Learning Objectives

Archaeological Survey


Students will be introduced to standard techniques used to find, recognize, evaluate, and record archaeological sites.

Geospatial Data Management


Students will receive training in the recording, management, and analysis of spatial data with an array of devices often including but not limited to optical transit, electronic total stations, Global Positioning System (GPS), and a selection of geophysical devices. As data is collected, students will be introduced to concepts of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) as they apply to archaeology.

Archaeological Excavation


Students will be trained in the basic procedures of excavation, including:
1. Laying out an excavation unit
2. Using standard excavation tools to dig the unit to professional standards
3. Filling out excavation forms
4. Completing unit level and profile sketches
5. Photographing the unit

Artifact Processing


Students will learn the basic field procedures for cleaning, cataloging, and preserving artifacts for later analysis.

Research Objectives

Our investigations at the fort during previous seasons suggest that the site contains information that could contribute to a number of general questions, or "problem domains" that are of interest to historians and anthropologists.


1. General History: There are many details concerning the history of Fort Massachusetts which could and should be documented. Research along these lines would begin with detailed documentary research. Whenever there are gaps in the documentary record or questions raised by that record, these would become the targets for archaeological data recovery.

2. Post-Abandonment History: In order for an archaeologist to be able to interpret the past from present remains, he or she must have a handle on what has happened to those remains over the years. He or she must understand the "site formation processes," whether they represent the actions of nature or the actions of humans, since the Fort was abandoned. Again, the documentary record would be the starting point for this research, but it is anticipated that a program of oral history research will also be fruitful. While some excavations may be undertaken specifically with these kinds of questions in mind, these issues will also be addressed in every excavation unit.


3. Community/Military: These types of forts are most often studied as sources of data concerning military history. A separate realm of historical interest is the development of communities in the West. Particular types of communities tend to develop when a military base is present in the area. Fort Massachusetts provides a rare opportunity to examine how a 19th century fort influenced the development of the communities in the region.

4. Ethnicity: In recent decades, historical archaeology has proven to be invaluable in the study of ethnic relationships in America. Because it has been an emotionally laden issue in the past as well as in the present, it is hard to find documentary sources that do not reflect a strong bias. The archaeological record is perhaps the most unbiased text on the subject. Our previous work at Fort Garland, the fort that replaced Fort Massachusetts, revealed the presence of Black “Buffalo Soldiers,” Hispanic soldiers, and one Chinese soldier. These groups were detected through documentary research but could not be detected in the archaeological record. We will be continuing to examine whether ethnic groups can be identified in either the documentary or archaeological records at Fort Massachusetts.

5. Social Structure and Gender: The previous six seasons uncovered ample archaeological evidence of women and children at Fort Garland. Except for a few rare photos and a few fleeting references, these individuals were almost invisible in the historical record. We will continue to pursue this kind of information for Fort Massachusetts. Giving a voice to the invisible people is a particular strength of historical archaeology.

Before some of these questions can be answered, the archaeological record must be examined.