Fort James’ Excavation

Fort James lies on a huge track of land that currently belongs to a Hutterite community in South Dakota. American soldiers built Fort James in 1865 while on a mission to protect the white settlers from the Sioux Indians. The Sioux Indians started an uprising in 1862 over land payments. This war led to the deaths of more than one hundred settlers and sixty Sioux Indians. The government executed thirty-eight Sioux Indians in an attempt to end the fight, but it did not end. Consequently, the government sent the soldiers to this place with the purpose of protecting the settlers. However, by that time, many of the Sioux Indians had relocated, and the fort was unnecessary. Hence, it was decommissioned after only eleven months of its existence.

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The archeologists were trying to answer the two questions below:

  • What quantity of the remains exists today?
  • How big was the fort?

Time Team Archeologists

  • Eric Deetz
  • Adrian Hannus
  • Chelsea Ross
  • Julie Schablitsky
  • Joe Watkins

Time Team Geophysicists

  • Meg Walters
  • Bryan Halley
  • Steve DiBenedeto
  • Chris Gaffney
  • Francisco Romero
  • Ken Ryerson
  • Keith Sjostrom

Time Team Excavators

  • Jeff Brown
  • Torl Cain
  • Del Campaan
  • Doyle Crume
  • Darrel Dehme
  • Bobbi Jo McIntyre
  • Larry Ness
  • Lyle Parks
  • Megan Robertson

Host Archaeologist

  • Mike Fosha
  • Richard Fox

Time Team Surveyors

  • Steve Wilkers
  • Charles Beech
  • The locals involved in the search included:
  • Tom Kilian
  • Mick Nesselm

Resources Used

Time Team geophysicists mostly use magnetometers, ground penetrating radars and the resistivity in developing ground maps. They also use mechanical diggers in digging out items from hard grounds. The radar uses a GPS system connected to computers. It helps see items that lie below the ground before the archeologists can dig them out. The magnetometer detects the magnetic strength of the soil and the materials buried in the soil. It helps detect ferrous material, burned regions, items and human settlements. The resistivity measures the hardness of the ground. It helps determine the type of tool to use in digging up the soil.

Time Team archeologists used these in excavating the remains of Fort James. The radar helped in determining the size of the fort while the resistivity helped in determining areas that required the use of a mechanical digger. The magnetometer helped in detecting buried metals such as wedges, tethers and regions that burned during the destruction of the fort.


When the archaeologist finished their excavation, they realized that the soldiers did not build the fort according to their plan. They made some changes on the plan to suit their demands. For example, the original plan required the distance between the southeastern corner and the eastern corner to be 200 feet but they built 160 feet. Therefore, the fort was very big but the soldiers had wanted to build a bigger one. The other conclusion was that the items they found at the site were more than what they had anticipated.

Obstacles During the Excavation

The archeologists had several challenges despite using sophisticated techniques in their excavation. Their main challenge was time. They always limit all their excavations to three days. In this case, they could not properly clear the entire site to see the physical outline of the fort because the third day was over before they could clear all the places. The other challenge was the natural rock around the site. It prevented their machines from detecting more items in the ground.

Preservation of the Site

The archeologist left the site and al the artifacts in the hands of Mike Fosha. They erected a stone monument and made three-dimensional magnetometer diagrams to help Mike in mapping and preserving the site. Therefore, they properly preserved the site and the artifacts. Though no much information about the preservation is available, Mike’s dedication to the study of the site is an assurance that he will preserve it.

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StudyCorgi. "Fort James' Excavation." May 7, 2021.


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