<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=192888919167017&amp;ev=PageView&amp;noscript=1">
Monday,  July 15 , 2024

Linkedin Pinterest
News / Clark County News

Archaeology students aim to determine if Fort Vancouver National Historic Site was used for schools

By Anna Mattson, Columbian staff writer
Published: July 5, 2022, 7:56pm
5 Photos
Portland State University student Joshua Haupt, left, scoops dirt into a bucket while Portland State University student Patty Patterson digs in the ground Tuesday during Archaeology Field School at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site.
Portland State University student Joshua Haupt, left, scoops dirt into a bucket while Portland State University student Patty Patterson digs in the ground Tuesday during Archaeology Field School at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site. (Taylor Balkom/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

More than 20 college students kneeled in the warm July heat, sifting through small square holes in the freshly dug ground on the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, searching for nails, ceramic remnants and other relics from the past.

It’s week two of the annual Public Archaeology Field School. Katie Wynia, Portland State University archaeologist and field director, said the students are working in an area that has never been examined before.

There will be 16 plots identified in the field between two supposed former schools that taught Indigenous children from local tribes and Métis children of mixed European and Indigenous heritage. The group hopes to find out what actually happened in the area.

“The historical record calls it a schoolhouse, but just five years later, in 1849, the Army rented it and used that as a storehouse,” Wynia said. “They said it was unfinished. So we’re not sure if they actually used that as a school.”

Wynia said the uncovered artifacts could reveal what the space was used for. If the former structure was a schoolhouse, the group might find slate tablets or pencils. Otherwise, Wynia said they might expect some artifacts from the U.S. Army, such as uniform buttons and materials.

It’s taken Wynia and her colleagues months to plan out the research design, and some students are enjoying their time digging through the dirt. So far, Wynia said the crew has surveyed the area and dug some smaller holes that they call “shovel probes” to get an idea of what the landscape looks like. They started to break ground on Tuesday.

Some said it’s refreshing to be out doing work, building relationships with peers and getting outside after more than two years of pandemic isolation. Portland State University student Jada Love said that she enjoys doing real fieldwork outside.

“It’s been wonderful,” Love said. “We did a few days in the room learning all the different profiles of artifacts and sediments.”

Although it’s the first day in the field, Love said the group has already found three pieces of glazed stoneware, some “cool nails” and a rusted metal sheet.

Kaeli Stephens, a student from Washington State University Vancouver, said that she’s enjoyed the fact that the excavation is open to the public, where family and friends can walk up and ask questions about the work she loves doing.

“Seeing women in STEM out here is so cool,” she said. “And I love when little girls walk by and say, ‘I want to be like that when I grow up.’ ”

In the future, Wynia said the crews will be in the archaeology lab in the stockade to analyze their findings. After the field school the staff with the National Park Service will do a more detailed analysis and write a report on the excavation.

The field school runs through July 30.

Loading...
Columbian staff writer