Current projects include analysis of the voluminous data from four 18th-century house sites; analysis of several prehistoric sites; excavations at two prehistoric sites; archaeological and historical study of Rochambeau's Revolutionary War march in New York state; nomination of the Coast Guard Cutter Eagle as a National Historic Landmark; creation of project Web sites; writing of public-oriented books; and development of school curricula.
PAST is currently conducting an integrated archaeological, architectural, and historical study of the boyhood homestead of Samuel Huntington, a man who rose from modest roots to become the President of the Continental Congress, signer of the Declaration of Independence, chief justice of the Connecticut Superior Court, and 10-year governor of Connecticut. Our work is part of a long-term project guided by the Governor Samuel Huntington Trust, which is restoring the house and preserving the remaining associated original farmland.
The Trust's interests include reconstruction of the lifeways of the Huntington family, aiming to understand the way in which an ordinary family produced an extraordinary man. Understanding the daily life of this rural family is directly applicable to a broader understanding of 18th-century people.
The Huntington homestead not only includes the house, expanded from its original c. 1720 footprint, but a remarkable cultural landscape. A subtle but sophisticated series of fieldstone walls, dams, bridges and causeways diverts water and provides well-drained fields, farm roads, and watering sources for agricultural purposes. Study of this landscape teaches us how well colonial peoples understood the land and how they used natural resources for agricultural improvement. At a time when such remnant cultural landscapes are disappearing rapidly in Connecticut, the Governor Samuel Huntington Trust recognizes the value of preserving and studying the landscape.
Large deposits of artifacts have been identified near the homestead. Under analysis and conservation, they include household food preparation and serving items and clothing components such as buckles and cufflinks. The rich artifact assemblage is particularly useful since there is relatively little documentary information available on the Huntington family's daily lives. For more information on the Governor Samuel Huntington Trust please visit the Trust's Web site at http://huntingtonhomestead.org/.
The analysis of this important c. 1705 homestead is progressing, as we inventory the very large artifact assemblage recovered from the site. The house burned down in the 1750s, creating unusually favorable conditions for artifact preservation. Organic items such as food and wood, which would normally be consumed in New England's acidic soil, were preserved by carbonization. Ash filtered through the site, making the soils less acidic and promoting the preservation of bone, antler, fish scales and eggshells. The sheer number of household artifacts is also greater than average because objects burned or broken in the fire were left behind. Well over 100,000 artifacts were found at the Sprague homestead, a wealth of data that are already promising an enhanced understanding of 18th-century foodways and life on the frontier in Connecticut's sparsely settled interior.
The Sprague site also makes a significant contribution to the interpretation of the 18th-century architectural landscape. Excavation indicates the house took a form that closely resembles post-medieval "long" houses of west England, from which the Sprague family came to Plymouth, Massachusetts, in 1623. Measuring 64 by 16 feet, with an off-center large hearth and a second small corner external chimney at one end, the house form matches no standing historic houses in New England. Perhaps the Spragues were a particularly conservative family, or perhaps this old-style house form was more common than previously thought.
This site, investigated in North Branford, was purchased and settled by Samuel Goodsell of East Haven c. 1735. In 1752, Samuel was accidentally "killed by a log at a sawmill" of which he was part owner. Following Samuel Goodsell's untimely death, the farm was thereafter occupied by his widow Lydia and their daughter Martha. Martha died in 1792 and her mother died c. 1797. At this time, the house was abandoned and the land was sold off by the surviving Goodsell children. Like the Sprague site, archaeological and documentary research of the Goodsell homestead offers important opportunities for better understanding lifeways of the period, with a particular focus on the lives of the women who resided there alone for 45 of the house's 62 years of occupancy. The excavation of the site uncovered two cellars, a well, and other features. Like the Sprague site, the Goodsell house sills were likely laid on surface-level stone pads and not on subsurface foundations.
Curently we are crossmending the wide variety of ceramics found at the Goodsell house site. The rich diversity of ceramics permits vivid reconstrucion of objects of utilitarian and decorative value and, in the process, reconstruction of the everyday lifeways of 18th-century women. The Goodsells repaired a number of the vessels by drilling holes on either side of a break, lashing the sides together, and plugging the holes with lead. This economical conservation of ceramics is also evident at the contemporaneous Sprague house site excavated in Andover. Women's roles in history are particularly difficult to research since few women owned property, thus they are under represented in deeds, wills, and probate records. Martha and Lydia Goodsell's lives in North Branford are being revealed by study of their homestead remains.
The Daniels site offers a window directly into the 18th-century lifeways of an average coastal family: farmers who raised food for themselves and some surplus for the readily accessible coastal trade. The artifacts that the family left behind, along with documentary references, tell the story of this family, and in so doing, relate the story of a common, shared heritage.
The homestead was built in the spring of 1712 on land owned by Thomas Daniels' future father-in-law, John Keeney. Joshua Hempstead, one of the best- known historical figures in the New London area, recorded his work in helping to construct the Daniels house in May 1712, and he also recorded Thomas and Hannah Keeney's marriage on July 2, 1712. And it is Hempstead who reported Thomas Daniels' death on March 19, 1735: "Thomas Daniels aged 40 odd Son of Jno Daniels Buried. He died yesterday with a plurisee Sick not one week."
After Thomas's death Hannah remained in the house on the 70-acre farm and orchard until her death in 1745, at which time the property was acquired by Matthew Stewart. Shortly thereafter Stewart divided the property into parcels which were sold in a complex lottery scheme. The artifacts found in the excavation indicate the house was occupied until about the 1770s, and that the later occupants, identity unknown, established a blacksmith forge adjacent to the house. After the 1770s the house cellar was filled in and the homestead converted to an agriculture field. The house and blacksmith area lay buried for 230 years until their discovery in 2000 as part of a CONNDOT road construction project.
On the Farmington River floodplain in Windsor, Connecticut, PAST recently conducted data recovery excavations to mitigate impacts to two Late Archaic period sites. The two sites have strong potential for answering open questions about the overlap of Susquehanna and Narrow-stemmed occupations in the Connecticut River Valley. Their analysis, ongoing, may also shed light on Late and Terminal Archaic adaptations and the formation of the local terrace system.