|Archeological dig to explore Second Meetinghouse site|
|Friday, 22 August 2008 07:47|
It will be all hands on deck during the Duxbury Rural and Historical Society's archeological dig at the Second Meetinghouse site this October, as volunteers from the community will assist in the digging, scraping and sorting of historic artifacts.
The society is sponsoring the project, which will involve excavating a patch of land on Chestnut Street by the Standish Cemetery that is believed to be the site of Duxbury's second meetinghouse. The dig will take place over two weeks from Oct. 6-18.
â€œThis is a very exciting project,â€ said Patrick Browne, president of the society. â€œWe've got a big list of people who have signed up.â€
Residents interested in participating in the dig must attend a training session on Sept. 27, at 1 p.m. in the Drew Archival Library in the Wright Building.
Browne is excited for the prospect of discovering more about the meetinghouse.
â€œIt was the most important building in Duxbury in its day,â€ he said. â€œBack then, the meetinghouse was everything. It was the church, the court, the town hall.â€
Residents got a taste of what to expect during the dig during a lecture at the King Caesar House on Thursday morning. Craig Chartier, director of the Plymouth Archeology Rediscovery Project, spoke on his background, the planned dig and archeology in general.
Chartier said he has been trying to organize a dig in Duxbury for years. As a specialist in the former Plymouth colony, he noted many of the historical sites in Plymouth itself have been built over or otherwise disturbed. In more rural areas like Duxbury, the original sites have been better preserved.
â€œPlaces like Duxbury, where those original Pilgrims moved out to, are important because those sites have survived,â€ he said.
Archeology is about taking things and putting them in context, according to Chartier.
â€œWe deal with trash,â€ he said. â€œThings get broken, houses burn down. We take that trash and try to say something about the people that created it,â€
The type of archeology people see in movies like Indiana Jones isn't what really goes on he said â€“â€“ although he admitted Jones's trademark fedora would be useful for protection against the sun.
â€œYou never see Indiana Jones screening stuff,â€ he said.
Instead, archeology is a painstaking process of carefully digging, cataloging and recording.
â€œAs soon as we dig, we destroy the record that's there, so it's important to take notes.â€
Chartier believes the Chestnut Street site is good for a dig, as there are no trees and the land is flat. The land has also been owned by the town as far back as anyone can remember, so there is little chance the soil was plowed or otherwise disturbed.
â€œIt should have good integrity,â€ he said.
The process for the dig will start with ground-penetrating radar, which can tell the dig team where soil has been disturbed. Specifically, Chartier will be looking for evidence of the meetinghouse's foundation.
â€œThey dug a trench to set the stones in, hopefully we'll have evidence of that trench,â€ he said.
Once the radar survey has been done, trenches will be dug across the site. After that, test pits about 1 1/2 feet in length will be dug on a grid. If the team thinks they've found something in a test pit, a larger â€œexcavation unitâ€ will be created, said Chartier.
â€œIt just keeps going down until we stop finding stuff,â€ he said. â€œIt's like looking through the window of a building.â€
Chartier will be looking for 17th century artifacts as well as Native American artifacts. He said the site overlaps with a known Native American site, where things like shells and a spear tip have been found.
He said they may find nails, which can help them date the site and discover how the building was dismantled and moved, as well as lead from windows. He also wants to determine if the site is the location of the first or second meetinghouse, as that isn't completely clear.
â€œIt's all about traveling back in time, basically,â€ he said. â€œIt gives you an idea of how people were living, or trying to make a living.â€
It's those questions, Chartier said, that make digs like this exciting.
â€œThe really great thing about this project, and archeology in general, is that you don't know what's out there,â€ he said.