Monday, August 14, 2017

Summer 2017 Wrap-Up

This past week marked the end of my internship at Strawbery Banke as well as the summer excavation at Penhallow House. I've been here for 11 weeks and enjoyed every moment with all the collection resources, educational experiences, field work, and summer opportunities in Portsmouth.
I also stayed at Hough House on the museum grounds, which enabled me to explore the city and neighboring towns like New Castle and Kittery, Maine.
Hough House
I tried to take advantage of my time here to learn about Portsmouth's ever-changing, dynamic history. This included the historic house tours, haunted tours given by New England Curiosities, and various
archaeology lectures in the area. Along with my internship experience, these extra activities provided me with a richer sense of the area we were excavating in.
Waterfront view of the Piscataqua River.
Mary Poppins in Prescott Park.

My dog even got to visit the dig site and Hough House!
The excavation near the Penhallow House yielded some interesting results and speculations by Alix and me. The cobblestone feature that was uncovered last year along Penhallow's northern foundation was found to extend to the east, made up of larger stones closer to the Red Shed. There is also a notable brick feature in the eastern units of our excavation block that we believe to be either a path to a former outbuilding, or perhaps the foundation for said outbuilding. Based on an 1878 Sanborn map and the number of agricultural artifacts found in the northern units, we believe the outbuilding was built as a shed that straddled the property line between Penhallow House and the neighboring house. As for the cobblestones themselves, we theorize that they may still be the fill for when part of Puddle Dock was filled in the late 1700s. After inviting the Portsmouth Public Works Department and consulting with other archaeologists, this assumption is the strongest- especially since the feature continues from the site excavated in 2016. Once further research is done, artifacts are catalogued, and maps are reviewed, a final analysis can be performed. 

Here is a "before and after" view of our site this year. Last week, David Murray of Clear Eye Photo visited with his drone and took overhead shots of the site, which provide a perfect view of the cobblestone and brick feature.
Penhallow House and the Red Shed. (Can you spot Alix, David and me?)
After the field school ended, Alix and I continued to excavate in the northern units and found various bottles, agricultural equipment, buttons, leather, doll fragments, rusted metal, marbles, ceramic and English flint. During my last week we chose to dig under the cobblestones in order to find the sterile layer or marine clay layer that signified the beginning of human activity at Puddle Dock. Although we didn't have enough time to reach a sterile layer, we dug until a grey marine clay layer was uncovered - almost 4 feet under the ground! By the end of the week, we were crouched down in the small hole where it was very difficult to see our heads from the top.

Excavated 1m x 50cm unit; 18th Century layer with English flint. 
This year's dig was a great learning experience for everyone involved, and I was lucky to have such a great city and team along the way.

Highlighted Artifacts:
Over 13 boxes with thousands of artifacts were uncovered from the site, but I chose to highlight these select few because they were uncovered in the past couple of weeks.
Porcelain doll hand from the 19th Century.

Chesebrough c.1887 Vaseline jar: Mouth-blown with a tooled lip. Trademarked in 1878 by New Jersey native Robert Chesebrough. 
Drawer pull from the 19th Century layer. 

Pharmaceutical bottle from the late 1800's. Lettering reads "Bristol Drug Co. Prescription Druggists. XXX and Donahue Apothecary." Only online source noted a Bristol Drug Company in Connecticut closing in 1922. Could be related to the Connecticut-based Bristol-Myers Squibb pharmaceutical company that merged in the 1930's.

Bones found in the 19th Century layer belong to mammals. Top - rib bone. Middle (from left to right)-  Lumbar vertebrae, scapula, thoracic vertebrae, and illium (below). Bottom- cranium fragment, unidentified bone, mandible.

Indian Head penny from 1889. 

Small doll torso found in the 18th Century layer. 

Blade found in 19th Century layer. We believe this is an agricultural blade based on surrounding agricultural artifacts and the lack of a hilt.

Shovel head found in the 19th Century layer.

Monday, July 17, 2017

So You Think You Can be an Archaeologist? (Camp Edition!)

 Archaeology Camp at Strawbery Banke
The museum hosted an archaeology camp this past week for ages 10-13 that taught the young students the importance and methodology processes involved in the discipline. After learning the meaning of culture and what kind of archaeology happens here (historical archaeology!), they simulated the archaeological process involved with interpreting a historic house or family. Using the Rider-Wood House as a model, they did preliminary research, a mock excavation, washing, and mending of artifacts. After this was completed, they were able to set up a mini exhibit with their artifacts to highlight the history of Mary Rider and her relatives.
Looking at the SBM collection documents about Mary Rider

Mock excavation behind the Rider-Wood House
Washing real artifacts from the Penhallow House excavation

Learning about burial typology at the Point of Graves

Aside from archaeological techniques, the campers learned the importance of group collaboration and artifact preservation that is essential for museums like Strawbery Banke.

