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October 23, 2021: Michigan Archaeology Day!
Michigan Archaeology Day is an annual one-day event held in Lansing each October, presented through a longstanding partnership between the State Historic Preservation Office and the Michigan History Center-DNR. In recent years, it has drawn over one thousand people for special exhibits, demonstrations, hands-on activities, lectures, and family fun. We're planning something a little different for 2021. Save the date: October 23! We hope that you learn something new and are inspired by the many passionate people who work so hard to preserve our shared past. More details to follow, stay tuned!
Archaeology is much more than just digging—it is cooperative research, analysis, reporting, curation, stewardship, education, and public outreach. Learn about some exciting projects in the next section!
Explore Archaeology in Michigan – By land and by sea!
The MSU Campus Archaeology Program (CAP) has developed an impressive number of virtual tour and learning experiences which you can explore right from home! Their Digital Cultural Heritage module takes you to the following topics:
Shipwrecks are a wood and steel chronicle of the history of naval architecture on the lakes. An estimated 6,000 vessels have been lost on the Great Lakes with approximately 1,500 of these ships located in Michigan waters. Explore shipwreck stories and locate nearby wrecks with this stunning storymap.
The Nautical Archaeology Society International Training Program is hosted by Northwestern Michigan College and is open to anyone who is interested in learning more about maritime and underwater archaeology.
Located in northwestern Lake Huron, Thunder Bay is adjacent to one of the most treacherous stretches of water within the Great Lakes system. Unpredictable weather, murky fog banks, sudden gales, and rocky shoals earned the area the name "Shipwreck Alley." Today, the 4300-square-mile Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary protects one of America's best-preserved and nationally-significant collections of shipwrecks.
The State Historic Preservation Office is just one Michigan state agency which seeks to preserve and protect Michigan's shipwrecks and other maritime resources.
Learn about a unique archaeological study seeking evidence of early caribou hunters on the lands now inundated by Lake Huron.
Learn about the P-39Q Airacobra aircraft found beneath Lake Huron in 2014, 70 years to the day after its tragic crash.
Since its establishment in 1980, Michigan's underwater preserve system has grown to occupy more than 2300 square miles of Great Lakes bottomland in twelve distinct underwater preserves. They protect some of the region's most sensitive and historic underwater resources.
Fun for Young Archaeologists!
Take a Road Trip!
Michigan's archaeological history is fascinating! Learn more about state history and archaeology at these institutions. Seasonal restrictions and COVID-19 closings or requirements may apply.
This new interactive map created by the Michigan DNR displays information related to Michigan's geology, natural features, and mining history. Within the map, users can view the distribution of sediments that were deposited and features left behind by the continental ice sheets that moved across Michigan during the last Ice Age, as well as sediments deposited by wind and water since the glaciers melted. These are shown in the layers titled Michigan Surficial Geology, Critical Dunes and Quaternary Geological Features. In addition, you can view the bedrock geologic formations that lie directly beneath the glacial sediments by turning on the Michigan Bedrock Geology layer.
You can also explore where copper, gold and iron were historically mined in Michigan. Native Americans mined copper in Michigan's Upper Peninsula for thousands of years. Native people used copper to fashion tools and ornaments and revered it as a source of power. Zoom in and out and turn on and off the different layers on the left column to explore Michigan's colorful geologic history! Learn more about this map and Michigan geology here.
Check out the interactive state geology map created especially for virtual Archaeology Day by Peter Rose, Michigan Department of Natural Resources. The map explores more than just rock types and sand dunes. Find Michigan waterfalls, abandoned mines, and more!
Since 1990, Federal law has provided for the repatriation and disposition of certain Native American human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony. Learn about NAGPRA at these links.
Support Michigan archaeology by respecting sites on public land, being good stewards of sites on your property, volunteering, and learning more!
Once removed from their original locations, artifacts will lose their research value unless the removal is properly documented. Maintain good records for any artifacts you find, including a map of their original location and notes on how they were discovered.
SHPO archaeologists maintain the official record of archaeological sites in Michigan that includes more than 23,000 land and submerged sites and 1,500 shipwrecks, curate the state’s archaeological collections, accept artifact donations, nominate significant sites to the National Register of Historic Places, collaborate with Tribal and other descendent communities, and help landowners be successful site stewards.
Most importantly, we cannot protect or learn from sites that we do not know exist! If you think you have discovered an archaeological site, email your State Historic Preservation Office archaeologist so we can help identify what you've found: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Is that part of a shipwreck? If you discover something along a Great Lakes shoreline, let us know by filing out the Great Lakes Coastline Survey Initiative Beach Wreckage Recording Form.
Artifacts are the property of the landowner (including the riparian landowner); you must have permission to remove artifacts from private land. Artifacts on federal or state land and bottomland (beneath the Great Lakes and where inland riparian rights apply) belong to all our citizens, and it is illegal to disturb them. Leave them in place and report them to the appropriate land manager. Do not metal detect on public lands unless current regulations allow it.
Archaeological sites are nonrenewable. Once gone, they are gone forever. Treat every site with care and respect, and with their preservation for the good of future generations in mind.
Thanks to our Partners
Archaeology Day is a joint presentation by the State Historic Preservation Office and the Michigan History Center-DNR. We would like to thank and recognize each partner who contributed material for Virtual Michigan Archaeology Day 2020 and who make their research and collections publically accessible. Thank you!