Plymouth, N.H. –A trowel deftly scrapes across a patch of dirt with a smooth repetition of motion, as layers of soil are carefully brushed away within the one-meter wide square cut into a lawn. Suddenly, it strikes something metallic. Slowly, a rusted piece of metal is gently lifted from the spot, unseen for more than 100 years. PSU junior Stephanie Treadwell, an Anthropology major from Washington, N.H., holds an eight-inch long cultivator tine in her hand, marveling at the find.
“It’s pretty cool to realize that the last time someone touched this was more than 100 years ago; I love doing this,” Treadwell said.
Treadwell and nearly 30 of her classmates in Professor David Starbuck’s Intro to Archaeology class are getting a first-hand look at what lies beneath the lawn of one of the oldest buildings on campus, Holmes House, which was built in the mid-1800s. Starbuck, a veteran archaeologist and renowned expert on pre-Revolutionary War military sites in upstate New York, wanted to provide students easy access to an archaeological dig without travelling far from campus.
“We can walk out the side door of our classroom building and walk 150 feet and start digging,” noted Starbuck. “That’s an important principle, we want students to learn what archaeology is like and get that experience. Not too many schools can do that.”
Holmes House pre-dates any of Plymouth State University’s academic predecessors by nearly three decades, and the grounds are a prime spot for unearthing artifacts of life before any modern conveniences.
“We’re digging on the east side of Holmes House, which has always been the backyard of the home and adjacent barn,” said Starbuck. “Right behind the rear doors of dwellings is where you find the most artifacts. There are nails from the house, pieces of pottery, buttons and buckles, tobacco pipes, pieces of butchered bone. For the folks who lived in the Holmes House in the 19thcentury, their lives are reflected all through their backyard in their trash, and the students are helping tell that story.”
“I had no idea that there are things like this on our campus; It’s really interesting to think what it was like before there was a campus here,” said Sandra Johnson, a sophomore from Brookline, N.H. who is participating in the dig as a volunteer.
The artifacts are collected and stored in a laboratory in Rounds Hall, and Starbuck is hopeful the items can eventually be catalogued and displayed to the public. He and his students will continue the Holmes House archaeological dig until cold weather forces them to stop.
For more information about this release, contact Bruce Lyndes, PSU Media Relations Mgr., (603) 535-2775