Archaeology is the study of human activity through the recovery and analysis of material culture. The archaeological record of an area is made up of artifacts, architecture, biofacts, and the cultural landscape. The discipline involves research, surveying, excavation, and eventually analysis of the data collected to learn about the past.
Archaeology at the Fort King site is in our very recent past, but far from our present memory. There are a lot of questions about Fort King and we don’t have the answers to many of these questions. There are very few drawings of the fort. Archival research has uncovered few descriptions of what the fort looked like, such as how many buildings it was composed of and what the functions of those buildings were. We also want to learn about life at the fort, and the culture that was created around this site. We turn to archaeology as the tool for unlocking the past and answering the questions we have about Fort King.
Archaeology is the most accurate way of verifying the historic record. It provides a checks and balances against interpretation of the written record that is composed through, letters, diaries, drawings, oral histories, and military records. Like most stories there are inconsistencies, embellishments, exaggeration and even complete misunderstandings. When the historic record and the archaeological record are used together, an accurate and reliable picture of Fort King can emerge.
The archaeological work plan at the Fort King National Historic Landmark is designed to answer research questions. There is no “digging for the sake of digging.” With each project the archaeological data adds to the knowledge and understanding of what happened at Fort King.
This process has been used at the Fort King National Historic Landmark site (12Mr60) for over 60 years and the story is emerging.