By STEVE JONES Staff writer


DIG IN — Careful sifting is the rule at an archeological dig taking place on the parade grounds of Fort Stanwix National Monument, as crews investigate before a drainage system and fire suppression system are added. From left are: volunteer George Walters, fort ranger and project lead archeologist Amy Fedchenko and Jess Bowes, who was brought in for this project by the National Park Service. (Sentinel photo by John Clifford)

Even the simple task of adding a fire suppression system and a parade ground drainage system gets a little complicated when they are at Fort Stanwix National Monument.

The fort is the site of an archeological dig in preparation for the systems’ installation. Project archeologist and museum specialist Amy Fedchenko, who is in her third year at Fort Stanwix, said it’s "an area that has never been excavated before." The effort by a group of professional archeologists and one volunteer is combining new technology and old fashioned handiwork to see what lies just below the surface.

The team, Fedchenko said, is working "very slowly and carefully using picks and trowels." They sift through dirt about 10 centimeters at a time. So far, they have been working in several areas — in 3-by-6-foot rectangles or 3-foot squares — and will be digging "until we stop finding things," she said.

The work started around Memorial Day, and will continue through the summer. It’s been a slow pace, but that’s better, said Fedchenko, since having National Park Service archeologists on site allows for an attentive pace rather than a speedier job done by contractors with a project deadline. It’s also important to do a thorough job, she said, because "once it’s excavated you can’t go back and do it again."

Crews are not only using time-honored sifting methods but incorporating newer technology such as sub-surface radar to locate the best excavation sites. The process also includes meticulous photography.

The effort is even adding to the visitor experience, Fedchenko said. "The public seems to really enjoy it. It isn’t often you get to talk with an archeologist and learn about the historical process."

The team has found such things as hand-wrought nails for fort construction, beads, lead shot balls and straight pins — relics of the Revolutionary War era. Also found have been things from the early days of Rome as a town and then city — including glass bottle fragments and porcelain.

The systems should be installed by late fall, but it could be delayed until early next spring if snow arrives quickly this year.