STEUBENVILLE, Ohio (WTRF) — A project is underway that reaches back to not just the beginning of Ohio—but the country itself.

Franciscan University students are digging up the story of America’s expansion westward at Fort Steuben.

In the 1780s, Ohio’s land was given as a reward for supporters of the Revolutionary War.

Fort Steuben was built to protect the surveyors, marking the beginnings of a Buckeye State.

And for four decades, students been piecing those beginnings together through what lay under the soil.

Every summer anthropology students arrive in the morning to map, screen and excavate.

For weeks they continue every day where they left off, finding bits of glass, ceramics and even horseshoes along the way.

It isn’t just a historical dig either—After an entire month the students are ready to work at just about any other historical site.

The most interesting thing we’ve found this year I think would be a little brass button. One of the students found it here at the site this year. We think it could possibly be from an officer’s uniform at the fort.

Miriam Buck, Anthropology major, Franciscan University

The main purpose that we come down here is for students to have a chance to literally learn to do archaeology…I think we’ve convinced enough historians that they now write about Fort Steuben, as opposed to it’s just a fort that people there know about.

Professor Phil Fitzgibbons, Director of Anthropology program, Franciscan University

They want to expand their future digs down toward the Ohio River, where past settlers likely loaded items onto barges, and find other secrets of Ohio’s beginnings buried just beneath the ground.