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News / Clark County News

Summer archaeology school will explore old riverfront site

Fort Vancouver lecture series, Kids Digs have much to offer

By Tom Vogt, Columbian Science, Military & History Reporter
Published: June 21, 2016, 6:01am
3 Photos
Washington State University Vancouver student Tamara Uldell reaches into an excavation during the 2015 summer archaeological dig at the site of the World War I Spruce Mill.
Washington State University Vancouver student Tamara Uldell reaches into an excavation during the 2015 summer archaeological dig at the site of the World War I Spruce Mill. (Columbian files) Photo Gallery

New research on an old riverfront site will be a highlight of this summer’s Public Archaeology Field School at Fort Vancouver.

The annual sessions give college students hands-on experience in field research at archaeological sites. Results of the digs help fill in the archaeological record at the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, where communities lived long before making contact with white explorers and traders. More recent occupants included the Hudson’s Bay Company and the U.S. Army.

The research locations can move around, and this year’s school — which starts Tuesday, June 28 — will include a spot along the Columbia River’s waterfront.

“I’ve been dying to get out there,” said Doug Wilson, National Park Service archaeologist. “There are some real interesting indications that we might have a pre-contact site, and we will be learning more about that.”

If You Go

Spruce Mill: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesdays through Saturdays, June 28 through July 30 (excluding July 4).

Waterfront Complex: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Thursdays and Fridays, June 30 through July 29.

Directions available at Ranger station inside Fort Vancouver’s gates or Visitor Center, 1501 E. Evergreen Blvd., Vancouver.

There are other historical aspects to that stretch of the river. The Hudson’s Bay Company operation included a wharf, boat works, salmon salting structure, hospital and dwellings.

Later in the 19th century, the U.S. Army used the site for its wharf and quartermaster’s depot, and in the 20th century, it served as a U.S. Coast Guard station.

The college students also will resume work at one of last year’s research areas, the site of the World War I Spruce Mill. Last year, the focus was the tent city and the barracks. The work will expand this summer, with test excavations at the site of the main mill and machine shop.

Field school participants also will do some work in the East Barracks portion of the Vancouver Barracks, which the park service acquired from the Army in 2012.

“It’s the site of a water closet — a soldiers’ sanitation facility. We hope to find the brick foundation,” Wilson said.

As its name indicates, visitors can drop in on activities at the Public Archaeology Field School and talk with student researchers about their finds.

The National Park Service is collaborating with Portland State University and Washington State University Vancouver on the field school.

Kids Digs

Fort Vancouver’s summer archaeology program also will offer Kids Digs on three Saturdays in July and a lecture series.

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The popular Kids Dig program on three Saturdays in July introduces children 8 through 12 to the world of archaeology. With the help of student archaeologists, the kids will use trowels to excavate a mock site, screen dirt, and measure and map their finds.

Kids Digs will be at 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. on July 2, July 9 and July 23 inside the reconstructed Fort Vancouver. Space is limited to 20 children. Spots for each program can be reserved by calling 360-816-6250.

Lecture series

The lecture series will take place Thursdays at 7 p.m. in the Tex Rankin Theater at Pearson Air Museum, 1115 E. Fifth St., Vancouver. Here are the details:

June 30, A Prologue for the Next Centennial: Jay T. Sturdevant, National Park Service’s Midwest Archaeological Center. A discussion of engaging today’s youth through archaeology and other cultural disciplines, in the context of the park service’s 2016 centennial.

July 7, Investigations at Pickawillany, Ohio, and the First Gunfight in the West: Bill Pickard, assistant curator of archaeology, Ohio History Connection. In 1748, the Miami Indians allowed the English to open a trading enterprise. The French, who claimed the territory, attacked and destroyed Pickawillany in June 1752, pushing North America toward the greater conflict known as the French and Indian War.

July 14, Archaeology and Historic Preservation on the Gifford Pinchot National Forest: Christopher Donnermeyer, heritage program manager, U.S. Forest Service, Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Donnermeyer will highlight 1,500 documented heritage resource sites, including prehistoric archaeological sites, historic American Indian sites and historic structures.

July 21, Archaeological Studies of African American Life: Theresa Singleton, Department of Anthropology, Syracuse University. Singleton will explore African American life through historical archaeology, including her recent work at a Cuban plantation site. She will address issues of cultural identity, race, gender and class; cultural interactions and change; relations of power and domination; and the sociopolitics of archaeological practice.

Doug Wilson also will do a July 20 presentation at 7 p.m. on the Chinook Middle Village and Station Camp at the Cannon Beach (Ore.) History Center & Museum, 1387 S. Spruce St., Cannon Beach. The Middle Village is a contact-period Chinook Indian village near the mouth of the Columbia. It has an abundance of fur-trade era goods and evidence of at least three plank structures. Early fur traders and explorers said the village was in the same location as Lewis and Clark’s Station Camp.

Columbian Science, Military & History Reporter