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 be trained to use a variety of devices to record, manage, and analyze spatial data from a site. These may include, but are not limited to: optical transit, electronic total stations, GPS, LIDAR, and others. Students will also be introduced to concepts of GIS (Geographic Information Systems) within the context of archaeology.

Archaeological Excavation

Students will learn the basic procedures of excavation:

  • laying out a unit
  • using standard tools and professional standards to excavate
  • completing sketches, field journal, and photographic recording of each unit they work on
  • completing relevant paperwork (note: as the field school transitions from paper forms to digital management, and acknowledging that different projects may require either, we will be teaching both analog and paperless methods.)

Artifact Processing

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

What are our goals?

Our work at Fort Massachusetts aims to answer a number of questions of interest to historians and anthropologists, in a variety of fields.

  • General History
    What happened at the fort during its period of operation? By combining the documentary record (military records, diaries, letters, etc.) and the material record (what we find (and don’t find) in the archaeological site and where we find it) we can fill in the gaps left in the individual collections of data and gain a complete picture of what life at Fort Massachusetts looked like.

  • Post-Abandonment History
    In any archaeological investigation, it is important to understand what happened to the artifacts after they were left where they would eventually be discovered. Compiling a history of what happened to Fort Massachusetts after it was abandoned will, like an investigation of its time in use, involve a significant amount of documentary research, in addition to a larger degree of oral history from San Luis Valley natives. Additionally, while some excavations may be undertaken specifically to answer these questions, they will also be important considerations in all units on the site.

  • Community and Military History
    Along with the military history of the fort, we will be examining the community influences these installations exerted on their surroundings, particularly on the American frontier. Study of Fort Massachusetts will examine how it shaped the 19th century history of the surrounding region.

  • Ethnic History
    Our previous work at Fort Garland, the later relocation point for the installation at Fort Massachusetts, revealed the presence of black “buffalo soldiers,” Hispanic soldiers, and even one Chinese soldier. While these individuals could be identified in the documentary record, archaeological evidence to differentiate these groups eluded us. In our work at Fort Massachusetts, we will continue to examine whether these ethnic groups can be identified in the material record.

  • Class and Gender History
    Past seasons have uncovered significant evidence regarding the presence of women and children at Fort Massachusetts, even though they are rarely represented in the documentary record. We will continue to pursue these questions, in the hope of adding to our ever-broadening understanding of life at this and other similar frontier forts.