“This project is unlike other archaeological projects in that we have one goal: to find the pilot and bring him home,” said Michele Koons, curator of archaeology at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science and lead archaeologist for the mission.
From firsthand accounts, it is known that the pilot was in the cockpit when the plane crashed. Initial excavation efforts will focus on finding this area of the plane to search for the pilot’s remains, Koons said.
Accounts also indicate that the plane exploded on impact, sending debris in all directions into a farmer’s field that has been in continuous use since the crash. The team is looking for parts with serial numbers that can help determine that the plane being excavated is indeed the B-17 from the 1944 crash.
The team will build on the site survey work carried out in 2019 by conducting a more extensive metal detecting survey to define the area of the most concentrated wreckage. Once defined, the team will excavate in 4-by-4 meter blocks to recover and screen as much material as they can to search for the cockpit area and ultimately the pilot’s remains.
“This is a challenging project because no one on the team has been to the area to plan, a usual first step in any archaeological project,” Koons said. “For this project, we have had to rely on the maps and information of others and will be figuring it out as we go.”