PIT Moose Butternut - Passport in Time

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PIT Moose Visits Butternut Lake

Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, Wisconsin, 1998
by Kim Potaracke, FS Archaeological Technician

You could’ve knocked me over with a feather when I was told that a pair of young moose (a male and female) were seen by our crew on the first day of our open house for the public. According to eyewitnesses, the moose did not seem distressed as they sauntered past, looking at us as we looked at them.

Can you imagine a more perfect thing to happen for the 10th year of holding PIT here in Wisconsin? It wasn’t an extremely rare event, yet it was a great conversation piece and kept our crew abuzz all week long. Do you think we could top that? Well, we sure did. The two-week project, which was situated for the second year on the shores of Butternut Lake, was nothing short of perfect, with El Niño and La Niña providing great weather almost every day and no mosquitoes!

We had a mixed crew the first week, with half PIT volunteers and the other half Nicolet College students. They were truly an exceptional bunch of people. You should’ve seen some of them on the last day when it rained, diligently finishing map work and getting muddy.

The site proved to be culturally rich. We uncovered more pottery, many flakes from stone tool manufacture, projectile points, features (including a trenchlike wall, a deeply buried fire pit, and refuse pits), some flattened pieces of copper, and good samples of faunal, floral, and wood charcoal remains that will help us determine more about the animals the site’s inhabitants ate and hunted, the plants they used and ate, and dates for various occupations represented at this site.

We always enjoy the special gatherings that happen each session. The first week we had a potluck, gathering around the campfire, telling stories and sampling sumac tobacco from a kaolin clay pipe. The second week, one of our volunteers treated us to bratwursts, corn, and other delectable tidbits. That meal was all the more exceptional because it was damp and cold and raining outside, but inside, the food, the view of the lake, and the conversations warmed one through to the core.

That’s what it’s all about, camaraderie, fellowship, and the understanding that in today’s world we are not so different from our ancestors who traveled the earth before us.

Related story: Butternut Lake
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