Fort Vancouver in 3D: Photogrammetry of Waterfront Artifacts

3D Scans by Portland State University Student, Devin C. Martin, Portland State University Student

The waterways of the Pacific Northwest have served as one of the most critical resources for westward expansion. In 1825 the Columbia River became home to the Hudson’s Bay Company’s (HBC) Fort Vancouver. As a bustling center of industry and commerce and the headquarters of the Company’s operations in the region, the HBC held a tight monopoly on the fur trade from right here in the Portland/Vancouver area. With influences spread to Russian Alaska, down to Mexican California, and out to the Rocky Mountains. The Fort Vancouver waterfront complex provided access to travel, trade, and subsistence for company operations.  They imported everything from bricks and glass to ceramics, weapons, clothing items, and more. The HBC established a salt house, cooperage, distillery, hospital, livestock sheds, and boat sheds for constructing small ships along the waterfront. Some Hudson’s Bay Company employees that worked at the waterfront site also had residences here. This virtual exhibit displays a mere fraction of artifacts collected from Fort Vancouver and is showcased in a fun 3D model viewer for you to explore.

Archaeology is not just shovels, trowels, and screens. This contemporary method of digital recording is helping archaeologists examine sites and identify and analyze artifacts across the globe. In the ever-growing world of technology, it provides an excellent opportunity for the public to be “hands-on” with archaeology from the comfort of a computer.

If the model viewer is giving you trouble, visit to view the models on SketchFab. Use the cursor to click on the object and spin, zoom, or flip them around.

All scans were taken by Devin C. Martin. Permission given through the National Park Service and Fort Vancouver National Historic Site.

Bateau Bolt

Bateau Bolt
Description: Iron Bateau Bolt
Date: This artifact dates between approx. the 1820s-1850s
Size: 3 inches / 7.62 centimeters
Context: The HBC used this Bateau Bolt to fasten the planks for a small river craft called York boats. Historical records tell us that a few York boats were constructed at the waterfront. Metal fasteners are common archaeological finds at Fort Vancouver.

York Boat (Scale Model)

York Boat
Description: A scale model of a York Boat on display at the Fort Vancouver Archaeology Lab.
Date: First Built in the 1740s. Used prominently from the 1820s-to-1920s.
Size: Typical York boats measured 12.6 meters long and could carry up to eight men and over 2,700 kilograms (5,952 pounds) of cargo.
Context: These boats used by the company were larger and sturdier than other small boats. They were preferred when transporting large quantities of goods through rocky or icy waters due to their design which is derived from the Viking longship, HBC boat builders used local and imported materials such as wood and iron (forged by the post’s blacksmith) to build these ships at various HBC Posts.

English Brick

English Brick
Description: Broken English Brick with use markings on the top and a “W” makers mark on the bottom. Fragments of coal, shells and other materials can be seen inside the brick. This is called “breeze” and strengthens the brick when fired.
Date: 1820s-1850.
Size: Complete bricks would measure approx. 9 inches long, 4 inches wide, and 2 ½ inches tall.
Context: In the early days of Fort Vancouver, English Bricks were imported by the HBC to construct fireplaces, chimneys, and even the fort Powder Magazine. They are a common architectural material found at the site.

Rodgers Small-Palm Anchor

Rodgers Small-Palm Anchor
Description: This anchor rests just outside the Visitor Center at Fort Vancouver.
Date: Design patented in 1832.
Size: Approx. 11 feet tall and 6 feet wide.
Context: Found near the Fort Vancouver wharf, the true story of this anchor is unknown but would attach to a large ship of nearly 1,000 tons. A boat this large would have struggled to pass through the shallow water of the Columbia River.

Black Transferprint Sherd

Black Transferprint Sherd
Description: Black Transferprint Earthenware with grape and floral design.
Date: 1829-1860.
Size: 3 and ½ inches
Context: This rim of an earthenware vessel likely came from a plate or some other table dishes that HBC employees would have frequently used. These and other types of ceramics were a commodity imported here via the waterfront, and are often found in the archaeological record at Fort Vancouver. They can also be brown, green, purple, red, and various shades of blue.

Medicine Bottle Shard

Medicine Bottle Shard
Description: Cobalt blue vessel glass fragment with embossed logo.
Date: 1892-1940s
Size: Fragment is about the size of a quarter.
Context: This blue glass bottle fragment comes from a poison bottle produced by The Owl Drug Company.
Example of a complete Owl Drug Co. bottle:

Fishing Net Weight

Fishing Net Weight
Description: Smooth, perforated river stone.
Date: 200-1500 CE
Size: Approx. 10 inches wide.
Context: Prior to Americans and Europeans settling in this area, Indigenous peoples operated on these lands for thousands of years uncontested, and fishing in the waters of the Columbia was a great and efficient way to gather food. This perforated net weight is an object related to their fishing practices. The rope would have passed through the hole so that it could be attached to the fishing net and act as a weight.

For more information on Fort Vancouver artifacts or the Hudson’s Bay Company:

Programs Used: – capture LiDAR and Photo Scans – open source 3D model viewing platform – open source 3D graphic editing software

Scans attributed to the National Park Service and Fort Vancouver National Historic Site
Scans by Devin C. Martin