Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Shadow of a 250-Year-Old Fort

This is why we dug where we did in 2011 (see Fort de Chartres posts February 29 and March 2). This is an aerial photo taken in 1928, which shows an unusually vivid soil stain in a cultivated field. This contrast-enhanced version clearly depicts a square enclosure with what appear to be four bastions, one on each corner. The northwest bastion is blurred by erosion. Archaeological remains of structures rarely leave behind such vivid stains – caused by changes in the organic composition of the topsoils, created by past activity. 


  1. Why was the photo taken? How did you know of or find the picture? How did you determine the size and shape of the fort from the small area that was dug?

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    2. The photo was taken by the Corps of Engineers as part of their documentation of the river valley. The stain was discovered by researchers in the early 1980s. Before we started digging, we understood the general shape of the fort from period descriptions of that and other French fortifications. We also knew we were working in the northeastern corner of the ground surface stain seen in 1928. After we began digging, we found the outline of two walls, that allowed us to pinpoint where we were within the fort. We have thus far uncovered only a very small portion of the palisade walls.