Goodwin Partners With UConn In Archaeology Dig
Stepping onto the scene of an archaeology dig is a mystery-filled, thought-provoking experience. Traveling back centuries in time and piecing together how humans used to live is an exciting challenge for people like Nicholas Bellantoni, Connecticut State Archaeologist who works for the University of Connecticut, the Connecticut State Museum of Natural History, and the Connecticut Archaeology Center.
Bellantoni and his team of volunteers, including students, historians, preservationists, and members of the nonprofit Friends of the Office of State Archaeology, recognized the potential for uncovering early artifacts at 233 High Street, where Goodwin College purchased a piece of land on which a now-decrepit house was built years ago.
Before developing the land and tearing out the house completely, Goodwin invited Bellantoni to excavate the land, recover artifacts from the past, and take steps to reconstruct the history of the house and the people who lived in it.
“We’re interested in the anthropological aspect. We want to learn about human behavior. People threw garbage out the windows at that time. We can learn a lot about them from their garbage,” Bellantoni stated.
One-meter squares were gridded off and volunteers broke ground eagerly searching for artifacts. The squares allowed them to see the spatial distributions of all items. A tripod laser light beam shot measurements to see how deep they dug. The soil sequence is a vital factor in determining time periods.
“We are able to see through a lens to different times because of the sub-soils and historic layers of deposits. We discovered that this land was once occupied by Native Americans before the colonial times,” Bellantoni explained.
Volunteers recovered animal bones from turkey, lamb, and cattle. They found domestic ware such as bottles, blue and white pottery, and ceramics. They discovered clay marbles (predecessors to glass marbles), buttons, a bullet shell, a wooden dowel, and a slate pencil used for schoolwork. These inexpensive artifacts were typical of the post-Civil War era.
Manchester native Ruthie Brown, a member of Friends of the Office of State Archaeology and East Hartford Historical Society Gravestone Group, and Fern Strong, East Hartford native, volunteered their time to support Bellantoni.
“I was sorry to see the disintegration of the house as I passed by, and I was interested to find out what was here and learn about their economic situation,” Strong stated.
The two volunteers worked together, digging for hidden items and hypothesizing about what this family was like.
“I love being able to play in the dirt. I love to go after the mystery of it all,” Brown said.
Respecting and preserving history is the common goal of all involved in the dig. All artifacts are bagged, brought to the lab, and examined further. Goodwin will work with the University of Connecticut and the East Hartford Historical Society to determine the disposition of the unearthed items.
By: Hannah Stacy