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Archeological Dig Sifts Fort Vancouver's Past

OPB | June 23, 2012 11 p.m. | Updated: July 17, 2012 1:01 a.m. | Vancouver, WA

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Archeologists have invited the public to observe a site they’re excavating at Fort Vancouver this week. It lies on a piece of parkland that’s been closed to the public since the mid-19th century.

Caitlin Wichlacz and Sarah Cloninger scrape through base soil to find fragments from Fort Vancouver's past.

April Baer / OPB

For many years the Army had control of this plot on the south side of Fort Vancouver. Now the land has been returned to the National Park Service, and researchers from Portland State and WSU-Vancouver are poring over surveyed squares under an old parking lot, scraping up fragments, sifting the dirt out of their findings, and cataloging everything.

April Baer / OPB
Fragments of metal may originate with the Army's recent operations, but the researchers will take everything they find back to the lab to be sure.

Doug Wilson with the parks service says the site holds a mix of fragments from the 19th and 20th centuries. Older specimens can answer important questions about life in the early days of the Fort.

“One of our research questions is the landscape, and how people were using the landscape,” Wilson says. “We knew there would be some known individuals at some of these house sites.”

Lyssia Coffey and Doug Casey sift the finds.

This project is exploring the house site of a French Canadian trader. Later the archeologists will  move to the space that belonged to Hawaiian pastor who came to the Fort to minister to Pacific Island natives who worked there.

Anyone can go watch the dig this Tuesday through Saturday. Another team will be digging several days a week during August.

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