Friday, September 11, 2009

One of "history's mysteries" - Where is the "fort" at Fort Hunter

During Archaeology Month 2009, archaeologists from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC) will investigate one of "history's mysteries” - where is the "fort" at Fort Hunter? Beginning on September 14, PHMC archaeologists will conduct an archaeological testing program at Fort Hunter Mansion and Park, located five miles north of the city.

The goal is to locate the remains of the French and Indian War era supply fort occupied between 1757 and 1763. This will mark the fourth season of this project and numerous fort period artifacts and features have been recovered - some of these may be part of the fort occupation. The stockade and the blockhouse, however, have yet to be located as our excavations continue.

The goals for this year’s investigation.
This year there are two main objectives. We will continue to search for the fort’s stockade line by excavating a series of trenches mainly in the yard around the mansion. Of considerable interest, is a new discovery that Jim Herbstritt made while examining aerial photographs of the property. He noticed several patches of grass across Front Street and east of the barn that appeared to be different in color and contrast than that of the surrounding vegetation.

The anomaly seems to outline an L-shaped area about 100 feet by 100 feet long reminiscent of a buried foundation wall or some other architecturally related feature. There are no known records of buildings on this part of the Fort Hunter Park property therefore we are speculating that it possibly marks the location of the former “old barracks”. Several trenches will be placed across this feature to determine its identity, function and age.

The second area of interest this season will be the north side yard of the mansion where a waterwell was discovered last year. It is stone lined and located adjacent to the 1805 ice house. Again, there are no historic maps of the well’s existence and its placement suggests that it is older than the ice house and therefore dates earlier than 1805. The top of the well contains 19th century artifacts but the bottom could contain very important artifacts from the fort period occupation.

Excavating a waterwell is a complicated undertaking that may require several seasons to complete. This year we hope is to resolve the chronological relationship between the well and the ice house. We will also excavate the soils surrounding the well down to a depth of three feet which will provide a better idea as to the nature of the well’s construction. The 2008 excavations revealed that the upper 12 inches of the site’s stratigraphy contain prehistoric materials as old as 9,000 years and these need to be archaeologically recovered prior to the well’s excavation.

Come visit us.
Our project is part of Pennsylvania’s “Archaeology Month” celebration in September and October. The excavations are open to the public, weekdays from 9:00 am until 4:00 pm, weather permitting. For more information on Fort Hunter or the archaeology of the Susquehanna Valley, visit or the Hall of Anthropology and Archaeology at The State Museum of Pennsylvania .

1 comment:

  1. altec bucket trucksIt was a nice outing with my family. My kids want to be a Archaeologist now!