AUGUSTA — A crew of archaeologists and other diggers armed with shovels, trowels, dustpans and clipboards is taking advantage of the replacement of palisades at Old Fort Western to try to find the fort’s old privy and other clues to the historic property’s story.

The privy – an outside toilet area – could be a treasure trove of artifacts discarded and relatively well-preserved in their otherwise unglamorous landing spot.

And they’re not just looking for the privy, but also for anything hiding underground that can help them better understand what the original fort was like. Linda Novak, director and curator of the fort, said they’d be thrilled if they were to find it or the trash pit. Both could provide better clues about fort life than the smaller pieces found previously at the site.

Most of the artifacts found over the years at Old Fort Western are “sheet scatter,” left from discarded items being thrown on the ground, where they were walked on and broken up to the point the items can’t be reassembled.

“Once something is discarded, if it’s left alone, you can put it back together,” Novak said. “Once it’s walked on, you’ll never get it back together.”

Novak said privies, trash pits and wells are good finds at historical sites because they were often – once their original purpose was discontinued – filled in with trash or whatever else people wanted to get rid of.

So far, neither the privy nor many artifacts have shown up in the dig, which has been underway for about two weeks. They have found the location of the original palisades of the 1754 fort, which were about a couple of feet inside of where the most recent palisades, installed in 1988, was located. Palisades are fences made of wooden stakes.

Lee Cranmer, a former Maine Historic Preservation Commission archaeologist from Somerville in charge of the dig underway at Old Fort Western, said they started looking for signs of the old palisade posts where the more recent posts were installed in 1988, expecting to find them in the same spot. Instead, the ones dug up so far on the Kennebec River side of the fort were a couple of feet inside the newer wall.

“Either they intentionally missed it, or they measured wrong,” said Cranmer, who has dug extensively at Fort Halifax in Winslow, which was supplied by the fort in Augusta. Both forts were established for the purpose of defending the land claimed by the English along the Kennebec River valley from possible attack by the French and their Native American allies.

The palisades at Old Fort Western are being removed because they are rotten – some of them so much they were tied together to keep from falling over.

They’ll be replaced with similar cedar post palisades. Novak said some aspects of the fort will change when the new walls are put in place, to try to more accurately reflect how they think the fort was built originally.

The existing Cony Street side main gate will be altered but will continue to be the main visitors’ entrance at the city-owned fort.