Friday, October 10, 2014

“N” is for No Fort Found Yet, A Summary of the 2014 Fort Hunter Excavations

As we wrap up our time in the field at Fort Hunter Mansion and Park, we have found limited structural evidence of the French and Indian War era fort. Though we have not found structural evidence of the fort, we have found a number of artifacts, some that date to the French and Indian War period and some that do not. 

One of our more exciting finds this year is the “lock” mechanism of a Brown Bess musket. Brown Bess muskets were in service of the British Army from the early 1700’s to the early 1800’s.  At the beginning of the war, which began in 1757, it is said that there were approximately 80 soldiers at the fort, but this changed dramatically when it was discovered that the majority of the war would be fought in the Ohio River Valley. Due to this realization the use of the fort became primarily for supply. At this time the fort was manned by much fewer men, approximately 30, who were a militia made up of local farmers and residents. These militia men would have provided their own weapons, which may have included a Brown Bess gun. This suggests that the gun part, which seems to have been discarded after breaking, could have been used by one of the Fort Hunter French and Indian war era men.
 excavated musket lock with modern replica for comparison

Other military-related artifacts found this year include two musket balls and a French gun flint. Though we cannot be sure these objects are from the French and Indian War era, it is possible. Since the fort was manned primarily by a militia and they would have provided their own weapons, the different sizes of muskets balls and various types of gun flints found throughout the years of excavation at Fort Hunter can be explained. These militia men would not have all had the exact same weapons as an army would have had.   

french flint and musket ball

Another interesting artifact that was found this year and in our excavations in past years is a datable ceramic called Scratch blue. Scratch blue is an English salt-glazed stoneware that was created by incising deep lines in the ceramic body and filling it with cobalt blue oxide before firing leaving thin blue lines in generally floral motifs after firing.  This type of ceramic has a very narrow production date range of 1744-1775. This date range includes the French and Indian War period, suggesting that these ceramics may have been used by the soldiers or militia men of the fort.  Of course, most of the artifacts, including the Scratch blue stoneware, the gun flints, and the musket balls could have been used by the occupants of the Fort Hunter land during much of the 18th and 19th century.   

Scratch blue decorated salt-glazed stoneware

As mentioned in previous blogs, the use of the land surrounding and including the Fort Hunter Mansion and Park extends far back in time. Just this year we have found a number of flakes left behind by prehistoric Native Americans. In our last week in the field one of our interns, Tessa Burns, was lucky enough to find an intact datable prehistoric artifact. This artifact is an Otter Creek projectile point. Just last year we found another Otter Creek point and this year’s find reinforces the idea of a long history of land-use here because Otter Creek points date between 5800 and 6600 BP. 

Otter Creek projectile point

So here we are, another field season complete and, though we still have not found the fort at Fort Hunter, we have continued to add to our knowledge of the long history of the land-use at the Fort Hunter Mansion and Park. Thank you to all of our volunteers for dedicating their time and efforts in helping us in the field and thank you also to all those who took the time to stop by and listen and learn about archaeology and what we have been doing at Fort Hunter for the past 8 years. 


Noel Hume, Ivor
1976  A Guide to Colonial Artifacts of America Alfred A. Knopf, New York

Antill, P
2006 Baker Rifle. Electronic Document,

Ryan, D. Michael
Brown Bess – Musket Misconception. Electronic Document,
For more information, visit or the Hall of Anthropology and Archaeology at The State Museum of Pennsylvania .

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