Artifacts drawn from the ground at the Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site represent small bits of life in a community of British soldiers living alongside Native Americans decades before the American Revolution.
But jewelry and evidence of trade, games, music, food, drink and weaponry leave much to the imagination.
Schoharie Crossing is offering $25 prizes to those willing to tie their own imagination to these artifacts by writing fictional stories based on the finds unearthed in the months that followed Tropical Storm Irene.
The site’s education coordinator, Tricia Shaw, is hoping the writing contest that began Jan. 1 will spark some thought about the Colonial-era site and the role a variety of archaeological pieces may have played in the lives of those living in tenuous times along what was considered the frontier 300 years ago.
“We’re hoping what people, as well as students, get out of this is sort of a sense of how history is in your own backyard and how history can be so quickly connecting the then and now,” Shaw said.
Schoharie Crossing is displaying photos of 18 objects on its Facebook page and asking writers to pick a favorite to serve as a focal point for a short story with a local history theme and explanation how the antiquity was left behind for future discovery.
Fort Hunter is known in the history books as the place where, upon an order from British Queen Anne, Fort Hunter and Queen Anne’s Chapel was built in response to a request made by four Native American chiefs who traveled across the Atlantic Ocean in 1711 to request that a missionary be dispatched to live with them.
The chapel was razed to make way for the Erie Canal, but the 2011 flooding revealed that one of the old fort’s blockhouses was still preserved underground, as were a trove of interesting objects.
Relics of the past offered as focal points for the writing contest include pieces that evince trade routes extending hundreds of miles, such as beads made of catlinite — a stone found in the Wisconsin/Minnesota area — and cowrie shells from the Chesapeake Bay.
Jewelry includes a piece of silver shaped into a triangle, likely used to adorn a nose ring by the Native Americans, and a ring set with blue and green glass pieces.
Evidence of implements or weapons includes a musket ball — standard for the 1700s — and a knife blade made in the French style of the day.
A piece of a wine bottle, mangled by fire, and a pottery fragment shaped into a circle that may have served as a game piece for checkers are among other items featured in the writing contest.
With archaeological digging having ceased for the winter, Shaw said now is an ideal time to reflect on what’s been discovered so far.
Archaeology is expected to resume in the spring, and signs are being developed to help interpret the new finds at the state’s historic site.
“We’re hoping to keep the momentum going,” Shaw said.
The writing contest is open to students and adults, and short stories should be no longer than six double-spaced, typed pages. The deadline is Feb. 28, and winners will be announced in mid-March.
Questions can be addressed to Shaw at the Schoharie Crossing Visitor Center at 829-7516. Entries can be sent via email to Tricia.Shaw@parks.ny.gov or by regular mail to Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site, PO Box 140, Fort Hunter, NY 12069, Attn: Tricia Shaw.
Photos of the artifacts can be viewed by searching Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site on Facebook.