American Indian and War of Independence artifacts sought at Boston Common excavate
Banister and archaeologist Sam Rousseau, both of the Rhode Island Public Archaeological Laboratory, launched a project on Monday to uncover rare treasures from the city’s past.
Focusing on a swath of dirt that sits under an asphalt path between the Boylston Street MBTA stop and the Parkman Bandstand, the duo kept their heads down and their hands in the coppery dirt on a cold, sunny day. ‘fall. City archaeologist Joe Bagley oversaw the excavation.
As Rousseau dropped shovelfuls of dirt onto the screen of the sieve shaken by the ramp, Bagley chose small, jagged objects that the ordinary person would likely pass off as nothing more than chunks of rock and debris.
For Bagley, however, it was history in his hands.
âWe know we’re on a good site,â Bagley said.
Bagley said there was strong evidence that Native American artefacts were under the surface of the park.
An investigation carried out in the late 1980s in the area where Monday’s digs had taken place identified an encampment of British troops from the Revolutionary War. The camp was found directly on a Native American site that was between 400 and 1,000 years old.
Unfortunately, the path was cleared before an excavation could be carried out, Bagley said.
But with utility company Eversource now planning to run a power line through the middle of the trail, archaeologists have had another chance to explore the land.
âSpecifically at Boston Common, we’re really trying to focus on the areas where we already know there are archaeological sites,â Bagley said.
By mid-afternoon, researchers had discovered the nail and several fragments of sandstone dating from the 18th century. It wasn’t exactly what they were looking for, but they were getting there, one layer of dirt at a time.
âWe found ceramics from the mid to late 18th century – pewter glaze and white salt glaze,â Bagley said. “We should be able to start turning back time, hopefully reaching the 17th century, and if we’re really lucky we’ll reach the Native American period below.”
Artifacts from this era could include crushed shells left over from eating food, such as clams, which were harvested by Native Americans in the Back Bay area centuries ago.
âThey crushed the seashells just by stepping on them and created this dense layer of seashells. It’s kind of the calling card of the aboriginal presence in this area of ââBoston, âBagley said. “We know there was a bed of seashells here, but we hope it will be found preserved at the site.”
If researchers find intact artifacts, rather than fragments, along the way while digging this week, the Public Archaeological Laboratory will expand the project, before Eversource continues its own.
âIt could turn out in a matter of weeks, depending on what we find,â Bagley said.