Maritime Archaeology

Our staff uses traditional methods of low-tide observation—kayaks and canoes—to identify and document submerged 18th-century wharves, dikes and other structures, and archaeological sites.

Featured Project

Ebenezer Story Homestead and Tavern Site

An archaeological survey of a 500-acre property on the Thames River in Connecticut discovered the site of the Ebenezer Story house and tavern. Story, a farmer, fisherman, woodsman, and saltmaker, opened a tavern in the house he built in 1777. Taverns were common and vital institutions in colonial America, but Story’s was particularly important because its purpose was to cater to the workers at the “Continental Shipyard,” the site of the construction of the American frigate Confederacy, built to serve against the British in the Revolutionary War. The location of the shipyard had been unclear until the survey. Through exhaustive research in primary documents, coupled with intensive archaeological investigations, the shipyard and tavern site were confirmed. This site is now a State Archaeological Preserve, and the subject of a booklet by AHS staff and articles in Northeast Historical Archaeology, Connecticut Preservation News and Coriolis (“Providence Brings to our Doors, the Delicious Treasures of the Sea”: Household Use of Maritime Resources in 18th-Century Connecticut. Coriolis Interdisciplinary Journal of Maritime Studies 1(1): 38-66).

(Archaeology at the 1777 Ebenezer Story Site: The Household Economy of a Family of Fishermen-Farmers on the Thames River, Preston, Connecticut. Northeast Historical Archaeology 38: 100-121)

Other Project Example

Pine Island

Now abandoned, Pine Island, a 15-acre island off the coast of Connecticut, was exploited by Euro-Americans since the 17th century, when individuals were granted the right to cut pine trees for timber. Documented 18th-century activities include fishing, lobstering, seaweed gathering, agriculture, and boat building. There was a house on the island as early as 1784. For a time in the 19th century, there was a summer resort, then, around the Civil War, the production of menhaden oil and fish guano fertilizer began. Under the ownership of the Quinnipiac Fertilizer Company, the factory became an industrial-scale operation. In the early 20th century, the island was incorporated into the large estate of Morgan F. Plant, the owner of Avery Point. Finally, the island was used as a military observation post during World War II. AHS prepared the documentation for this property’s designation as a State Archaeological Preserve, and also wrote an article about it (Pine Island, Groton, Connecticut, Archaeological Preserve. Council for Northeast Historical Archaeology Newsletter 85: 7-10).


For more information on AHS’s experience and capabilities, visit our expertise page.