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battlefield study

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Daniel Elliott searches for artifacts near Patriots Rock. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Archaeologists, historians and volunteers were hoping to dig up a piece of Revolutionary War history last week in Setauket.

A brass piece found near Patriots Rock that the Lamar Institute is hoping someone can identify. Photo from The Lamar Institute

Researchers with the Lamar Institute, a Georgia-based nonprofit that conducts archaeological research to advance public awareness, used ground-penetrating radar, systematic controlled metal detection survey, small excavations of key targets, laser transit mapping and laboratory analysis.

The team studied the Patriots Rock tract across from Frank Melville Memorial Park, Setauket Presbyterian Church property, the Village Green and areas of Caroline Church of Brookhaven in the hopes of finding evidence of the Battle of Setauket and the fort that once existed in the area.

The researchers hoped to discover artifacts, such as iron musket balls and jacket buttons that could tell a lot more about who was shooting at whom and in what direction, and parts of the fort that once stood there, according to Long Island historian David Griffin.

After the research in Setauket, Daniel Elliott, president of the Lamar Institute, said in an email a puzzling find located near Patriots Rock in Setauket is an early brass piece that he believes may be military in nature.

“We have not yet identified it,” Elliott said. “It may be a decoration on a cartridge box, but the jury is still out on that.”

Elliott said he is hoping readers of The Village Times Herald will have an opinion on its identification. He added that the team has not found any bullets, grapeshot or cannonballs from the battle.

The researchers had been at Fort Slongo in Fort Salonga the week before where they found a musket ball, and this week they are working at the location of Fort Hamilton in Huntington. During their visit to Setauket, Elliott approached Ted Gutmann, Emma S. Clark Memorial Library director, about the Lamar Institute conducting a study on library grounds. According to Lisa DeVerna of the library’s public relations and community engagement department, the search for information on the Battle of Setauket will commence on the library property in May.

“We have such a rich history right here in Three Village, and the library is thrilled to help delve deeper into it so that the community may continue to learn more about our past,” DeVerna said. “It will be exciting to learn what the Lamar Institute uncovers.”

A musketball found in Fort Salonga. Photo from Lamar Institute

Archaeologists from the Lamar Institute began a month-long search April 15 for local artifacts from the Revolutionary War. Their investigation covers three known battlefields in Fort Salonga, Setauket and Lloyd’s Neck and has so far turned up a musket ball.

Daniel Elliott, an archeologist from the Lamar Institute, uses ground-penetrating radar to see under the earth at Fort Slongo. Photo Lamar Institute

“All three battlefields are poorly understood in history,” said Daniel Elliott, president of the Lamar Institute. “This project seeks to locate and delineate the three battlefields and to interpret their findings, advancing our understanding of Long Island’s important role in the American Revolution.”

Their “dig” includes extensive research with ground-penetrating radar, systematic controlled metal detection survey, small excavations of key targets, laser transit mapping, drone-assisted aerial videography, laboratory analysis and public presentations.

The work is funded by a $60,000 grant from the National Park Services’ American Battlefield Protection Program and a $5,200 contribution from the Lamar Institute.

Local historian David M. Griffin, author of “Lost British Forts of Long Island,” is a major project collaborator.

The Lamar Institute is a nonprofit organization established in 1982 with the mission to conduct archaeological research and advance public archaeological education.

Barbara Russell, Town of Brookhaven historian, was involved in coordinating access to the Setauket site.

“This is quite exciting to have respected and qualified researchers from the Lamar Institute in and around our [Setauket] Green.”

The research team will be exploring the Lloyd Neck’s Fort Franklin April 29.

The public can see the resulting interpretations when completed by September 2020 on the Lamar Institute’s website at www.thelamarinstitute.org.