Unlike the pre-colonial period, historic-period archaeology can often be supplemented with written records, ethnographic accounts and an expanded range of material culture.
In the 17th century, New England was a place of enormous cultural change, as Europeans settled lands occupied by Native Americans for centuries. Native American material culture changed with the incorporation of European items such as iron kettles, and the earliest colonists adopted many Native American foods and objects, such as snowshoes. But conflict in the form of the Pequot War and King Philip’s War altered the social and political landscape. Our 17th-century specialists have a comprehensive understanding of European and Native American material culture, architectural forms, foodways, and belief systems.
Robert Waterman House Site
AHS identified and removed the buried remains of an intact c.1638 house in Marshfield, Massachusetts. It is the only completely excavated 17th-century Plimoth Colony house. The house was occupied for only a few years before it burned down and was abandoned. The site provided volumes of data on early houses and foodways, evidence of how English settlers adapted to life in southern New England. The house was built on wooden posts set in the ground, with no stone or brick. The large quantity of recovered ceramic and glass vessels, household goods, and carbonized botanical remains and animal bones, allow us to set the Waterman table and put the food on it.
The 18th century saw the French and Indian Wars and the American Revolution, with related social changes among Native American, Euro-American, and African-American populations. Material culture changed dramatically, as more objects were imported from Europe and produced in America. Sawmills, gristmills, and iron works proliferated. House forms evolved, including styles that have no standing comparatives. AHS archaeologists have special expertise in 18th-century archaeology, including household material culture, industrial remains, and a wide range of European and Native American house forms.
Ephraim Sprague Homestead Site
AHS removed the entire remains of the c.1704 Ephraim Sprague House in Andover, Connecticut, located in the path of a highway project. Sprague left Duxbury, Massachusetts, to settle on a larger plot of land than was available in Plimoth Colony for men of the “middling sort.” Sprague first built a small one-room house, while he cleared fields for a farm and married. He then expanded the structure into a long narrow house (70 x 20 feet), typical of a West Country English cross-passage-style dwelling. The Sprague family originated from the West Country, and apparently adhered to that archaic building tradition. There are no standing examples of this house style in New England, and only a few are known by archaeology alone. The house burned down c.1750; its thousands of artifacts, and preserved food remains–from potatoes to oats to animal bones–reveal much about the life of a family that cannot be obtained from documents.
Other Project Examples
Thomas Daniels Homestead
In 1712 Thomas Daniels built a modest home on land obtained from his father-in-law in New London. Daniels, a farmer, was able to participate in the global trade because of his location near an international port.
In the 19th century, many people left their farms for better pay in large factories that were established in this period. New England became a major force in the textile and arms industries, among others. New, more complex ways of life and increased urban living are hallmarks of the period. Analysis of 19th-century sites requires knowledge of a wide range of mass-produced items. AHS has documented archaeological remains of houses in rural and urban areas, as well as the remains of small and large factories and associated worker housing.
Peter Grohman Cigar Shop
Excavations at the 19th-century house and cigar-making shop of Peter Grohman provided important information about Connecticut’s tobacco industry. Grohman bought his property and set up shop in 1867, following his service in the Civil War. He and his four employees produced about 100,000 cigars a year. In 1887 a fire destroyed Grohman’s home and shop, and he relocated to Massachusetts. Despite the fire, a great deal of information about small shop cigar-making was learned from the archaeological investigation and historical research.
Other Project Examples
Old Newgate Prison and Copper Mine
In an isolated part of north-central Connecticut stand the remains of an early 18th-century copper mine, which became a prison for Tories and British soldiers in the Revolutionary War. It remained a prison until 1827, when mining attempts were renewed (but failed).
By National Park Service standards, archaeological sites and structures must generally be over 50 years old to be historically significant. Today, 20th-century sites are becoming increasingly important.
Hellcat Plane Crash Site
Two Grumman F6F-5N Navy Hellcat planes, based at the Charlestown, RI, Naval Auxiliary field, collided during a night-training exercise and crashed to the ground in 1944. The sites were recorded by historical research remote sensing and are now State Archaeological Preserves.
For more information on AHS’s experience and capabilities, visit our expertise page.