Archaeology

The 1979 Dig

Much remains to be done to fully explore the site of Camp Security. One of the greatest challenges is to actually determine the location and extent of the encampment. While growing amounts of information, in the form of primary sources such as first person accounts and governmental records, is being accumulated, there is still a wealth of documentation that could be drawn upon, hence, it may come to pass that more descriptive information regarding the camp will allow future excavations to be designed more effectively than they have to date.

There has been two excavations that have taken place along the camp's hillside: 1) An exploratory dig in 1972; 2) Last year's surface exploration, which included a minor amount of test pitting. Each has yielded valuable information about our understanding of the site.

The 1979 dig was a somewhat complex affair funded by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PMHC), Springettsbury Township, and Historic York, Inc. (HYI). The unifying of funding for this program took great effort and finesse. Before excavation commenced, the next grand struggle was addressed: determining where Camp Security actually was. Each funding arm did a modicum of detective work, and all came up with the same problems: no primary source clearly fixed the camp's location, and much of the local folklore about the camp was contradictory.

Roark Mitzell, a Historic York staff member was assigned the task of uncovering, in a very short time, as much as was locally available about the site and the history of the camp. Mitzell's efforts were the first substantial examination of the camp's background; yet, it too, proved inconclusive concerning its precise location.

Charles Douts, who was then the township zoning officer, and who had both academic experience in archaeology and a great interest in the camp, compiled parallel research. Douts compiled a great amount of oral history about the camp, and identified a handful of people who "knew exactly where the site was". Meanwhile, PHMC's efforts to identify the site were spearheaded by Dr. Barry Kent, then the State Archaeologist. Dr. Kent, a York County native, organized field walking expeditions in an attempt to identify and define any surface artifact spreads, and he also spoke with a number of local citizens.

Defining the site proved to be most difficult, for surface artifacts were minimal and widely scattered, and the collected local lore on the site was often contradictory. One portion of hill did appear to be more promising than the remainder, and a number of former residents of the area did often point out this spot: it was the western surface of the upper field of the Wiest tract, defined by a steep slope of ground to the north, a tree line to the east, a tree grove to the south (actually the uppermost slope of the site), and a band of trees and a steep drop to a small creek to the west. This area was chosen to be the focus of the excavations.

Five professional archaeologists and a crew chief were hired to dig the site. The crew consisted of Jude Carino, Gail Nagele, Thomas Schaefer, and Glenn Shehan. The crew chief was Charles Hunter (now deceased). The site received additional supervision by Dr. Barry Kent, who was then the State Archaeologist, input from Charles Douts, Springettsbury Township, and John R. Schein, Jr., then director of HYI, and HYI staffers , including Roark Mitzell, who did the first substantial research on the Camp. These people often were onsite to help dig and to offer information. There were about one dozen other regular volunteers who helped in the excavation and artifact retrieval.

The excavation commenced on 18 June and ended 3 August 1979. An area of approximately 49,600 square feet was cleared down to the subsoil layers, and a total of 97 features were mapped and identified. Of the seven-week period, considerable time was devoted to clearing the site of topsoil, flat-shoveling the bulldozer tracks, and surveying the site grid. Critical time was also lost due to heavy rains, which flooded the area and compromised the integrity of a number of features.

As was then the practice, the area's topsoil was first stripped by bulldozer, the subsoil layers were examined for stains and overt signs of features, then the dozer tracks were flat-shoveled by the crew. A site datum pint (523.4 ft. above mean sea level) was next established, and then the site was surveyed into 10 by 10 foot grids, and staked accordingly. The site's identified features were then excavated by hand, and were usually halved. Soil profiles and stratigraphy was recorded, photographs taken, and artifact retrieval pursued. The site was not screened.

Of the site's 97 features, 72 were hand dug pits of a variety of forms; 12 were post molds, 5 were plow scars, 7 were rodent holes, and one appeared to be a length of slit trench. The two predominant pit shapes consisted of amorphous types and dish-shaped types. A total of 1,320 artifacts were recovered from the amorphous pits and a total of 428 artifacts were recovered from the dish-shaped pits. The items retrieved from the site will be discussed more fully in the artifacts section of this website.

Generally speaking, the results of the 1979 excavation were frustrating to most. While it was concluded that the types of features identified and the majority of the artifacts that were found clearly demonstrated that the area was used by those who occupied Camp Security, it was not able to be determined how the area was used, or where, in the whole scope of the camp. The area lay in relation to the camp's huts and stockade lines. Without question, the features dug were done so by military personnel, especially British, whose artifacts displayed a tight focus of late 18th century era occupation. While the pits were sited in a relatively focused manner, they were not regularly arranged. The spread of the site's artifacts suggested that there were other possible concentrations, but they could not be explored due to the lack of time and available excavators. During the last few days of the site's excavation, a number of bulldozer explorations were cut through the subsoil layers, in the unexplored field areas to the excavation site's east, and south, in an attempt to discover other concentrations of features, or to uncover any building foundations or portions of the stockade lines. These dozer cuts proved unsuccessful.


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