Artifacts unearthed at Fort Knox tell 2 tales

Posted Oct. 07, 2008, at 9:23 p.m.
Last modified March 20, 2011, at 6:18 a.m.

PROSPECT, Maine — Artifacts uncovered from an archaeological dig at Fort Knox this summer tell two different stories about the dig site.

The artifacts came from the Friends of Fort Knox’s first archaeological field school this summer. The field school brought in people for two weeklong sessions to work with historical archaeologist Peter Morrison on the excavation of an area around an old foundation located near the visitors center at the fort.

Morrison presented the findings on Sunday before the Friends’ annual meeting. He theorized that the building that once stood on the site was a blacksmith shop during the construction of the fort, but a home occupied the site much earlier. Construction of the fort began in 1843 and ended in 1869.

Students at the field school cleared the site and, under Morrison’s direction, carefully dug at chosen sites inside and around the foundation stones. They cataloged all of the artifacts they unearthed.

“We have two sets of artifacts that tell two different stories,” Morrison said.

The first set of artifacts included window glass and ceramics, Morrison said, and the window glass was Crown glass, a method of making glass panes that was common in the 1700s.

“By the 1840s this would have been an obsolete way of making glass,” he said.

The ceramic bits found at the site included pieces of teacups, saucers and dinner plates. The plates were Pearl, ware made through the 1700s and into the early 1800s, he said. Bits of stoneware made in England right through the Revolution were also found.

“These would have been old pieces of ceramics by the time the fort was being built,” he said. “This all hints that this was a residence from the late 1700s to the early 1800s. That’s not terribly surprising.”

Morrison noted that the fort property was purchased in three different transactions that included three farms. The original building may have been one of those farmhouses.

The second set of artifacts tells a different story, one more like the one Morrison said he expected to find. Those artifacts included a lot of metal: railroad spikes, an iron pin, wedges and half-rounds or feathers used to cut granite, a piece of iron nail stock used to make nails and two padlocks, all types of tools or materials that would have been in use during the construction of the fort, he said.

While one or two items might have been found at sites around the fort while it was being constructed, Morrison said the one place they all would have been found was in a blacksmith shop.

The cataloged artifacts will be cleaned in the lab, Morrison said, which may tell researchers more about the site.

The Friends group hopes to continue the archaeological field school next year with the idea of unearthing more of the hidden history of Fort Knox.

rhewitt@bangordailynews.net

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