Archaeology

Archaeological investigations at the Fort Daniel, initially carried out by members of the Gwinnett Archaeological Research Society (GARS), began in the summer and fall of 2007 with clearing of a 1-acre area on the top of highest point of Hog Mountain, traditionally understood to be the general location of Fort Daniel, and the logical location for a defensive fortification. The whole area had been farmed, probably since shortly after the fort was abandoned around 1816. Cultivation ceased around 1965, and vegetation, including mostly pine woods, covered the site with the exception of patch of lawn where the current owner had had a garden.

After clearing, a baseline was established and a 100’ x 80’ grid, with 20’ grid units was staked out over the approximately 1-acre area using a contractor’s transit, 100’ tapes and compass. Because the baseline followed the property line, the N/S axis was oriented 10⁰ west of North. A systematic metal detection survey was then carried out by GARS with the help of a local metal detection club whose expertise proved invaluable. The survey produced hundreds of metal objects, mostly wrought and machine cut nails, but also a great number of buttons and “buck ‘n ball” shot. Some pottery was also recovered along with these objects. All artifacts were consistent with an early 19th c. military site. Objects were carefully plotted according to the grid, with nothing excavated beyond the approximately 10” plow zone so as not to disturb any intact buried deposits. A density gradient map was produced to show the relative distribution of metal objects as a guide to further investigations. As it worked out, the fort footprint that later emerged based on excavations, fit nicely over this map (see image 1)

This survey was followed by a Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) Survey conducted by Sheldon Skaggs and students from Georgia Southern University. This, and two subsequent GPR surveys, as well as a Soils Resistivity survey proved of additional use in evidences of the fort’s features prior to excavation efforts. (See image 2)

Guided by the results of these remote sensing surveys, selective mechanical scraping with a small bucket loader was undertaken until this method revealed the first buried historic features, a burned area in the SW corner and a trench feature in the NW area of the grid (see image 3). At that point, mechanical scraping was ended and shovel scraping was used to expand and articulate these features. All subsequent excavation has been by hand, using shovels and trowels.

During the 2008 spring Georgia Archaeology Month and the fall Frontier Faire weekends, with both GARS and community participation, excavations determined that the burned area was probably a hearth within the SW blockhouse that included burning debris from the fort’s take-down. Terminating at the area the blockhouse occupied, the south end of the west wall trench and the west end of the south wall trench were also identified (see image 4). The trench feature in the NE, found to be only 14’ long, was first thought to be a latrine ditch. However, excavation of the feature did not produce any of the expected latrine/privy types of artifacts. But with these features, the fort’s footprint began to emerge.

On August 14, 2010, the east end of the south wall trench and its corner with the east wall, as pictured below in image 5, was uncovered.  It was now clear that the “latrine” ditch excavated in 2007-2009 was actually the northern 14' of the east wall situated between the NE blockhouse and a gate, which was why the trench segment was so short.  [Excavations during the 2013 Frontier Faire located the other side of that gate, which proved to be about 6’ wide.]  In 2010, the NW corner of the fort was also located. The heading of the north wall could then be projected and, in a unit placed to mirror the location of the west end of the south wall, the east end of this wall was found, thus confirming the presence and size of a NE blockhouse. 

Known wall trench features, SW & NE blockhouses areas, and the NE & SE corners, now provide a precise footprint for Fort Daniel. The Fort, it ends up, unlike the study grid, was oriented on a N/S axis.

In 1794, General Knox, U.S. Secretary of War, sent the fort plan pictured below to the Governor of Georgia. At 100 feet square, the plan is about 18% larger than Fort Daniel, with its blockhouses in the NW and SE corners (see image 5). Several other known stockade forts from the time were smaller or larger. It also appears that Fort Daniel had only one gate whereas the Knox plan had two. Since all traces, apparently, of interior structures would have been obliterated by cultivation activities, we cannot know, from archaeology, how the interior structures might have been laid out or even what they were. Knox’s plan is for a fort for mounted militia, with stalls for about 20 horses.

Beginning with the 2011 Frontier Faire, Georgia State University anthropology students under Dr. Jeffery Glover, have been investigating one of the "hot" spots on Skaggs' GPR image as well as NE and SW blockhouse areas. The first feature, located within the fort and thought to perhaps be associated with an interior structure, turned out to be a “stump pull.” Because prehistoric stone tools, but no historic artifacts, were found in the stump "hole" backfill, the implication is that the stump was pulled as part of clearing for fort construction before any historic artifact would have been there, rather than by a farmer clearing for cultivate years after the fort was abandoned (see image 6).

Elementary level students excavating during the 2013 Frontier Faired where the South Wall trench meets the SW blockhouse, recovered a number of artifacts that were in the surface soils that had filled the trench when the Stockade logs were pulled when the fort was abandoned. Some of these are pictured in Image 7 and include a Tombac button, two 30 cal. musket balls, one of many earthware sherds from what appears to be a chamber pot, and several nails and tacks.  

In 2012 Dr. Glover's students began excavations in the NE Blockhouse where we identified a large “pit” feature from which, during the 2013 Frontier Faire, assisted by students from the Fort Daniel Elementary School, they recovered a number of artifacts including buttons, bullets, wrought and machine-made nails, a flint and a variety of prehistoric and historic ceramics (see images 7 -9).  A partially mended Prattware Teacup from elsewhere on the site is pictured below (see image 10). The “pit” turned out to be a large, post-farming, collapsed, rodent den filled with prehistoric and historic artifact-laden plow-zone soil. Compare with the stump-pull hole fill. 

