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Archeological dig uncovers rare treasure

Keeseville Elementary School teacher Sheila Taylor spent part of her summer at an archaeological dig.

Keeseville Elementary School teacher Sheila Taylor spent part of her summer at an archaeological dig. Photo by Stephen Bartlett.

Through a dig that turned up a tailor’s thumb thimble, 1795 bayonet scabbard chape, .69 caliber round ball and military jacket buttons, it was confirmed that the location of Pike’s Cantonment was on a hillside above the Saranac River west of Plattsburgh.

The dig further uncovered building sites, with clear evidence of chimneys, cobble floors and trenches, which were commonly built around military huts.

“This is part of a hut,” Herkalo said recently during a two-week dig conducted by Abel with the help of Clinton Community College students and teachers through the North Country Teacher Resource Center.

“What remains is believed to be the only intact encampment from 1812.”

The remains continue to provide artifacts as well as architectural features.

“We can find out what kind of structures they lived in, what they were eating and we may find personal items,” Abel said.

He stood near the edge of the outlines of a hut, pointing to a pile of rocks placed by soldiers to create a hearth and a red area, the remains of a fire box.

“That is the floor of an 1812 hut.”

Four students and five teachers worked in every corner and along the edges, some with tiny shovels and picks, others with brushes, just some of the tools used as they peeled away layers of earth and uncovered the artifacts.

Abel said the goal this year was to define a structure, how it was built and the camp layout.

“From what I have found they did not mortar the joints of the chimney but just stacked stones,” Abel said. “If I had unlimited money I could spend the rest of my career out here.

“So we set short term goals we can accomplish and keep plugging away as long as the project is supported.”

The dig is sponsored by the courses students from Clinton Community College are enrolled in and a field class for teachers through the North Country Teacher Resource Center.

The Battle of Plattsburgh Association sponsored the initial investigations last year and this year provided laboratory spaces to process materials.

Tara Valachovic, a teacher from Willsboro Central School, couldn’t believe 2,000 soldiers walked on and around the very spot she worked, hunched over the dirt dusting off bricks.

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