Friday, July 22, 2011

Some Interesting Finds from the Privy

Over the past week the volunteers and I washed artifacts that were excavated from the privy units. So far we have found a bell, a giant marble, and part of a female figurine mixed in with countless pieces of metal, wood, glass, and bone.

Hopefully we will find some more surprising artifacts as we wrap up washing the artifacts!

Rachel Passannante

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Beginnings of Lab Work

Now that the excavations are closed at the Chase House,Sheila and the volunteers are focusing on all of the artifacts that have been collected over the last 4 years. Much of this work includes washing and drying the artifacts, separating the artifacts by material and style, assigning catalog numbers, and transferring those numbers onto reconstruct able vessels and artifacts.

Two artifacts are in the process of being reassembled to be placed in an exhibition in one of the hotels here in Portsmouth. The chamber pot lid (left) is mostly assembled and the flower pot (right) is also close to completion (although it doesn't look like it from the picture!).

Rachel Passannante

Monday, July 11, 2011

Great End to the Chase Excavations

Last Friday was the wrap up day of the Chase House Excavation. Sheila felt that, over the past four years, she was able to answer the questions she was looking for during the excavation. We were able to locate the privy and, although hindered by the water table, were able to dig quite extensively below the water table. We were also able to roughly outline the foundation of the barn that the privy was located in. Thursday and Friday were the wrap up days where we started to fill in the unit.  Now there are hundreds of artifacts that have been uncovered over the past two weeks and are waiting to be washed, cataloged, and examined.

Thanks to all of those who came out to help with the excavation!


Sunday, July 3, 2011

End of Week One

Last week was the end of our first week of excavations at the Chase House. We have found many more artifacts to add to our already huge collection. This includes one unit where four bags of artifacts were taken out of one level alone! The kitchen-ell unit was wrapped up on Friday when it was determined that there were no more artifacts to be recovered. We will be digging on the fourth of July, so anyone who plans to visit Strawbery Banke can come by and see us in action!


Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Chase House Excavation, Day Three

All of our diggers are doing great.  We continue to find broken bits of ceramics, glass, and animal bones.  We have also located several pieces of buried metal, which might turn out to be some interesting artifacts once they are better exposed.  Yesterday in the kitchen-ell unit Lauren, one of our field school participants, discovered a curved metal flower and Rebecca, another field school participant, continued to discover more parts to two tea cups in her unit.

We are still having a problem with flooded units, most likely due to the high water table.  We were able to pump some of the water out in hopes to see the bottom of the privy, but we could not keep up with the water.  Hopefully in a couple of days the water table will drop and we can get to the bottom of the privy.
Allen, one of Sheila’s volunteers, has been putting artifact information into a computer database.  Yesterday he reported that the Chase House excavations for 2008 and 2009 have uncovered over 20,000 artifacts and that he still has many artifacts to catalog!  It will be exciting to find out exactly how many artifacts were recovered from the Chase House once the dig wraps up. 

Monday, June 27, 2011

Great First Day at the Chase House

We had a great kick off of the field school today. Everyone arrived on time and ready to go; we got the hay bales out of the units (thanks to several brave diggers), pumped out most of the water that, unfortunatley, flooded several units over the weekend, and straightened out the unit lines.  We managed to get some digging done after cleaning the units of leaves, slugs, and dirt, and have already found some interesting artifacts.  One unit found an almost whole tabacco pipe, another found a shattered tea cup, and there are many animal bones in several units.  One unit is completely flooding with at least 6 inches of water.  Hopefully by tomorrow the water table will have lessened.

Tomorrow we hope for more great weather and another productive day!   

Friday, June 24, 2011

Remote Sensing at Strawbery Banke

The Strawbery Banke Archaeology Department is working with Dr. Peter Sablock and Dr. Jeanette Sablock of Salem State University who are leading a Geological Science class in conducting geophysical surveys (including ground penetrating radar). Beginning in May 2011, the students focused on the grounds of Puddle Dock. They ran transect lines and used equipment, some of which looked a little like push lawn mowers, traveling along Puddle Dock at regular established intervals. This operation is intended to be the first of several remote sensing surveys conducted at Strawbery Banke Museum over the next few years. Two other sites to be investigated in the future are the grounds of the Yeaton Walsh House and the grounds of the former Pecunis House, where a mikvah or Jewish ritual bath was located and used in the early 20th century.
We look forward to learning the results of their research!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Less Than a Week Till the Dig!

