New York Archaeology

Ray Sarnacki – My Day of Archaeology, 2016

Once again, I have traveled from my home in West Chester, Pennsylvania (USA) to dig with archaeologist David Starbuck at the Lake George Battlefield Park. The field school is sponsored by State University of New York, Adirondack campus, The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, and Fort William Henry. Located at the southern end of the lake, the Lake George Battlefield Park preserves the sites of major battles and encampments from the French and Indian War through the American Revolution, making it a prime site for conducting archeology. Among the features found in the Park are the ruins of a stone bastion from Fort George, which General Jeffery Amherst authorized and began building in 1759, but later, abandoned after the British took control of Fort Carillon, now known as Fort Ticonderoga.

This is my third year digging in the Park. Last year, we excavated the casemates on the east wall of the Fort George bastion, as well as digging several test pits throughout areas of the park related to the various French and Indian War encampments that took place between 1755 and 1759. This year’s dig focuses on two sites. The first is on the west side of the completed bastion of Fort George, while the second is narrowing in on the site of what the diggers believe to be a feature initially thought to be a latrine, but now appears to be the site of either a tent or cabin.

My assignment this year includes locating a cistern depicted on a 1759 map that shows the details of the Plan for Fort George. The cistern was supposedly situated near a gun platform on the northwest wall of the bastion. In 1777, as General Schuyler retreated from Burgoyne’s attack, Schuyler reported to Washington that the enclosed bastion was indefensible and the cistern had been “fouled” so they had no water. Our hope in finding the cistern is to learn how it had been fouled.

My digging partner, Pam Collyer, from Fort William Henry, and I have excavated to a depth of 100 cm and have begin pulling out artifacts that include large spikes, animal bone and charred wood, among other things. While it is too early to make a definitive statement about the feature, we think we may have reached the level of the gun platform, but have unearthed no evidence of the cistern. The digging has been relatively easy as the soil appears to be fill used to level the area underneath the gun platforms.

Among the artifacts found so far: large forged spikes that might have held wood planks for the platform, a door latch, remains of charred wood and charcoal, animal bone fragments, glass from a medicine bottle, a fragment from wine or rum bottle, sherds of delft and cream ware, and what appears to be a round medallion. Another team digging in the bastion located a corner of the barracks, along with what may be a fire feature.

This will be the last year of digging at Lake George Battlefield Park for the SUNY Adirondack field school. Next year it will move to Roger’s Island in Fort Edward.