This camp runs every 3 years, so it was a pleasure for the collections department to teach children about archaeology's role in preserving the past by providing alternative or extra information to historic documents.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Field School Session 2

We have just finished our third week of field school here at Strawbery Banke! Three new students joined us as some of the other students left.  As we dig deeper we have begun to encounter layers from the 19th century. Pennies from 1879 and 1889, along with jars from various 19th dates indicate the time period we have been working in.
Our most notable finds include a cobblestone feature and unidentified brick feature. Several theories about the cobblestone feature include:
  • It was used to fill the tidal inlet that was once the center of the Puddle Dock neighborhood.
  • It was a spillway - a passage for water to travel. This would have been important when the inlet was filled and extra water needed to be drained.
We don’t think it was a cobblestone road because of how uneven and large the stones are, which would make it very difficult for foot traffic or carriages. As for the brick feature - we hope to uncover more features and artifacts that indicate its use in the past.

Mapping the brick feature

Meet our New Field School students!
Kristen: This is Kristen’s second time to Strawbery Banke for the Penhallow House dig. She is incredibly passionate about archaeology and  has been since she was a girl. She recently graduated with an MA in history, and she will be starting UCONN's PhD program in history this fall. Archaeology is important to her because she  loves incorporating archaeological research into historical research, and finding the mysteries of the past in material form!

Jessica: Jess’ interest in the Strawbery Banke Archaeological Field School stems from her curiosity in art history, and the process of an archaeological dig itself. “As a high school student I feel that I haven't been exposed to archaeology as much as I'd like to be. I am involved with this program so that I can get a better idea of what path I'd like to take as I ready myself for college. My favorite part of the field school so far is the digging, it's so entertaining to see what we'll uncover- whether it be animal bone fragments or small glass medicine bottles. The field school has taught me so much that I didn't know before, and immensely developed my interest in archaeology. I'm grateful to have had the opportunity to take part in this program and am already planning my return for next year.”

Caroline: Caroline  is a rising junior at the University of New Hampshire majoring in anthropology and will be starting a  minor in forensics this coming fall. She is originally from Massachusetts, close to Boston. Caroline has  always loved watching documentaries on ancient cultures ever since childhood and has always loved the way that cultures evolved. She participated in the Belize January term program at UNH this past year where she learned how to excavate, survey, and map sites of Maya mounds. “Being a part of the SBM summer field school is allowing me to get experience and to hone my skills for the future, and provides me with the great opportunity to learn more about the local history right by my school.”

Jess and a glass bottle found last week

Kristen and the 1879 penny

Caroline and a glass bottle from last week
Stay tuned this week for special blog posts from field students and updates from our last week!

Monday, June 12, 2017

What Are These Artifacts, and Why Are They Here?

Week 2: As we continue to dig through layers, the students have come across peculiar artifacts that wouldn’t normally be identified by any passerby. For example, slag or bone fragments that oftentimes look like rocks or wood. They are actually very important artifacts for archaeologists because they can give insights into past behaviour or even the previous purpose of the site.

Bone Fragments

But- why are they here?! The bone fragments can be identified as culinary animals such as a chicken, cow, pig or sheep/goat. These indicate the diets of previous Strawbery Banke residents and where they could be discarding their food. As food acquisition and diet changes with different cultures, these fragments can produce more information than you would think! Slag indicates iron metallurgy, but we wanted to know more details about the process behind it and why it could have ended up here.
Slag is defined as the glass-like product left over after the desired metal has been melted by smelting from its raw ore. Slag contains many different elemental metals, as the initial metal product is rarely ever in a pure form. They are often connected to iron forges, and have a deeper history that goes back to 900 BC in Turkey! Initially funded by England, the colonies used iron forges to produce many products such as pots, pans, musket barrels, and other households products. Since slag is a by-product of these smelting forges, its disposal location wouldn’t be too far from the forge sites.
So what does this indicate for our site near the Penhallow house? Since Puddle Dock was once a junkyard, it could be indiscernible trash. As it is often used for construction purposes, the slag could also be left over from various projects.

Whatever our artifact's purposes were, knowing the process and history behind them can prove to be very important information for both research and the public!


Sunday, June 11, 2017

First Week of Field School

Monday marked our first day of field school! Although it was a dismal June day, we still managed to get out  to introduce the students to basic excavation techniques. Digging through (many) roots and topsoil was a great start for the school and the 8 students that will be participating for the next two weeks.
As Tuesday was too wet to excavate, the students spent their time washing artifacts from last year and learning about Penhallow’s architectural history with John Schnitzler, the museum’s restoration carpenter.
Students washing  artifacts
The upstairs parlor of Penhallow
Wallpaper from the upstairs saltbox addition in Penhallow
Thursday and Friday- Digging continued due to the agreeable weather, and the students almost reached the end of the topsoil layer. Once this layer is completed we can begin on dating artifacts before the 21st century.
Alix Martin speaking to a field trip group about the excavation.

