2010 Public Archaeology Field School

Exploring Diversity, Conflict, & Science: The Public Archaeology Field School
Fort Vancouver National Historic Site

Tuesday-Saturday, June 15-July 31, 2010
2010 Field School
Students screen for artifacts during the 2010 Public Archaeology Field School


Portland State University, Washington State University Vancouver, the National Park Service, Northwest Cultural Resources Institute, and the Fort Vancouver National Trust were pleased to announce a field school in historical archaeology at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site and Lava Beds National Monument.

The Public Archaeology Field School at Fort Vancouver recommenced in the summer of 2010 after a one-year hiatus. Twenty-eight students from around the country learned valuable skills in the areas of excavation, survey, laboratory work, and interpretation over the course of seven weeks. Under the direction of Dr. Doug Wilson, excavation took place in Fort Vancouver's multicultural employee Village, located to the west of the stockade. For many students, the school was their first experience in the field and a vital step toward becoming an archaeologist.

While learning archaeological methods, the students' work added to the over 50 years of archaeology in the Village. Archaeology is an important research method for understanding life in the Village because most occupants were illiterate, leaving few written accounts of their experiences. The research goal for the 2010 Field School was to examine how Village residents utilized the landscape around their houses. This included the use of outbuildings, activity areas, and land for gardening and raising livestock.

Students searching for evidence of Hudson's Bay Company workers' homes.
Students searching for evidence of Hudson's Bay Company workers' homes.

NPS Photo

Excavation units were placed to relocate one known house and to explore yard use around two houses. Additionally, a few rows of units crossed the locations of historically mapped fences to examine what occured inside versus outside the fence line. In an effort to delve even further into past activities, students collected soil samples during excavation. These will be analyzed to assess pollen, phytolith, and trace elements in the soil indicating, amongst other things, what plants residents grew near their houses.

The artifacts and features found during excavations represent the history of the area, spanning from before and after the Hudson's Bay Company's Fort Vancouver. Stone tools and fire pits represented possible precontact evidence. Excavations also uncovered a Village house floor containing ceramic sherds, pipe fragments, beads, and other artifacts. The students found numerous other features and artifacts associated with the Hudson's Bay era throughout the site. Twentieth century remains included artifacts from the Civilian Conservation Corps barracks. The results of the excavations will add to the understanding of not only Village life, but also the varied uses of the area through time.

Students received training in interpretation as well, allowing them to interact with the public. Visitors to the site learned about archaeology through conversations with the students and observation of the excavations. The public component of the field school provided a unique method for visitors to connect with their local history.

Student recording the characteristics of sediment using a Munsell color chart.
Student recording the characteristics of sediment using a Munsell color chart.

NPS Photo

For their final week, the field school traveled to Lava Beds National Monument in California. The students put their newly acquired skills to the test as they helped NPS archaeologists Jacqueline Cheung and Eric Gleason record locations associated with the Modoc War. Dr. Douglass Scott also joined the field school to teach survey techniques with metal detectors. Their efforts will aid the preservation and interpretation of the battle site.

Last updated: February 28, 2015

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