Sheila and I are excited to finally have field school right around the corner! We are busy getting everything ready; making addenda’s, getting field kits together, sharpening tools, and finding all the paperwork we will need. We have also checked out the units and are happy to say they have survived the winter pretty well, no major wall collapses or flooding. Those joining us for the dig should have received an email from Sheila with an attachment about the start of the dig and where we will be meeting on Monday.
We hope you have a great rest of the week and will see some of you on Monday!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Welcome Rachel Passannante, 2011 Intern

We are happy to welcome Rachel Passannante who will be our archaeology/collections intern for the Summer of 2011. Rachel is a senior at SUNY Potsdam majoring in Archaeology. Along with helping with our dig at Chase House she will be working on keeping the blog updates, so stay tuned for future updates!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

NH Project Archaeology announces workshop

Project Archaeology is a comprehensive archaeology and heritage education program for everyone interested in learning or teaching about our nation’s rich cultural legacy and protecting it for future generations to learn from and enjoy. Project Archaeology includes publications, professional development for educators, networking opportunities, and continuing support for participants Using an innovative hands-on approach to history, Project Archaeology teaches scientific inquiry, citizenship, personal ethics and character, and cultural understanding.

The new NH Coordinators for Project Archaeology are Strawbery Banke's own Sheila Charles and Tanya Krajcik, the Records Coordinator of the NH Division of Historical Resources.

Project Archaeology's mission is to foster an "understanding of past and present cultures; improve social studies and science education; and enhance citizenship education to help preserve our archaeological legacy" (

This year, Project Archaeology will include one teacher workshop. The workshop will be held April 1, 2011 at the Nashua Historical Society from 9am to 4pm and is designed for teachers of 3rd-8th grade. Each participant will receive a copy of Intrigue of the Past: A Teacher's Activity Guide for Fourth Through Seventh Grades that includes 28 lesson plans, presentation by NH State Archaeologist Richard Boisvert, hands-on guidance through lessons including the process of archaeology and issues in preserving history, instruction in experimental techniques, information about New Hampshire's unique archaeological record, and many hands-on activities and classroom materials.

The cost of the workshop is $36, which includes the class book, Intrigues of the Past, a light breakfast and a catered lunch. All attendees must pre-register by March 15, 2011, and space is limited.

For information on registration and more program details, please visit the NH Project Archaeology Page. The program also has it's own NH Project Archaeology Blog.

Results from intern Ben Curran

Intern Ben Curran scanned and rectified historic and archaeological maps of the Puddle Dock neighborhood that depict landscape changes over time. These maps will now be availablefor state management and research.

Curran also conducted a Ground Penetrating Radar survey to create GIS maps to identify archaeologically sensitive areas around the Chase House, Hough House, Marshall Pottery, and Puddle Dock. The scans of a filled in foundation near the Marshall Pottery site may have revealed the location of a Jewish ceremonial Mikvah bath. The scans of Puddle Dock are being analyzed to determine the potential affects of tidal change of the water table.

2010 Archaeoparasitologist Field School Results

Archaeoparasitologist Diana Gallagher, Boston University PhD candidate, retrieved soil samples during the 2010 field school for parasite analysis of the privy to assess diet, health and hygiene. Gallagher indicated while samples have been run twice, no evidence of parasites or seeds have been identified! Gallagher concludes the Chase House privy may be an example of a 19th century privy that was appropriately cleaned according to legal dictated standards. In addition, the lack of night soil may be due to heavy rains and the rising and falling of the Puddle Dock water table, essentially flushing away the organic material. However, other sites at Strawbery Banke and in other locations (e.g., Ferryland privy in Newfoundland on the seawall) have contained seeds and comparative research indicates night soil is often concentrated at the base of the privy pit. Further excavation is required to reach the base of the Chase House privy.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Charles presents Chase House at Great Bay Discovery Center

On Wednesday January 19th at noon (snow date will be the 21st), the Great Bay Discovery Center is hosting a Brown Bag Lunch Lecture with Strawbery Banke Museum’s Staff Archaeologist, Sheila Charles as speaker. Her talk will focus on the latest excavations of the outlying buildings on the site of the Chase House. The house constructed ca. 1762 was the first restored structure at the Strawbery Banke Museum and was the home of merchant Stephen Chase and his family for most of the 19th century. The dig has been conducted over the past three summers with many artifacts and archaeological discoveries made that will be used for public education and interpretation.

The program will be held in the Hugh Gregg Coastal Conservation Center and is free with no registration required. Drinks and dessert will be available so bring a lunch and join us for this lecture. For more information on this event or other programs, please call the Center at 603-778-0015. The Center is located at 89 Depot Road on the Greenland/Stratham town line just off Route 33. It is the educational facility for the Great Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve and is funded by NOAA and administered by NH Fish and Game Department.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Welcome Samatha Hall, UNH Durham

Welcome to Samantha Hall, UNH Durham graduate student who will be joining the Archaeology and Collections Department this spring. She will be conducting research on ceramics recovered from the Chase House site and comparative study materials from the Ceramic Collection at Strawbery Banke. Sam will also be updating the blog, so stay tuned for new entries after January 25th.