The Public Archaeology Facility (PAF) was organized in 1972 to provide cultural resource management (CRM) services to clients throughout the Northeastern United States, but with a focus on New York State and Pennsylvania.

Finding the American Revolution in New York State

New York State was the location of many violent battles and skirmishes during the American Revolution.  Campaigns, such as the British invasion of New York City and Long Island (1776), the Burgoyne Campaign (1777), and the Sullivan-Clinton Campaign (1779) scorched New York’s landscape.  Raids and skirmishes also divided communities pitting Loyalists against American friends and families.  The British and American’s call for Native American groups, such as the Iroquois (Haudenosaunee), to choose a side led to a civil war within the Iroquois Confederacy.  The impact of the conflict was felt immediately in the loss of homes and lives; these impacts lasted well beyond the end of the war.

The Public Archaeology Facility has conducted studies of Revolutionary War battles associated with both the Burgoyne and Sullivan-Clinton Campaigns.  These studies have helped to remap these battlefields by determining the boundaries’ of battlefields and identify landscape features associated with the battles.  The ultimate goal of this research is to better comprehend the experience of those involved in the American Revolution in New York State.  We hope that our research can be used to preserve these battlefields and provide the public with an understanding of the conflict.

Our studies begin with extensive research of historic documents.  To identify the location of the battlefield and its landscape features we review the writings or oral histories of a battle’s combatants.  Journals, official reports, letters, and veteran pension applications can all provide valuable information for us.  Although sometimes mentioned incidentally in these documents, references to landscape features, such as roads, villages, mountains, and rivers, provide us with valuable information on where battle related actions took place.  In a way, combatants tell us where they were during the battle and how they used the battlefield’s landscape.

Loyalist John Butler

Letter by Loyalist John Butler

We map this historic data using a Geographic Information System or GIS allowing us to perform various analyses and comparisons of data.  We overlay historic maps and accounts of the battle onto present day maps to determine where the battle occurred and what remains of the battlefield.  We refine the locations of battlefield features using viewshed and range of fire analyses.  This information is used to conduct a military terrain analysis of the battlefield.  We can identify how combatants used a portion of the battlefield- a path to advance or retreat, a place to seek cover or concealment, an observation post, an obstacle that restricted advance, or a post to defend or take.  Taken together, these pieces of the landscape provide us with the battlefield’s boundaries and multi-scale view of how the battle unfolded.

Range of Fire

Range of Fire Analysis

With a GIS map to guide us, we perform a systematic inventory or survey of battlefield features.  The identification of musket and rifle balls and personal belongings of soldiers tells us that the battlefield’s landscape and the material remains of the battle are still intact.  We can also use the locations of these material remains to better determine troop positions and movements.



Archaeologist Conducting Systematic Survey

Rifle balls

Fired and Unfired Rifle Balls and Buckshot

The historical background and the results of archaeological investigation provide a basis for preserving the battlefield.  Working with local groups and descendent communities, we can present the history of the battle to the public with presentations, signage, or digital media.  This information can also help to advise agencies and developers on how best to avoid impacts to the battlefield so that the history of the American Revolution can be seen by future generations.

Starting the Day of Archaeology in New York with Mapping

The Public Archaeology Facility crew is starting the field day by setting up test units and mapping on a precontact site in Central New York.   Our survey last year identified this site and we have returned this summer to get a better idea on the context and materials present on the site.  All this information will help us determine if the site is eligible of the National Register of Historic Places. Mapping and laying out test  units   Mapping and laying out test units

Artifacts from Urban Sites

In 2009 and 2010, the Public Archaeology Facility conducted intensive excavations in downtown Binghamton, at what is now the Binghamton Intermodal Transportation Terminal.

Project area of the Binghamton Intermodal Transportation Terminal.


The Greyhound station in Binghamton ws built in 1938 and is National Register Eligible. The facade of the station was preserved and is still visible today, although the building behind it is new.

In 1938, a Greyhound Bus terminal was built over the remains of a block of buildings dating from the late-19th and early- 20th centuries. Asphalt parking lots covered the site.

When the city of Binghamton wanted to update and renovate their bus terminals, and turn them into the Binghamton Intermodal Transportation Terminal, archaeologists from PAF were brought on site to investigate the archaeological remains that were to be disturbed. Archaeologist Maria O’Donovan, PhD., led the team.

Excavating a privy from the BITT site.

Several features were uncovered during excavations, including privies. The artifacts from one of these privies are currently being analyzed in our laboratory. Today, lab assistant Erin G. carried on with the ongoing analysis of this project.

Artifacts excavated from one privy at the BITT Site are spread out on the lab tables.

Lab assistant, Erin G., researches and catalogs glass bottles from BITT.

Lab assistant, Erin G., researches and catalogs glass bottles from BITT. One of the more common artifacts were nursing bottles (above, center).

PAF has been doing a lot of urban archaeology in Binghamton, New York. Maria O’Donovan and our laboratory staff have spent several years working on the analysis of these sites in downtown Binghamton, such as BITT, and Binghamton Mall (which is now the location of the Binghamton Downtown Academic Center) . Today, Maria spent much of the morning doing research at the Broome County Clerk’s Office, to find out more about the people who lived at the BITT site from historic deed documents.

The results of another one of these large urban projects – the Binghamton Mall Site – was the basis of an exhibit on display at the Roberson Museum called “Our Invisible Past: The Archaeology of Everyday Life.” This exhibit was part of our efforts to bring the results of our excavations to the public.

Museum signage, displaying a daguerreotype excavated from the Binghamton Mall Site.

Some of the artifacts from this excavation are now on display at Binghamton University’s Downtown Academic Center, which was built over the site. In addition to displaying the artifacts, the locations of the features from the site were incorporated into the floor design in the new building; the exact location and size of the features were represented on the floor of the building’s lobby to give the public a way to conceptualize the layout of the site.

The green floor tiles represent the exact locations of features excavated at the Binghamton Downtown Academic Center Site.


Organizing the Laboratory

One of the responsibilities of an archaeologist is making sure the artifact collections are properly curated.  Almost every square inch (or centimeter!) of the shelves in our lab space is filled with boxes of artifacts from recent surveys and excavations.

When a project is over, and the analysis is done, those artifacts must go back into storage. PAF has storage facilities both at Binghamton University, as well as at an off-site facility. Today, our lab director, Claire H. is preparing boxes to go into remote storage, off site. So far there are about 118 boxes ready to go.

Some of the many boxes of artifact and sample collections getting ready to be moved to our storage facilities. In addition to site information, each box has a bar code!

Each box has identifying information on the side, which explains what’s inside for easy retrieval. But with over 30 years worth of collections, that means many thousands of boxes! To keep track of them, we have created a bar code system for easier information management.



Indoors on a rainy day

Even a rainy day in the field can be more exciting than a day indoors. But as every professional archaeologist knows, the vast majority of your time is spent indoors – doing research, in the lab, or writing reports.

Today’s weather in upstate New York is scattered showers. As Mike J. and his crew work outside in the rain at the Throop Site, the rest of archaeologists from the Public Archaeology Facility are indoors working on reports. getting ready for future field work, or blogging about our jobs as archaeologists for the international Day of Archaeology!

Project Director Andrea Z-K finishing up the final edits on a report.

Andrea has been writing a report based on a site examination of a prehistoric site in upstate New York.  Today, she will send a copy of the report with her recommendations out to the client.