Three hundred years ago, on a spot off Van Buren Street by the St. Mary’s River, French fur traders built a fort. Within its walls they battled Indians, disease and the encroaching British Army. This hallowed ground has many secrets to tell. Craig Arnold is one of the IPFW Archeology staff members excavating part of the site.
“Is there still something of the old fort here? There may be, but we haven't found it yet. We're still looking.”
In a corner of where Fort Miamis may have stood modern day detectives are searching for clues. They use all the tools of their trade; shovels, trowels, wood and screen sieves, looking for telltale needles in a sod haystack. On this day their efforts are rewarded.
“We’ve found fragments of pottery, ceramics,” says Craig Arnold. “We have buttons, quite a few different types. We've also got some brass and copper pieces. We're not just looking at the military occupation; we're seeing a complete range of daily life.
These teachers and students from IPFW’s Archeology Department are searching for a clear picture of everyday life in what was a distant outpost in wilderness forest; who lived here, what did they wear, what did they eat, how did they work and play and fight.? Surprisingly little is known of this chapter of Fort Wayne history.
“The name Fort Wayne, think of all the forts,” says lead archeologist Bob McCullough. “ There are five forts here and to be able to find remnants of any one of those would be significant.”
Finding those remnants is a challenge. This spot has been flooded hundreds of times since the 18th century. And it’s been built on by modern man. That’s where technology lends a hand. Before they dig, these scientists scan the site with ground penetrating radar. The outlines of modern house foundations are clearly seen. This helps them locate relatively untouched patches of earth for exploration. Results so far have been encouraging but there is much more to do.
“We're really trying to flesh out the history of Fort Wayne,” says Craig Arnold. “What were they doing and what can we learn from it and how can we learn from those mistakes that were made.”
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