WINDHAM, Maine —
Archaeologists in Maine are working hard to excavate a 277-year-old fort before state road crews repave the area.
Historians had suspected Province Fort was beneath River Road in Windham, but nobody could dig for evidence after it was paved in the 1920s.
The fort was a wooden structure built in 1734 by a group of English settlers of what was then called New Marblehead, Massachusetts(the state was then part of the colony of Massachusetts). It was built to protect the settlers at a time when Native American attacks were common there, especially during the French and Indian War.
The Abenaki tribe was particularly upset that the settlers were on their land and had dammed the Presumpscot River, cutting off fish, an important food source.
With the Maine Department of Transportation now scheduled to repave the area, a team of state archaeologists and trained volunteers are recovering artifacts and using evidence to map the fort.
"Part of our job is to rescue as much information as possible knowing full well what's under the roadbed will be destroyed," project archaeologist John Mosher said. "This was the seat of frontier warfare."
Scalpings, kidnappings and battles were not uncommon problems the settlers faced while the Native Americans fought the people invading their land. The fort had wooden walls, "watch box" towers and other buildings inside.
The researchers want to know where and what those buildings were — that information can paint a clearer picture of the time for people to study today.
With only one week to finish combing the current dig area and then until the end of September to search the other side of the road, the archaeologists have been working long days to process as much evidence as possible.
"Every day is an adventure," Mosher said.
It's a sentiment shared by Kathy Bridge, a volunteer whose first day on this particular dig was Monday.
"It's labor intensive," she said. "'Lara Craft, Tomb Raider' or Indiana Jones, it isn't like that at all."
Bridge, who has participated on other digs, hopes awareness of the archaeological project encourages people to donate to future archaeological efforts because she says they are often underfunded.
There may also be future excavations at the Province Fort sight despite the impending destruction once the road construction continues.
There are at least two areas on the sides of the road that could shed more light on the fort's past.