattered fire-cracked rock from historic or prehistoric cooking fires. Lithic debris (flakes from stone-tool manufacture) showed that a prehistoric occupation was present on this part of the site.

Anomaly "b" (located in the southeast corner of the grid, on the lower right) produced abundant fire-craked rock, several prehistoric pottery sherds, and the edge of a possible cooking pit or storage feature.

Anomaly "c", a very intense magnetic dipole, was caused by a recent artifact!

Shovel probes placed across the site also recovered fragments of brick and historic pottery dating to the Bennac era.

Excavations in 1997 will try to better pinpoint the location of Bennac's cabin and further investigate the prehistoric occupation discovered in 1996.

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