During the 2014 Faire GSU students began work on bisecting the Hearth feature in the SW Blockhouse. Using the latest technology for photogrammetric processing of digital images to generate 3D spatial data and the GSU "Quad Copter" for aerial views, GSU produced the photo below (Image 10). Image can be turned and rotated for different views of the feature. Bisection of the feature is not yet completed.

Principles of Archaeological Ethics

At its April 10, 1996, meeting, the SAA Executive Board adopted the Principles of Archaeological Ethics, reproduced below, as proposed by the SAA Ethics in Archaeology Committee. The adoption of these principles represents the culmination of an effort begun in 1991 with the formation of the ad-hoc Ethics in Archaeology Committee. The committee was charged with considering the need for revising the society's existing statements on ethics. A 1993 workshop on ethics, held in Reno, resulted in draft principles that were presented at a public forum at the 1994 annual meeting in Anaheim. SAA published the draft principles with position papers from the forum and historical commentaries in a special report distributed to all members, Ethics and Archaeology: Challenges for the 1990s, edited by Mark. J. Lynott and Alison Wylie (1995). Member comments were solicited in this special report, through a notice in SAA Bulletin, and at two sessions held at the SAA booth during the 1995 annual meeting in Minneapolis. The final principles, presented here, are revised from the original draft based on comments from members and the Executive Board.

The Executive Board strongly endorses these principles and urges their use by all archaeologists "in negotiating the complex responsibilities they have to archaeological resources, and to all who have an interest in these resources or are otherwise affected by archaeological practice (Lynott and Wylie 1995:8)." The board is grateful to those who have contributed to the development of these principles, especially the members of the Ethics in Archaeology Committee, chaired by Mark. J. Lynott and Alison Wylie, for their skillful completion of this challenging and important task. The bylaws change just voted by the members has established a new standing committee, the Committee on Ethics, which will carry on with these crucial efforts.

Principle No. 1: Stewardship

The archaeological record, that is, in situ archaeological material and sites, archaeological collections, records and reports, is irreplaceable. It is the responsibility of all archaeologists to work for the long-term conservation and protection of the archaeological record by practicing and promoting stewardship of the archaeological record. Stewards are both caretakers of and advocates for the archaeological record for the benefit of all people; as they investigate and interpret the record, they should use the specialized knowledge they gain to promote public understanding and support for its long-term preservation.

Principle No. 2: Accountability

Responsible archaeological research, including all levels of professional activity, requires an acknowledgment of public accountability and a commitment to make every reasonable effort, in good faith, to consult actively with affected group(s), with the goal of establishing a working relationship that can be beneficial to all parties involved.

Principle No. 3: Commercialization

The Society for American Archaeology has long recognized that the buying and selling of objects out of archaeological context is contributing to the destruction of the archaeological record on the American continents and around the world. The commercialization of archaeological objects—their use as commodities to be exploited for personal enjoyment or profit—results in the destruction of archaeological sites and of contextual information that is essential to understanding the archaeological record. Archaeologists should therefore carefully weigh the benefits to scholarship of a project against the costs of potentially enhancing the commercial value of archaeological objects. Whenever possible they should discourage, and should themselves avoid, activities that enhance the commercial value of archaeological objects, especially objects that are not curated in public institutions, or readily available for scientific study, public interpretation, and display.

Principle No. 4: Public Education and Outreach

Archaeologists should reach out to, and participate in cooperative efforts with others interested in the archaeological record with the aim of improving the preservation, protection, and interpretation of the record. In particular, archaeologists should undertake to: 1) enlist public support for the stewardship of the archaeological record; 2) explain and promote the use of archaeological methods and techniques in understanding human behavior and culture; and 3) communicate archaeological interpretations of the past. Many publics exist for archaeology including students and teachers; Native Americans and other ethnic, religious, and cultural groups who find in the archaeological record important aspects of their cultural heritage; lawmakers and government officials; reporters, journalists, and others involved in the media; and the general public. Archaeologists who are unable to undertake public education and outreach directly should encourage and support the efforts of others in these activities.

Principle No. 5: Intellectual Property

Intellectual property, as contained in the knowledge and documents created through the study of archaeological resources, is part of the archaeological record. As such it should be treated in accord with the principles of stewardship rather than as a matter of personal possession. If there is a compelling reason, and no legal restrictions or strong countervailing interests, a researcher may have primary access to original materials and documents for a limited and reasonable time, after which these materials and documents must be made available to others.

Principle No. 6: Public Reporting and Publication

Within a reasonable time, the knowledge archaeologists gain from investigation of the archaeological record must be presented in accessible form (through publication or other means) to as wide a range of interested publics as possible. The documents and materials on which publication and other forms of public reporting are based should be deposited in a suitable place for permanent safekeeping. An interest in preserving and protecting in situ archaeological sites must be taken in to account when publishing and distributing information about their nature and location.

Principle No. 7: Records and Preservation

Archaeologists should work actively for the preservation of, and long-term access to, archaeological collections, records, and reports. To this end, they should encourage colleagues, students, and others to make responsible use of collections, records, and reports in their research as one means of preserving the in situ archaeological record, and of increasing the care and attention given to that portion of the archaeological record which has been removed and incorporated into archaeological collections, records, and reports.

Principle No. 8: Training and Resources

Given the destructive nature of most archaeological investigations, archaeologists must ensure that they have adequate training, experience, facilities, and other support necessary to conduct any program of research they initiate in a manner consistent with the foregoing principles and contemporary standards of professional practice