Getting Started in fur trade artifact hunting

Prairie Prowler

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Tpmetal

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New to this facet of treasure hunting..have been coin & relic hunting for 30+ yrs .any good books or tips to get started & or researching spots ?? I live near a fairly lg. waterway that may have had early activity..Thanks in advance..
best bet is to just start reading everything you can find on the fur trade era in Illinois. As you read places, people, and accounts of events will bring up other things to research further into. A really good way to start is with a simple google search and start reading (or more like skimming) academic papers, no need to fully read unless its interesting or pertinent info. The main thing they help provide is sources. Pay attention to the foot notes of the stuff that stands out and go check out the sources listed for it as they often contain much more detail of the info you are looking for.
 

plehbah2

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I don't know about researching sites, but you will want to be very familiar with the material culture of the contact/ fur trade era. If you don't really know your stuff, then there is a great chance you would blow through a camp and have no idea. If you don't find the really glamorous stuff like trade silver and jewelry, which is most often the case, much of the contents of a contact era site will look like junk to the uninformed. I have a camp very near to me which I discovered, and I think if it had been detected by anyone else that they would have thrown every artifact from that camp into the trash at the end of the day. It is all iron bits and pieces, but much of it is chopped up and altered and difficult to identify. It is a very rare and special facet of history. Lots of research before hand is imperative.
 

magua

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Sep 18, 2022
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What they said above...+ do a search on the net and research the various NA tribes that occupied the area, who they interacted with or allied with during the contact or just prior "pre-contact" time periods. The Dutch and French were trading throughout many areas very early in the 1700s and late 1600s. I just visited a site in Pa on private land for a project and we verified a 1721 fur trading post that will turn out to be Dutch or French. That's very early for southern Pa but in your area, you'll find plenty of activity, I suspect French. But look at the alliances between cultures and tribes.

Illinois confederation were a combination of just shy of a dozen tribes post contact (after 1750 or so) and There were many other tribes during the early European contact time periods. they had a good number of Jesuit missionaries throughout, so I would expect to see some usual Jesuit items being used for trade. Not sure what area of Illinois that you are from but search the "Great Village" of Illinois and you'll see that fur trading was already active in 1670s. The Iroquois eventually started kicking around the previous tribes to dominate the fur trade in Illinois as well. You'll probably find some Italian glass "trade beads" were used commonly and you can date them by design, material.

The Illinois liked their French guns, they traded lots of hides and furs (Bison hides).

Grab tribe info and locations using your Illinois state museum site. They'll guide you to who, when, and where they were located and approximate times. The history is very well documented for the Illinois confederacy which is helpful.


This is a good link for some direct info on the actual fur trading.

Read over those papers and see some of the old maps with locations of trading posts/villages/forts (trading frequently in areas just out of the forts)..then start comparing to modern maps to find general locations for where places may have existed. You'll see strange similarities to small clues like street names that may compare with a tavern name/trading post name. Those are the subtle clues to watch for and then see what type of farms and fields are in the areas...

I had a really good book at one time and I did a quick look, I can't locate it. It was published through a Canadian publisher and it included a great deal of info on Indian fur trading (it may have been a combo of several grad papers on the subject from a university) but the striking thing I remember was that the Illinois tribes traded slaves at one time from their enemies from warring. That wasn't unusual but for some reason, it's rarely mentioned and this book focused on some of the details of the exact tribes names, etc. If I locate it, I will follow up on here with a name.

Happy hunting!
 

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Prairie Prowler

Prairie Prowler

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What they said above...+ do a search on the net and research the various NA tribes that occupied the area, who they interacted with or allied with during the contact or just prior "pre-contact" time periods. The Dutch and French were trading throughout many areas very early in the 1700s and late 1600s. I just visited a site in Pa on private land for a project and we verified a 1721 fur trading post that will turn out to be Dutch or French. That's very early for southern Pa but in your area, you'll find plenty of activity, I suspect French. But look at the alliances between cultures and tribes.