Students using both a trowel and shovel-shaving technique

Meet our field school students!
Jenny Nathans: I work full-time at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. I majored in psychology and sociology at Brandeis University and received my Masters in Social Work at Boston University. I have volunteered on a few digs in Boston and am interested in learning more about archaeology. I am fascinated by the idea that just under my feet there could be evidence of how previous generations of people lived. It's the closest thing we can do to time travel! 
W. Huston Chabot: I am a Brandeis University student and have always been interested in history and would like to have history as my major. For all of my summers I have lived on the Seacoast and visited all of the historical houses including the Strawbery Banke Musuem. I feel privileged to attend archaeology field school and witness history at its earliest beginnings in colonial life. Archaeology field school allows me to further my interest in history as I unearth artifacts from years ago.
Nicholas Day: I am a sophomore at Spaulding High school. I play football, track and am captain of the varsity soccer team. My hobbies are fishing, hiking, cooking, coaching, volunteer work and reading. I took this field school because colleges like to see some field work already completed.
Callie Pray: I attend the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, and I'm currently pursuing a dual degree in archaeology and history. I'm a committee member of the Archaeology Society there as well as a public outreach volunteer society. I'm visiting home for the summer, and while it is required of me to conduct a minimum of 3 weeks of fieldwork during the summer for my studies, I'm looking forward to being part of this team in June. I've already done archaeological and historical work in my hometown of Exeter, and I'm very excited to further educate myself on field techniques and the history of the area where I grew up. 
Anastasia Guerrero: I am going to be a senior at Hood College in Frederick, I'm majoring in archaeology and history. I fell in love with archaeology because of the stories the artifacts can tell about cultures. A fun fact about me is that although I'm technically studying classical archaeology, I'm working on an honors thesis focusing on the Andes. 
Riley Kenney: I am currently studying at the University of New Hampshire with a major in Anthropology and a minor in Business Administration. In the past semester I have switched my major from English to Anthropology after discovering the practice through an introductory Anthropology class last year. I am very interested in applied anthropology as well as cultural anthropology. I am hoping to experience what real archaeological work is like in the field school and gain some hands on experience.
Rebecca Marisseau: I am a graduate student in history at Brown University. I am interested in archaeology because it helps us preserve the history that was not written down. This will be my second time participating in the Archaeology Field School at Strawbery Banke. During my first field school, I helped excavate the Chase House site. My time at Strawbery Banke inspired me to pursue a career as an historian of early American material culture. I am excited to be back! 
Mary Casey: I will be a senior at Gettysburg College in Gettysburg, PA, this fall of 2017! I am majoring in Anthropology, and minoring in both History and Educational Studies. I was born in Portsmouth, NH, and have lived in New Hampshire for the majority of my young life, so having a connection with Strawbery Banke is special to me! I interned with the Horticulture Department at SBM last summer, and was so excited to get to watch the Field School students dig and wash the artifacts they unearthed. I was introduced to Archaeology and Physical Anthropology during my sophomore year, and wanted to gain field experience because I was, and still am, interested in what an archaeologist does.

~Aside from excavation techniques, the field school students will be learning artifact identification, public engagement strategies for museum visitors, lab techniques- such as washing and cataloging- and further information about the site’s history.~

Feel free to visit us during museum hours and ask questions about this summer’s dig, weekdays 10-12 and 1-3:30!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Summer 2017 Archaeology

Hello everyone! My name is Elizabeth and I’m this year’s archaeology intern and blog contributor. Before we get any further on updates, let me introduce myself.  I currently study anthropology and natural history at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec. Since I grew up in New Hampshire and previously excavated at a historical site in Verdun, Quebec, I have grown to appreciate historical and public archaeology in my home setting (that’s why I’m here today!). I’m very interested in bioarchaeology as it combines my two interests in science and archaeology, but historical archaeology has interested me since I was a child. Aside from assisting with the field school in June, I have a few other projects and goals for my time here. I hope to compile a video about the field school experience and the archaeology of Penhallow House so the public can know about what goes on behind the scenes here! I also plan to learn about how oral history interviews aid with the interpretation and research process with the Heritage House goals for the site in mind. Strawbery Banke emphasizes resident’s hidden histories at Puddle Dock, so I hope that my summer projects can better inform the public about unseen residents.
Like I mentioned, we are working at the Penhallow House location to follow up from last year’s field school, as well as the area north of the Red Shed behind Penhallow. There are currently guest restrooms at Penhallow House. Through the Heritage House Program, we plan to repurpose Penhallow, so the restrooms will be moved to an addition to the Red Shed.The Collections staff is continuing to research the history of the house. Last week the staff offered a presentation and tour for the Piscataqua Decorative Arts Society lecture series that allowed us to see the current interior of the house (pictured below).

This summer, you can expect this blog to have field school updates, artifact highlights, “Behind the Scenes” posts about SBM archaeology, and any associated information highlights from Penhallow’s unfolding history.