BENNINGTON -- In its first semester offering a course in archaeology, Community College of Vermont sent students from Bennington to the Fort William Henry excavation site in New York, where the largest piece of mortar bomb found at the site was unearthed earlier this month.
The ongoing dig at Fort William Henry in Lake George, N.Y., is led by a team from SUNY Adirondack Community College (ACC), but Luisa Millington's CCV class was able to take part on July 13, the day the 6-pound artifact was dug up. The piece is believed to date back to the French and Indian War and is about 250 years old.
The iron piece was discovered by an ACC student in the same 3-foot pit CCV student Greg Lochner was digging in at the time.
After the CCV class arrived, students broke up and took turns completing archaeological tasks from sifting dirt, taking measurements, and recording data when ACC student Brennen Nelson asked Lochner if he wanted to climb into one of the many dig sites to help dig.
"They had us sifting the dirt to find small pieces of glass or pottery and other stuff that was in there. After sifting for a while, one of the students in his pit asked me if I wanted to hop in and do a little bit of digging myself. I said sure. It's not one of those things you get to do very often," Lochner said in an interview Friday. "Then we saw a large spot of rust-colored dirt. When you see that it's usually indicative of a large piece of metal in the ground (that is) rusting and coloring the dirt over time."
With a trowel, Nelson then carefully unearthed the chunk of mortar and Lochner helped take measurements to record the find.
Lochner said he didn't anticipate finding anything when the class arrived at the fort, which was built in 1755 and was the setting for scenes in the James Fenimore Cooper novel "The Last of the Mohicans," but having been a part of it was a lasting experience.
The artifacts found at the site belong to the fort and are expected to be put on exhibit in the future, Millington said.
The dig runs from July 9 to Aug. 17, and Millington believes it is very likely there are more artifacts of similar size or larger that have yet to be discovered at the fort. Because there has been so much destruction, including a fire at the site, the earth has been rearranged.
"From my experience, I would say there are more pieces that will be found. If they found one, certainly there are more that may be found," she said.
Lochner enrolled in CCV this summer. While he does not aspire to be an archaeologist, the class allowed him to explore interests he's had since his childhood.
In addition to the excitement of being a part of the discovery, Lochner said a highlight of the class that recently concluded was learning about the preservation of history.
"A lot of the class was how you've got to preserve the history that is around because a lot of it is getting destroyed or covered up," he said.
Making the class more exciting was the fact it was taught by an experienced archaeologist who has led more than 30 archaeological digs in her native country of Italy.
In addition to Fort William Henry, the class also took field trips the Bennington Battlefield in Hoosick, N.Y., and other sites of historical importance in the region.
"It is good to give them the hands-on experience ... and it was really neat for students to be involved in such important historical sites," Millington said.
In addition to leading the CCV class, Millington teaches math and science at Arlington Memorial Middle and High School.
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