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Archaeologists search for military artifacts at Fort Douglas

September 30, 2018
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In a Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018 photo, Alex Case showcases a shoe she found when screening the dirt at Fort Douglas Military Museum in Salt Lake City. University of Utah archaelogists are excavating a sandstone foundation believed to be a military barracks built during the Civil War era at the college’s Fort Douglas. (Qiling Wang/The Deseret News via AP)

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — University of Utah archaeologists are excavating a sandstone foundation believed to be a military barracks built during the Civil War era at Fort Douglas.

The sandstone foundation was accidentally discovered about four years ago by contractors digging a utility trench at the historical landmark overseen by the university, the Deseret News reported .

“We don’t get Civil War archaeology in Utah to begin with and definitely not in such an accessible location,” said Sheri Ellis, an archaeological consultant with Certus Environmental Solutions.

The firm is working with the Utah Division of State History to determine the significance of what is found at the excavation sites.

In addition to uncovering history, the excavation also will help mitigate the damage caused by the trench-diggers.

Members of the public have been helping with the effort and have uncovered items by sifting through dirt.

“It’s a wonderful way to involve the public in their history . to bring history to life,” said Mike Mower, deputy chief of staff for Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, who stopped by the site in late September.

So far, buttons, a blackened but intact inkwell, military insignia and discarded bullet casings have been found in what is believed to be a small trash deposit.

Archaeologists hope the items will provide clues about the people who established Fort Douglas. The founders are believed to be volunteer soldiers who came to Utah during the Civil War era to establish a military presence in the state, Ellis said.

Evidence suggests that women and children also were at the site, meaning entire families could have arrived at one time.

“You don’t know what you’re going to find with something like this,” Ellis said. “You really don’t know what you’re getting into and plans can change along the way depending on what you find.”

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Information from: Deseret News, http://www.deseretnews.com

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