The New Castle Historical Society announced archaeological field work has started at the site of Fort Casimir, a 17th century Dutch military fortification at Chestnut and East Second Streets in historic New Castle, with the general public is invited to visit the site and speak with the archaeological team from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sept. 28.

This project builds upon earlier efforts to find the exact location of the fort which helped establish control of the Delaware River, known as the South River in the colonial period. Fort Casimir was fought over by the Dutch, Swedes and English, with control changing hands several times until the English attacked the fort and finally retained control of the fort, the surrounding area and the river in 1664.

In summer 2019, preliminary testing was completed at the site, located near the intersection of Chestnut and East Second Streets, using ground penetrating radar and other noninvasive forms of testing. Based on the results of those tests, an excavation plan was developed to identify the fort’s palisade lines, ditches and walls, and help us understand the 17th century terrain and analyze battle actions.

“The current phase of this project is the culmination of several years of efforts that involved numerous partners including the New Castle Historical Society, the city of New Castle, the Trustees of New Castle Common, the Delaware State Historic Preservation Office, the Archaeological Society of Delaware, the National Park Service and private consultants,” said Mike Connolly, New Castle Historical Society’s interim executive director. “It’s very exciting to see the project reach this point.”

The Fort Casimir project is attracting national, and even international, attention.

“Our archaeological work fits into global studies of 17th century Dutch fortifications and settlement,” said Wade Catts, of South River Heritage Consulting. “Joining the crew is archaeologist Hans van Westing of the New Holland Foundation. He brings to our project years of study in other former Dutch colonies.”

The project is scheduled to continue through Oct. 4. Consultants for this project include South River Heritage Consulting, Dovetail Cultural Resource Group and Archae-3D LLC. Funding for the Fort Casimir Battlefield Archaeological Project is provided by a grant from the American Battlefield Protection Program of the National Park Service.

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