Pacific Northwest

Fort Vancouver National Historic Site; Breaking New Ground

It’s a typical early summer day, here in the Pacific Northwest of the United States—cool, gray, and cloudy. We don’t get summer until after the Fourth of July, usually. I park my car and walk, coffee in hand, to what will be the new collections and curation building for the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site. Right now it’s where we store our equipment, and where the joint Portland State University/Washington State University Public Archaeology Field School has its lab. Last summer, I was a student in that field school. This summer, I am a government contractor, doing archaeological survey work for the National Park Service on land recently acquired from the U.S. Army. It’s a short contract, only about three weeks, but it is a great time and a great opportunity.

In May, 2012, the U.S. Army relinquished the East and South Barracks areas of the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site to the U.S. National Park Service as part of the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Act of 1990. The army has had a presence here since the First U.S. Artillery Regiment arrived in May, 1849. Before the army’s arrival, starting around 1824, the site was an active Hudson Bay Company fur trading outpost. Before the Hudson Bay Company’s arrival, the area was an active, seasonal location for Native Americans to take advantage of the spring salmon runs up what is now the Columbia River. The site has yielded artifacts from all of these eras, creating a picture of an area that has been used by humans for many generations.

The exciting thing is that very little archaeological work has been done in the East and South Barracks areas—ever. (more…)