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Lake George dig hopes to unearth military past

ALBANY, N.Y. — An archaeology professor at SUNY Adirondack is hoping a dig at Lake George Battlefield Park this summer will help determine which parts of the site were used during the French and Indian War and which were utilized during the American Revolutionary War.

David Starbuck, an adjunct professor and head of the SUNY Adirondack archaeology field school, already held digs in 2000 and 2001 at the 35-acre park on the lake's southern shore that unearthed an intact bayonet and a compass. His team of students and volunteers also found regimental buttons, but none contained numbers — which would indicate they were used by Revolutionary-era soldiers.

Starbuck said he hopes that more artifacts can be found that will make clear which parts of the site around Fort George Road were used during the many encampments that were there in the 18th century — from the Battle of Lake George during the French and Indian War in 1755, to British construction of what would have been the crown's largest fort in the country, to patriots taking over the site at the start of the Revolutionary War.

"It was nonstop action for 25 years," said Starbuck. "This is one of the most dynamic places in the region."

Starbuck said he has verbal confirmation that the state will allow him and approximately 30 students, staff and volunteers to dig pits at various locations in the park between July and August.

The park already has visual historic markers in the form of exposed stone foundations from early structures, in particular part of the southern bastion of Fort George, which was never completed. Starbuck said that if more artifacts are found, markers can be placed explaining more of what the site was used for during the 1700s. The park sits just north of Million Dollar Beach, one of Lake George's most prominent visitor destinations.

"This time we do want to expand the area we're looking at," Starbuck said. "People tend to look at central core areas, where you see visible foundations. We want to test more in other directions."

Starbuck has been leading digs in Lake George and Fort Edward since 1991. During the academic year he is a full-time professor at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire, but in the summer he lives at his 18th-century family farm in Chestertown, Warren County, while teaching at SUNY Adirondack in Queensbury.

The Battlefield Park work will pair with a dig done last year at Million Dollar Beach by the State Museum. That excavation was originally done to find French and Indian War relics, but instead uncovered Native American arrowheads and sharp-edged rocks that date to as long ago as 8,000 B.C. The rare find indicated the tools were carried by nomads who had come from what is now Pennsylvania or Central New York.

lstanforth@timesunion.com
 

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