Illinois confederation were a combination of just shy of a dozen tribes post contact (after 1750 or so) and There were many other tribes during the early European contact time periods. they had a good number of Jesuit missionaries throughout, so I would expect to see some usual Jesuit items being used for trade. Not sure what area of Illinois that you are from but search the "Great Village" of Illinois and you'll see that fur trading was already active in 1670s. The Iroquois eventually started kicking around the previous tribes to dominate the fur trade in Illinois as well. You'll probably find some Italian glass "trade beads" were used commonly and you can date them by design, material.

The Illinois liked their French guns, they traded lots of hides and furs (Bison hides).

Grab tribe info and locations using your Illinois state museum site. They'll guide you to who, when, and where they were located and approximate times. The history is very well documented for the Illinois confederacy which is helpful.


This is a good link for some direct info on the actual fur trading.

Read over those papers and see some of the old maps with locations of trading posts/villages/forts (trading frequently in areas just out of the forts)..then start comparing to modern maps to find general locations for where places may have existed. You'll see strange similarities to small clues like street names that may compare with a tavern name/trading post name. Those are the subtle clues to watch for and then see what type of farms and fields are in the areas...

I had a really good book at one time and I did a quick look, I can't locate it. It was published through a Canadian publisher and it included a great deal of info on Indian fur trading (it may have been a combo of several grad papers on the subject from a university) but the striking thing I remember was that the Illinois tribes traded slaves at one time from their enemies from warring. That wasn't unusual but for some reason, it's rarely mentioned and this book focused on some of the details of the exact tribes names, etc. If I locate it, I will follow up on here with a name.

Happy hunting!
Great info & thanks for your efforts..I'm in N. I'll. which was settled much later however still had to have activity around where I'm focusing ..Every bit of knowledge helps.
 

releventchair

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Great info & thanks for your efforts..I'm in N. I'll. which was settled much later however still had to have activity around where I'm focusing ..Every bit of knowledge helps.
See the lower great lake shore above you?
Now point left and right below it. That major trail saw lots of feet.
Now look foe travel routes below it.
Riverine or terrain features.
Would you like water , lush summer growth and life (things to eat) along a water route and the opportunity to dunk yourself if for some reason you were out in the hottest part of the day in summer ; or would you rather walk a prairie in dry hot weather?

Winter will arrive too. That great lake shore with a North wind not so inviting then. Let us get inland farther. And the right river valley will let some of that wind go above us.

Why a fork in a river? Or where a creek enters a river? Two waters that were not two waters a little ways away. Ask yourself that while you stand at such a place after doing some research. Most maps will help.
Which one tells you if you can stand on site today though?
We've done a pretty good job of covering up or at least claiming such prime sites. Development sucks soimetimes.

Be patient. What you're after is at a certain depth of time to start that can be measured by a given sites soil depth relics are in.( A given era's layer .)
That will change by site.
And if you get along banks that erode in spring or flood ect those layers can get exposed.

When a sites era you seek is deep , what are you going to do?
I recovered a foothold trap out of a bank that annual spring flooding had about three foot of sediment above. It's last year of manufacture around 1920.
Same river has native mounds I stay clear of. But how deep are relics where that trap came out? L.o.l..
And I've studied more than one gravel bar in that areas river too....

Trails. Natural traffic funnels. Terrain features.
Riverine lower ground. That of course means a contrast of higher ground beyond including vantage points. Some were task related.
Where would you spend a night? A week?
Can't see what was there then. Even some creeks move. The oldest wandering all over compared to the newest in a hurry almost straight routes.
But vantages were and are vantages for a reason.
Try to find some undisturbed.
No luck?
Carry a good weight wool blanket next time.
With proper precautions in the right conditions , have a small fire you are sure is dead before you leave. Cook something. Ponder if your vantage makes sense to keep an eye behind and in front of you and along and on the water. How far?

3257.jpg
 

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ArfieBoy

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Thanks, guys, for all the knowledge and how to acquire it on this forum!
 

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