West Point Foundry Archaeology Project at Cold Spring, NY
May 19, 2008 to June 27, 2008

Select on photographs to enlarge

Clara, Dave, and Kristina (two of our volunteers this week) excavated in the 1817 machine shop.

A cat walked across this brick before it was hard.

The crew took a trip to Supersquare, Dean Anderson's foundry in Newburgh. Dean & Amy (far left) showed us casting and 19th century techniques.

Dean Anderson with a crucible of iron at the sixth annual Open House.

Dan takes a group through the current view of Weir's "Gun Foundry."

Chris, Yvonne, Lindsay, & Dr. Tim gather around a cut tree from which they took a core to count its growth rings.

Lindsay, Yvonne (a volunteer this week), and Andrew gather around a screen and discuss what they found.

Week 4

Hello everyone, my name is Andrew Novack I am an Undergraduate student at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan.  I am a Guest student at Michigan Technological University.  I joined this year’s archaeological field school at Cold Spring, New York.  I will be keeping you all informed and up-to-date on what we all did for week 4.  It will be easier if I divide the excavations into 2 areas: A residence related to the Foundry, and the West Point Foundry.           


For this week we had three volunteers that stayed with us for just this week.  Yvonne, Clara, and Kristina have greatly helped out team excavate and uncover artifacts on the residence and also in the Foundry.  Throughout the week Yvonne, Clara, Kristina, and Lindsey helped me in an area on the residence called “The Trench”.  We uncovered small bits of ceramic pottery.  Almost every piece of pottery that was found had different colors ranging from blue to red and brown, and even yellow.  These pottery samples are the most interesting artifacts that have been found so far.  “The Trench” was most likely used as a trash dump where the occupants of the residence would toss away trash and other debris.  The Gatehouse is the other area on the residence where other team members have been digging.  Sean and Jessica worked on a unit next to the Gatehouse where they might have excavated remnants’ of the dirt and clay that was hauled out to make the cellar, but more work needs to be done here.           

West Point Foundry

Not much was done in the Foundry I’m afraid.  But Chris, Clara, Kristina, James, David, and Dan worked on three new units in the Machine Shop.  Here they were surveying using the Total Station and excavating these units.  In one of the three units that was excavated a brick was found with footprints of a cat on it.  This find was the highlight of the day for us.  Each of the three trenches is 2 or 3 meters long by one meter wide.  And also the trenches excavated both the inside and outside wall of the Machine Shop.  In the first trench, David uncovered the outside wall, which partially revealed the top of the granite foundation.  He went as far down as he could till he was stopped by a large mass of iron concretion.  In the inside wall, part of the trench Jessica dug all the way down to the water table, which is roughly 1.5 meters or about 5 feet below the surface.  In Jessica’s part of the trench she uncovered metal shavings and other metal scrap like washers, nuts, and bolts.  

The second trench was excavated by Chris and James.  Chris dug the inside of the wall while James dug the outside wall.  For the inside wall Chris uncovered what appears to be a machine mount made of brick.  The brick was covered by thin metal sheeting to add strength and durability to the mount.  Also below the mount was a preserved wooden floor, or what appears to be the floor.  On the outside wall James dug through very dark soil.  This dark soil soon became an ash deposit.  Further down he came across the top of the granite foundation.  Also at this layer he found a relatively large thin metal plate where only part of it was sticking out.  The third trench was excavated by Jessica and Chris.  Chris dug the inside wall and Jessica dug the outside wall.  Chris had a little deja vu at this third trench because he found exactly the same thing as he found in the second trench with the machine mount with metal sheeting around it and the wooden floor, or what appears to be a floor.  Jessica only got a few centimeters down when she uncovered brick rubble and mortar.  She excavated very little since she just started working on Sunday.           

Field Trip

On Thursday after ending work early the team went to Dean’s blacksmith foundry.  He showed us how the molding process starts and ends.  He started off by sifting sand over a wooden mold of an object he wished to mold from aluminum which was inside a wooden frame.  He forced the sand down by hammering it with wooden hammers.  When he was done hammering the sand, he drives a hollow metal tube down into the mold so that the aluminum can enter the mold.  Dean then removed the wooden object from the sand mold.  When that mold was done he moved it aside to make the second half of the mold.  For the second half of the mold Dean did the same thing as he did with the first half but without any wooden mold piece.  When both halves were finished, Dean put them together and places it on the ground.  He then poured molten aluminum down the hole he made earlier and let the aluminum solidify and cool for a few minutes.  After the aluminum cooled, he and his assistant Amy lifted the mold from the ground and tossed it into a wheelbarrow to remove the sand and the finish product. 

Open House & Sign off

We had our open house on Saturday June 14 and Sunday June 15.  According to Tim Scarlet we had over 200 people who attended.  Tim Scarlet gave visitors basic information about the West Point Foundry like when it operated, what the foundry was making, who made armament, and its importance to the history of the Hudson Valley.  Dan and Liz gave tours throughout the foundry and made stops at the Boring Mill and Machine Shop.  Saturday was when Dean (Blacksmith) came and gave demonstrations and talks about Smithing.  He melted and poured molten aluminum and iron into molds to show the public how the men made cannons and the like 190 years ago.  Overall this season has been an interesting one.  We came, we uncovered, we learned.  This season was my first archaeological field school and I had the opportunity to work side by side with professionals who knew what they were doing.  I hope in the near future I will come back and continue working with such a team and learning more about the West Point Foundry and its community of Cold Spring.

Andrew, this week's author, pauses at a unit in the domestic location where he explores the nature of a depression with a trash midden.