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Fort Littleton acquired by Archaeology Conservancy

January 03, 2006|By DON AINES

FORT LITTLETON, PA.

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

Aside from a bronze plaque and a roadside historical marker, there is no visible evidence that a hillock outside this tiny Fulton County village was a frontline outpost in the war between the empires of France and Great Britain for domination of the North American continent.

It is what might lie below the surface that remains to be discovered by archaeologists, who will have the opportunity to explore the site of Fort Littleton now that it has been purchased by the Archaeology Conservancy.

"Fort Littleton never saw any actual battles, but it was garrisoned much longer than the other forts in the chain," said Andrew Stout, the Eastern Regional director of the conservancy. Begun in 1755, it was originally garrisoned by 75 provincial troops and might still have been used by the British as a communications post as late as the Revolutionary War, Stout said.

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"We've established it as a permanent research site with a 200-year management plan," Stout said in a telephone interview from the conservancy's Frederick, Md., regional office. The former Greencastle, Pa., resident said the conservancy will limit excavation of the site to professional archaeologists with research proposals.

The fort was a log palisade about 100 feet square with two or three buildings within its walls, Stout said. Named for George Lyttelton, a British chancellor of the exchequer, the fort was manned on and off by regular and provincial forces, including volunteers during Pontiac's Rebellion in 1763, he said.

Stout said it has never been excavated, although amateur collectors have taken artifacts from the site in decades past and the ground has been plowed over the years.

The 4 1/2-acre fort site was part of a 420-acre farm purchased in 1995 by Nathan and Sarah Duvall. Sarah Duvall said Monday that they and the previous owner did not allow artifact hunters on the property.

The couple knew the fort site was part of the farm when they bought it and she said they are eager to see what archaeologists discover.

"When you excavate, you really don't know what you're going to find," she said. "It's pretty exciting."

Stout said the conservancy is the only national, nonprofit group that acquires and preserves significant historical sites, but it does not do the actual research. It also does not allow complete excavation of sites because the techniques and technology of archaeology continue to evolve.

Technologies such as carbon dating and ground penetrating radar were once unknown and Stout said the idea of "conservation archaeology" allows for the development of new tools that will be available to researchers in the future.

Since it was established a quarter of a century ago, Stout said the conservancy has acquired more than 300 sites ranging from the Neolithic Period to the Industrial Age in 39 states. The Eastern region, which runs from Maine to North Carolina, has 39 sites, he said.

The conservancy's efforts are supported by fees from its approximately 23,000 members, along with state and local grants, he said. On sites within Pennsylvania, Stout said the conservancy works closely with the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission in coordinating archaeological research.

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