Monday, June 8, 2009

Week 1 Dig Diary: 1-3 June

The Akin House Archaeology Project 2009 is underway! The UMass Dartmouth class met for the first time the first week of June. Students had lectures introducing them to archaeology and historical archaeology, to using the library at UMass, to Dartmouth history, and to the history of the Akin House. Peggi Medeiros, Secretary of DHPT, gave them a tour of the house on Wednesday, and I provided a tour of the archaeology site. As Chris describes, "We discussed ways to enhance the projects as well as some of our class reading like the MCAS [Social Science/History curriculum, to be used to guide site interpretation]. But the part I enjoyed most was meeting volunteers like Peggi and seeing their eyes light up as they discussed the Akins and their home." A lot of information packed into three days! Summer courses are intensive, and the student crew are committed to this year's project.

Some students, including Isaiah, Sarah, Jesse, and Colleen were struck by the complex history of Dartmouth and its reflection in the long history of the Akin House. They noted especially the personal impact of 1778 Revolutionary violence on the Akin family. Isaiah wrote "most of [Elihu Akin's] property was burnt down by the British during the Revolution in 1778. When everything was gone, he moved his family to 762 Dartmouth Street which was the only property of his that was undamaged." Sarah appreciated "the history of the house as is was passed down through many generations of Akins." Colleen felt "It was amazing entering the house and seeing the years of history that was left behind from the numerous families that occupied the house." Jesse wrote about the appearance of the house itself: "to think people lived there [in the now-dilapidated house] until the 1980s is incredible. This project is going to be full of surprises."

Both Brandon and Jake described the relationship between the current cultural landscape at the site and its history of occupation and use. Brandon noted that "the dirt between the surface of the mounds and the surface of the original yard/barn floor surface may hold some keys to discovering some of the activity on the property since the destruction of the barn... The old metal well rim, filled nearly to the brim with dirt, will be an especially interesting explore." Jake is also interested in that well, writing "the excavating of the site will be the most pain staking, but the revealing of trash sites, fire sites, and the well will fill most of the curiosity of the archeologists on site."

Several students, like Sarah, Chris, and Steph, are looking forward to mapping and then excavating. Perhaps Steph sums it up best: "The Akin House was great. Just seeing the inside and listening to our guest speakers was an eye opening experience. I'm wicked excited to begin excavation outside, but I know we have to do all kinds of drawings and measurements on Monday first. Though I respect the scientific method of it all... I just want to get in the ground and find stuff!"