Fort Hunter archaeological site found to hold more and more artifacts
FORT HUNTER Archaeologist Mike Roets pointed to the center of an aerial photograph projected on the white wall of Enders House at the Schoharie Crossing historical site.
“See right there?” he asked, indicating a small white square, “That’s us. All the brown stuff around it is flood water.”
Roughly 20 locals gathered Tuesday night for cookies and Roets' lecture on the archaeological progress since Tropical Storm Irene flooded the creek and eroded the site.
When the waters receded last fall, the visitor parking lot had been washed away, revealing a section of old Fort Hunter’s stone foundation.
“Artifacts were sitting right on the surface with the flood debris,” Roets said.
It was a sliver lining situation, with hundreds of hours of volunteer cleanup followed by some archaeological breakthroughs.
Roets ran through some of the newly found artifacts — knives, beads and broken pottery — and the stories they told about the people who occupied that section of ground 300 years ago.
But the meeting wasn’t just about revisiting the flood aftermath, it was to plan a way forward.
The first order of business for the site is to find a place to put in a new parking lot. Since finding the remnants of Fort Hunter, they can’t just put the parking lot back.
The field between Enders House and the road looked promising, but then Roets dug five test holes and found Mohawk artifacts in each one, including a shell necklace and bear’s tooth.
“Eighteen inches down, there is a Mohawk village,” he said, adding the history is far too valuable to pave over. Over the summer he tried a few other places, coming up with history in seemingly every shovel of dirt.
Now there might be a place at the far northwest corner of the property. It’s far from the visitor center, but probably safe to pave.
But Tuesday was the start of a larger discussion. The Friends of Schoharie Crossing met shortly after the presentation to talk about a possible shift in focus.
Roets' lecture only minimally touched on the canalway, which is a bit of a problem. The site was acquired by the state in 1966 for it’s significance to the original canal. Until now the site has largely focused on that section of history.
“Since Irene uncovered Fort Hunter,” said Janice Fontanella, who runs the site, “the site covers a much larger swath of history.”
While the canal was very significant for the growth of New York state, Fort Hunter predates it by a hundred years.
“We have to figure out a way to interpret that much more history,” she said.
To preserve the Fort Hunter foundations, the site has been filled in with sand, but eventually they plan to install dummy stones over the layers of fill so visitors can get an idea of the original foundation.
There will also be a set of new signs and pictures of the artifacts found after the flood.
Tuesday was the first of a year of meetings Fontanella says will lay out any changes to the site’s historical focus.