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Buffalo State Students Dig Up History at Old Fort Niagara

Buffalo State Students Dig Up History at Old Fort Niagara

Posted: June 14, 2019

Buffalo State students, staff, and alumni are invited to visit Old Fort Niagara in Youngstown, New York, for free on Wednesday, June 19, from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. for “Buffalo State Day.”

In addition to checking out the fort, visitors will be able to visit an archaeological dig being conducted by Buffalo State students.

Anthropology students have been at Old Fort Niagara during June to participate in an archaeological field school that is actively excavating Building 428 near the North Redoubt. A former barracks that housed soldiers garrisoned at the fort, Building 428 was built by the French in 1756 and disappeared from maps and plans in 1814 without records of why or how.

Students Cerrwida Brown, Heidi Cunningham, Melanie Manzella, Brittany McCall and Harrison Moll are scraping away layers of dirt in three one-meter-square test units in search of Building 428's foundational remains. Philip Dickenson, the fort’s curatorial assistant, is also participating.

The foundation is expected to be one or two courses of stone laid on the ground, upon which a wooden structure, like the preexisting barracks, would have been constructed.

During the excavation, other things will be uncovered in the test units. In the past, discoveries from similar archaeological digs at the fort revealed ceramics (cups, bowls, plates, jugs, crocks), uniform buttons, musket balls and gun flints, animal bones, wampum or trade beads, Native American stone tools, pipe stems, and building materials (window glass, brick, stone, mortar, nails, hinges, clasps, handles and locks).

Unearthed artifacts, which are the property of New York State, become part of Old Fort Niagara’s collections and are kept on site.

The anthropology students, professors, and Old Fort Niagara staff will talk with visitors about their discoveries at the site on weekdays during June, when the weather allows.

At the fort’s collections building, the students will also be looking at and analyzing faunal remains (items left behind when an animal dies) excavated in 2001 from a midden (an old dump for domestic waste).

Old Fort Niagara has been the site of archaeological digs since 1979. The partnership began with SUNY at Buffalo (1979–2006) and continues biennially with Buffalo State College (2007 to present) under the direction of Susan Maguire, associate professor, and assisted by Melanie Mayberry, lecturer, of the Anthropology Department.

The field school maintains a Facebook page, where updates are posted regularly.

Visitors affiliated with Buffalo State are asked to bring ID.

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