Veterans Connect to Park through Groundbreaking Project at Saratoga Battlefield

The National Park Service (NPS) and Saratoga National Historical Park have teamed up with several organizations to bring veterans and technology together for an innovative and revolutionary archeological project. Volunteer instructors from the Advanced Metal Detecting for Archeologists (AMDA) have trained veterans from the American Veterans Archaeological Recovery (AVAR) in scientific methodology utilizing metal detectors to identify patterns and historical details in the archeological record. The park has also partnered with the American Battlefield Trust to help bring AVAR and the veterans to this project. Together, all groups are utilizing the unique skillsets of the combat veterans with the newest technologies in archeology to survey the Barber Wheatfield, a critical turning point and American victory in the Revolutionary War.

Led by NPS archeologists, the goal of the project is to verify troop locations as they are proposed on historic maps, while aiding recovery and helping modern veterans bridge the divide between military service and civilian life. Roughly 33 Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam veterans will participate under the guidance of NPS archeologists and AMDA instructors. The project utilizes a variety of innovative technologies along with traditional archeological methods, as is possible because of a special agreement between AVAR, NPS, and the Trust that ensures use of modern preservation methods. The four-week project began on May 20 and will consist of four phases; the capture and analysis of aerial LiDAR data, a metal detector survey and limited excavation, the use of other geophysical instruments, and finally the artifact cataloging and documentation.

Alongside exceptional community support, the project is partially funded by a grant from the American Battlefield Trust and will consist of two phases; first will be a metal detector survey and limited excavation, followed by artifact cataloging and documentation. Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam veterans will participate under the guidance of experts from Advanced Metal Detecting for the Archaeologist (AMDA) and NPS archaeologists — a special agreement between NPS, AVAR, and the Trust ensures use of modern preservation methods and makes the project possible.

“This project is meaningful to Saratoga National Historical Park for many different reasons,” said Amy Bracewell, superintendent of Saratoga NHP. “Our veterans bring with them extraordinary knowledge and skills that they acquired during their time in service, and we’re excited to work with their talents in order to better understand the history at Saratoga. We are thrilled to be able to support these talented individuals who are all giving their time and skill to conduct this monumental project with the park.”

“Each and every day, the American Battlefield Trust fights to protect our nation’s hallowed grounds, which stand as living monuments to the men and women of our armed services,” said Jim Lighthizer, Trust president. “This archaeological project highlights a brotherhood of service and dedication to country, connecting the heroes who most recently fought to protect our freedom to those who fought to establish it some 242 years ago. We are proud of our role, and thrilled to give back to those who have sacrificed so much.”

“The United States exists because a lot of people not so different from our AVAR participants risked everything on these fields two-and-a-half centuries ago, and we want to remind them that they’re still a part of that legacy,” said Stephen Humphreys, AVAR CEO. “AVAR works to build a sense of community for our returning veterans, and allows us to be involved in telling a story that need to be told. This important project allows us to empower veterans as they reconcile the differences between military and civilian life,” said Stephen Humphreys, AVAR Chief Executive Officer.

Veterans approach historic battlefields with a different perspective than archaeologists, reading the terrain practically through the lens of military experience — bringing an important and often lacking understanding to archaeological projects. AVAR builds a community for participants and help bridge the divide between military service and civilian life by giving veterans high-level training, a therapeutic outlet and the opportunity to participate in something larger than themselves. The Saratoga survey will let veterans see how their contributions make a difference to a mission that matters; the results of this work has the potential to change our understanding of history, a parallel to missions performed while serving.

AVAR’s work can also provide important historical insights. The project’s site, Barber Wheatfield, was host to the second battle of Saratoga and the veterans’ findings could help clarify troop locations and movement that occurred as American and British forces clashed on the battlefield. While this project is integral in the analysis of the archeological record at Saratoga, the work is also invaluable to the wellbeing of our nation’s veterans and the preservation of our history.

The Saratoga National Historical Park, AVAR, and the Trust are pleased to participate in this strong partnership, along with the support of the Wounded Warrior Project and AMDA and look forward to future results and additional projects.

About Saratoga National Historical Park

Saratoga National Historical Park is a unit of the National Park Service and was established in 1938 by Franklin Delano Roosevelt to commemorate the decisive American victory at the battles of Saratoga in 1777. Known as a critical turning point in the War for American Independence, the American victory at Saratoga became the first time in world history that the British army surrendered to the opposition. This victory also influenced France to provide support to the new nation for its independence. Visit us at

About the American Battlefield Trust

The American Battlefield Trust is dedicated to preserving America’s hallowed battlegrounds and educating the public about what happened there and why it matters today. The nonprofit, nonpartisan organization has protected more than 50,000 acres associated with the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, and Civil War. Learn more at

About the American Veterans Archaeological Recovery (AVAR)

American Veterans Archaeological Recovery (AVAR) uses archaeology projects to help veterans find a new sense of mission and purpose, build community, and learn vocational skills. AVAR has put over 60 veterans on excavations in the USA, UK, and Israel since inception, thanks to a National Geographic Education grant. Learn more at

About the Advanced Metal Detecting for the Archaeologist (AMDA)

Advanced Metal Detecting for the Archaeologist (AMDA) champions training for professional archaeologists in the use of metal detecting technology. The AMDA courses emphasize competency in archaeological investigations, suitability of the research design, and the appropriateness of the device to the task at hand. Courses also provide opportunity for instructor- monitored, hands-on, practical field experience with the newest technologies. Learn more at


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