Summer of Archaeology at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site

By Tom Vogt, Columbian science, military & history reporter



If you go

• What: Starting today members of the public will be able to visit both summer dig sites.

• When: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesdays through Saturdays, through Aug. 2.

• Where: Directions are at the ranger station inside the fort or in the Visitor Center, 1501 Evergreen Blvd.

• Information: Click here.

More at the fort

Kids Digs

Three Saturday programs will introduce children 8 through 12 to the world of archaeology. With the help of park staff and volunteers, they will learn about the past through artifacts they uncover.

Each session is limited to 20 children. Spots can be reserved at the reconstructed fort on the day of the program.

• 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. June 28.

• 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. July 12.

• 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. July 26.

Click here to learn more.

Archaeology speakers

Five Thursday programs at 7 p.m., free to the public, will be in the Tex Rankin Theater at Pearson Air Museum, 1115 E. Fifth St.:

• June 26, Jean Barman: “Rediscovering the diverse history of Fort Vancouver: French Canadians and native Hawaiians.”

• July 10, Robert Cromwell: “Comparing the fur trade ceramics of Chinookan and early-19th century fur trade sites along the Columbia River.”

• July 17, Megan Lickliter-Mundon: “Current trends in aviation archaeology: What’s going on in the field and where is it taking us?”

• July 24,Gerald W. Williams: “World War I in the Pacific Northwest,” with the history of the WW I spruce mill at Vancouver Barracks.

Also, 5:30 p.m. family-friendly activities to note the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I, with tours, living history interpreters, refreshments and period music from the Vancouver Community Concert Band.

• July 31, Beth Horton: “The rules of good breeding must be punctiliously observed: Military families at mid-19th century Fort Vancouver.”

Click here.

Museum open house

Tours of the curation facility provide up-close looks at artifacts that came from archaeological excavations or were donated by community members.

Tours are limited to 15 people. (Children 10 and older are welcome.) To register, contact museum technician Meagan Huff at 360-816-6255 or at Register for remaining spots on each tour at the ranger station inside the fort on the day of the event.

• 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday, July 12: “Spruce Mill Soldiers.”

• 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 9: “Vancouver Barracks at the Turn of the Century.”

Click here to learn more.

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.