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Revealing the past

A data recovery excavation will help document the history of Fort Douglas buildings and look for clues about historic military life and activities.

Join the U and its partner,
SWCA Environmental Consultants,
to see the excavation in progress,
learn about the project, view the
1863 barracks foundations and
recovered artifacts and perhaps
help screen dirt for artifacts.

Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018
10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Fort Douglas Military Museum
2000 Potter St.
Salt Lake City, Utah 84113
View on campus map.

Along the south side of Stilwell Field at historic Fort Douglas, Potter Street is closed through October 2018 for a data recovery excavation—or, more simply, an archaeological dig. This project will help document the history of Fort Douglas buildings and will look for clues about historic military life and activities. The Fort Douglas Military Museum, located on Potter Street, will remain open Tuesday-Saturday from 12-5 p.m., throughout the project.

This location originally housed a series of barracks inhabited by soldiers from the early 1860s to just before World War I. The historic buildings then served a variety of administrative functions.

As part of the project, some barrack foundations have been exposed and a variety of historic artifacts, including remnants of milled lumber, a stoneware bottle fragment, military insignia and several Civil War-era buttons were recovered.

Careful cutting and removal of the top layers of paving began earlier this month and the area has been fenced off to prepare the sites and protect artifacts from damage. A crew of archaeologists has begun their careful work, looking backward in time. This process involves slowly and meticulously digging down from the surface—mere centimeters or inches at a time—to reveal what was left behind.

Once remaining artifacts have been collected and the findings reported, the adjacent Fort Douglas Military Museum will prepare a new display to interpret the results. Other presentations will help improve understanding of Fort Douglas history. A unique paving inlay along Potter Street will be created when paving is replaced to clearly identify the original footprint of the historical structural foundations.

As this process unfolds over the next three to five weeks, a docent will be available each weekday afternoon to explain the ongoing activities to visitors and present the latest discoveries. After-hour tours also available upon request by contacting SWCA Environmental Consultants at 801-322-4307.

Additionally, a $15,000 grant will be available to U students conducting thesis or dissertation research about Fort Douglas. Recipients will have access to the existing collections of artifacts as well as data or other discoveries from this excavation.

The historic foundation remnants were originally discovered in 2014 when the U was engaged in a utility infrastructure upgrade. Barracks foundations and other artifacts were impacted when Potter Street was trenched. Construction was halted and, in accordance with state law, archaeologists were brought in to document the area before work continued. The data recovery excavation this year is a follow-up to this mitigation process.

Check back here for weekly updates on the dig.

Please remember: Fort Douglas is a National Historic Landmark and unauthorized collection of artifacts is prohibited by federal law. Only the professional archaeological crewmembers are allowed in the excavations.