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Wednesday, August 17, 2022
The independent student publication of The Unversity at Buffalo, since 1950

Fort Niagara Dig Brings Learning Outside Walls

While many students endured monotonous jobs this past summer, a group of UB students and professors had the opportunity to unearth relics at a site nearly 230 years old as part of an ongoing summer program at Old Fort Niagara.

Nineteen UB undergraduates and four graduate students took part in the continuation of the work of Doc Knight, former director of archaeology at Old Fort Niagara, as they dug through the walls. Although other archeological groups have continually worked at the site over the years, UB joined the ongoing project for the first time this past summer. Students worked throughout the summer with professors who conduct research in the field, and though they are not paid, earn six credits.

The student expedition was headed by Elizabeth Pena, a visiting professor of anthropology who is hopeful for future excursions by the school based on the results of this summer's dig. "It was a great, great group of students, and I did not expect it to be so much fun, we laughed a lot," said Pena.

Students and faculty kept busy sifting through the remains of a former British base, said to be built about 1768 and previously inhabited by the French and the Iroquois Confederacy. This varied history allowed for a diverse range of findings at the site, including buttons, clay tobacco pipes, ceramics and musket balls.

For those involved in the excavation, the difference in quality of life for officers and those enlisted at the fort was of particular interest. An officer, for example, might drink out of a ceramic cup, whereas an enlisted man would use a canteen.

Anthropology student Elizabeth Wynn enjoyed getting out of the classroom and being on an actual site. "I enjoyed seeing what I learned in class, in actual field work," said Wynn.

Classmate David Ingleman appreciated uncovering pieces of the past. "I enjoyed touching something somebody else used hundreds of years ago," said Ingleman.

Those interested in taking part in future expeditions need only to apply, as the project is open to all majors. Pena believes the summer experience is useful for those anthropology majors who are apprehensive about whether to stick with the major, along with undecided students interested in exploring the field.

Those who ultimately decide on anthropology often attend graduate school; those seeking employment often work in museums and take part in preliminary digs at construction sites, where many relics can be found.

The anthropology department has designed a Web site regarding the Fort Niagara dig at The site offers images of relics discovered, reports from the field, and information for those interested.

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