News

Summer Archaeology Course in Homestead, MA To Be Offered by 2007 Summer Session Program

From June 26 to August 1, Summer Session will offer a new course entitled “Introduction to Archaeology.” Students will excavate the land around the Rebecca Nurse Homestead in Danvers, Massachusetts, approximately 30 minutes away from Phillips Academy. In the 17th century, people knew Danvers, MA as the Salem village, the infamous town of the Salem witch trials that took place over 300 years ago. The Rebecca Nurse Homestead formerly housed Rebecca Nurse, who was hanged on July 19, 1672 at the age of 71 for witchcraft because a girl claimed that she was the cause of her bewitching. Currently, the Danvers Alarm List Company serves partly as preservers of the homestead as re-enactors of the 18th century militia, essentially alarm companies of the area. According the Director of the Peabody Museum Malinda Blustain, the Danvers Alarm List Company is “careful to maintain the rural, old feel of the place.” “The homestead is a very nice place,” she said, “Except for the hum of traffic, you would think you were out in the country.” Students will work four days a week for five weeks digging in the homestead site, fairly untouched as no previous digging had been done except for the field test carried out the previous summer. The course not only involves learning to dig but also learning to process, catalogue, and organize discoveries, procedures that college and graduate students would be learning. Students will also analyze their findings in order to find some insight into the lives of the people that lived at the site of homestead during prehistoric and colonial times. “If we’re lucky enough to get any really ancient material, then we can date that through radio carbon dating,” said the Assistant Collections Manager of the Peabody Museum Donald Slater. “We have not run a program like this before. But we have been able to secure the expertise of Nathan Hamilton, an expert in the field of archaeology and a veteran of this type of field school,” said the Director of Summer Session Paul Murphy. Nathan Hamilton, Associate Professor of Archeology at the University of Southern Maine, will be teaching the course this coming June. During the previous summer, he and some of his graduate students, along with Phillips Academy students Wesley Hartwell ’07, Lillian Stein ’07, Diana Wilson ’07, Matt Schubert ’07, Evan DelGaudio ’08, Anabel Bacon ’09 and two alumni, conducted field tests at the site, working together to locate good excavation sites in preparation for the course. They dug in the front yard of the house, where they discovered colonial artifacts, dating from the late 1600’s, and prehistoric artifacts from around 800 A.D. “We got to dig test pits, which are meter by meter squares of dirt, in different areas around the site,” said Hartwell. “One of the coolest things was a 17th century ceramic shard.” In addition to the discovery of the ceramic shard, the students unearthed forged nails, fragments of pipes, shoe buckles, and other European merchandise from the colonial time period. They found flakes, grindstone fragments and fire stains dating back to the prehistoric times as well. “The main focus is a unique hands-on experience where students will actually be uncovering, for the first time, artifacts from 300 years ago and more,” said Mr. Murphy. He continued, “This is a course which will likely have a life of its own. Not knowing what is buried there makes it difficult to have expectations. So I expect the unexpected!” “It’ll be a professional experience for them. It’ll give the participants a taste of what the real thing is. I would have loved to have done it in high school,” said Mrs. Blustain. According to Mrs. Blustain, the course will also receive media attention, as “Nova,” a PBS science series, will document the excavation and the students’ work at the site.