US 131 S-CURVE BRIDGE REALIGNMENT PROJECT

             
In 1999, under contract to the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) CCRG conducted a land-use history and assessment of archaeological potential for the US 131 S-Curve Bridge Realignment project. Located along the west bank of the Grand River opposite downtown Grand Rapids within an area of commercial warehouses, businesses and restaurants, and the Grand Rapids campus of Grand Valley State University, the project area was found to be located within the confines of the Converse Mounds site (20KT2). As documented in newspaper accounts of discoveries during development and construction of Grand Rapids west side in the late nineteenth century, the site was believed, by many, to have been destroyed by urban development over the past 150 years.      
Coffinberry's Converse Mounds in 1876
  Review of early documents (See 1868 Bird's-Eye View) and boring logs taken in advance of the 1950s construction of the S-Curve bridge indicated that parts of the site and the original land surface might be preserved. Deep testing in Fall 1999, indeed, revealed that much of the site was preserved by fill used to build up the floodplain and by factory floors that rested on the original ground surface. Since construction was scheduled to begin in 2000, CCRG was immediately contracted to define the extent of the intact deposits using a hydraulic boring rig and find a safe place to relocate an active natural gas pipeline.
Lower Terrace Profile in Trench 1t
             
Determined eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, CCRG was awarded the contract to conduct data recovery excavations in mid-November 1999. With the cooperation and assistance of MDOT and the Federal Highway Administration, the Kent County Road Commission, the Grand River Bands of Ottawa Indians, Grand Valley State University, and the Office of the State Archaeologist, CCRG's team of 45 archaeologists excavated nearly 7000 cubic feet of archaeological deposits in five centimeter levels resulting in the recovery of nearly 70,000 artifacts and dozens of features from two excavation blocks.(See Map of Block B) Major prehistoric components at the site included occupations dating to the Early Woodland, Middle Woodland, and Late Woodland periods. A Contact period occupation and a substantial nineteenth and early twentieth century component were also documented.          
 
 
Medium Corner-Notched and Gibson Notched Projectile Points
         
     
Major challenges included the removal of thousands of cubic feet of fill with multiple pieces of heavy equipment while avoiding disturbance to the archaeological deposits, shoring excavation Block B to meet OSHA standards, excavating in artificial light and cramped conditions in a variety of portable shelters to shield the crew and the site itself from typical Grand Rapids weather in the midst of winter, monitoring a pumping system 24 hours a day to keep the site dry enough to excavate, working seven days a week up to 12 hours a day, and enduring an outbreak of the flu among the crew in mid-December.
Radiocarbon Dated Middle Woodland Sherds
 
Despite the trying circumstances, excavations were completed by mid-January 2000 in advance of the start of the reconstruction of the S-Curve bridge.
 
     
Contact Period Artifacts
             
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