News Column

Summer of Archaeology at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site

June 24, 2014

By Tom Vogt, The Columbian, Vancouver, Wash.

June 24--The spot that signified America's presence in the Northwest 160 years ago will highlight the 2014 "Summer of Archaeology" at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site.

This year's field school projects will include the site of the old U.S. Army post's flagstaff, just south of Officers Row.

"It was the symbol of not only the post, but of the larger American expansion," said Beth Horton, a National Park Service archaeologist at Fort Vancouver.

The annual field school gives graduate students at Washington State University Vancouver and Portland State University hands-on experience at actual digs while expanding Vancouver's archaeological record.

Researchers were able to use old maps to locate the flagstaff, said Doug Wilson, the lead archaeologist at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site. And, last summer's work included an above-ground survey with a magnetic gradiometer, which can read changes in the soil.

"There were some big magnetic anomalies" where they will be excavating on the Parade Ground this summer, Wilson said.

There also are some clues in the terrain that Wilson can point out. People who head out the front door of the Grant House and continue south will find themselves walking on a subtle hump in the Parade Ground.

The rise is the remnant of a road shown in one of those old maps, he said. It runs through a depression in the lawn, a clover-filled circle where grass doesn't grow.

The flagstaff project isn't just an academic exercise, Fort Vancouver Superintendent Tracy Fortmann said.

"This is the first step in restoring the flagstaff," she said.

Fort Vancouver also is scheduling summer archaeology programs for the community, including "Kids Digs," a lecture series and two museum open houses.

Recent field school digs have explored the site of the Hudson's Bay Company workers village, west of the reconstructed fort stockade. Some students will resume excavating the home sites of "Little" Proulx, a French-Canadian who lived here in the 1840s, and William Kaulehelehe, who was hired in 1845 to minister to his fellow Hawaiians.

Unlike the Proulx and Kaulehelehe digs, which must be accessed through a gate in a chain-link fence northwest of the Land Bridge trail, the flagstaff excavation will be a few yards from a prominent community gathering place -- the bandstand on the Vancouver Barracks Parade Ground.

Maybe the students will find rocks or concrete that were used to anchor the staff. If they're lucky, Wilson said, they could find old pieces of metal -- hardware that was dismantled, tossed in the hole and buried after the site was cleared away.

Wilson and graduate student Emily Taber did some of the setup work over a recent weekend, using electronic surveying equipment to find some of the reference points established last summer.

On-site prep work began earlier this month.


(c)2014 The Columbian (Vancouver, Wash.)

Visit The Columbian (Vancouver, Wash.) at

Distributed by MCT Information Services

For more stories covering arts and entertainment, please see HispanicBusiness' Arts & Entertainment Channel

Source: Columbian (Vancouver, WA)

Story Tools Facebook Linkedin Twitter RSS Feed Email Alerts & Newsletters