Results of the 1999 Notre Dame Field School

The Bennac Village, 1999


The Bennac Village site is a historic site that is now located within a private wildlife park. This historic village was inhabited by Potawatomi Indians and Roman Catholic "metis" (mixed French Canadian/Native American) around A.D. 1830. In earlier seasons, we located a prehistoric camp dating around A.D. 1300 and the possible site of a cabin.  The 1999 investigations were centered in the vicinity of the potential 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 (in 1996) 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 (the "south field").

The 1997 investigations consisted of magnetic and resistivity surveys of most of the south field, surface surveys of wildlife food plots, and the excavation of four units to test geophysical anomalies identified during the geophysical survey of the south field.  Click on the linked text to go to a more detailed description of the 1997 results.

The 1998 investigations completed the geophysical surveys of the south field, perfomed addtional geophysical surveys in food plots (small fields that feed the wildlife), and placed four test units in the vicinity of a scatter of historic artifacts dating to the Bennac era.



 The 1999 investigations were concentrated at the northern end of the site in an area known as the "Scout camp" because historic artifacts from the Bennac era were most abundant in this area.

Magnetic and resistivity surveys were conducted in the Scout camp, and shovel probes were also placed within a row of pine trees on the western edge of the camp area.
This shows the scout camp area from the north (the western edge of the area that produced historic artifacts is on the right).

The geophysical surveys did detect a large anomaly, HOWEVER, we found out from the park manager that an old house trailer that once stood in this location was demolished and buried here about 10 years ago.  The intense magnetic signal of the house trailer and the accompanying low resistivity anomaly (characteristic of disturbed soil) obscures any fainter geophysical signals that might date to the Bennac era occupations.
 
 

There is a good correspondance between the magnetic survey (on the left) and the resistivity survey (on the right).  The large circular anomaly near the top is where the old house trailer was buried.  The black square on the middle right is a large modern fire pit (no data was collected in that area).  Two modern features are also visible on the right edge of the magnetic data.  The long dark patch in the middle of the edge is the west edge of a trail that leads past the camp.  The small circular anomaly below that is the signal of a small campfire pit.
 

Shovel probes along the western edge of the camp area did contain artifacts from the Bennac era, however, all were found within disturbed contexts (the site had been farmed in the past, and all artifacts were from old plowzone contexts).  The small size of glass and pottery sherds show that the plowzone has been heavily reworked.  Other shovel probes of geophysical anomalies in the Scout Camp area also came up with negative results.

Unfortunately, the results of the 1999 season were not promising.  While it appears that we did locate the general vicinity of the Bennac cabin, we found no evidence of structural remains or subsurface deposits, and all the artifacts appear to be from badly disturbed contexts.  If further work is conducted at the site, it will probably be done to investigate the prehistoric camp in the "south field."

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