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New Camp Security site has 'boxy' anomalies; dig starts Monday

Written by Teresa Boeckel, York Daily Record | May 15, 2015 2:00 PM
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Photo by Jason Plotkin, York Daily Record / Sunday News

Craig Landis and Becky Roman, with the Friends of Camp Security, help to mark the perimeter around the area for the dig in Springettsbury Township that starts Monday.

(Springettsbury Township) -- There's excitement as archaeologists and volunteers start a new dig on Monday to search for evidence of a Revolutionary War prison camp in Springettsbury Township.

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That's because a recent survey that tested the electrical conductivity below the earth showed some "boxy" anomalies -- some straight lines that could signal the footprint of a structure, Franklin & Marshall College Professor Tim Bechtel said.

"This one is kind of exciting," he said.

Senior archaeologist Steve Warfel hopes to find evidence of the palisade -- a high fence used to protect the camp where the Colonists held British prisoners of war. He'll be looking for dark stains from where the posts once stood.

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Photo by Jason Plotkin, York Daily Record / Sunday News

Steve Warfel, a senior archeologist contracted by the Friends of Camp Security, uses a surveyor's transit to help mark the perimeter around the area for an upcoming archaeological dig, the second in a year. He said they hope to uncover not only artifacts from a Revolutionary War prison camp but also to search for a stained area below the surface which would be the location of the prison's stockade. 'It's very much a detective hunt.'

While the survey results are exciting, he cautions that more investigation is needed to determine whether the anomalies are man made or natural.

Last year's dig did not locate the footprint of Camp Security, which included the high fence and a village site referred to as Camp Indulgence, but it did uncover some 18th century artifacts, including a Spanish silver coin.

Here's what you need to know about the latest dig:

Q How many volunteers will be helping?

A 83, Warfel said. In addition, some students from York and Gettysburg colleges will be working at the site.

Q What work will be done this time?

A The effort will start Monday with a surface survey. It will be followed by two days of surveying with metal detectors. Then the digging will begin, Warfel said.

Volunteers will be digging trenches instead of test pits this time. That's because they would have a better chance of intersecting the stockade -- or high fence -- with a trench.

Q Why focus on this spot?

A Historical records indicate that the two camps were about 200 yards apart, and the village known as Camp Indulgence is on rising ground. Warfel said he believes that Camp Indulgence is located where the 1979 dig was done.

The latest spot is 200 yards away from the 1979 dig, and it has a spring on one side and a stream on the other. They will be exploring about 2 acres in a 9-acre field.

"I think this field offers the best opportunity for finding the stockade," Warfel said.

Q What has been done recently to prepare?

A Last month, Bechtel and one of his students, Drew Goff, drove a cart pulling an instrument that measures electrical conductivity in the top two meters of the earth. It's a little bit like radiology, but it is done to the earth instead of people, Bechtel said.

Moisture would be retained in the earth from where rotted posts from a palisade would be located, for example. That would produce anomalies when testing the earth. They looked for straight lines and right angles.

"We found some very interesting anomalies," he said.

They found what might be a corner of a possible structure. They also found a "point anomaly," which could signal a well shaft or privy.

"But we have to be careful," Bechtel cautioned. "We don't know what it is yet."

This work, though, will help to guide where to put the test trenches during the dig.

Q Will the public be able to visit the site on a special day?

A Yes, a date has not been selected yet, but there will be a day that the public will be invited to see the site and learn more about the latest dig, Warfel said.

Contact Teresa Boeckel at (717) 771-2031.

To donate 

Donations are needed to help with the archaeological dig.

They can be sent to Friends of Camp Security, P.O. Box 20008, York, PA 17402.

Visit to learn more about the site. Donations also can be made through PayPal on the website.


Camp Security: Where exactly is it, and will archaeologists find it?

Camp Security archaeological dig turns up items

Final donations secure Camp Security preservation

This article comes to us through a partnership between York Daily Record and WITF. 

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