Things They Left Behind: Exploring Domestic Life Through Archaeology
by Director of Preservation Jessica Zullinger
|December 2010: The comprehensive
Phase I archaeological survey begins.
There was excitement in the air Monday morning, despite the chilling wind, as the staff of Dovetail Cultural Resource Group arrived at Tudor Place to being a much anticipated Phase II archaeological project aimed at uncovering information about servant life at Tudor Place. Dovetail completed a comprehensive Phase I archaeological survey of the property in 2011. It entailed digging carefully mapped test pits at close intervals around the 5.5-acre property — exploratory archaeological work that uncovered fascinating fragments of domestic life, including ceramics, personal items such as buttons, and architectural debris.
These tantalizing hints from the Phase I study confirmed that the Tudor Place grounds are rich in archaeological resources and offered several intriguing possibilities for further study. Test pits in and west of the Tennis Lawn, to the house’s northeast, yielded a high concentration of domestic artifacts in a relatively small area, suggesting a possible connection to servant life at Tudor Place. This evidence of consistent activity over time, along with an 1863 map suggesting the location of an outbuilding in this area, prompted its selection for further study as part of the Phase II investigation, generously supported by The Marpat Foundation.
|1863 Boschke Map showing location of outbuildings in north yard.
The current dig is targeting a possible structure in the eastern rear yard.
Results came quickly: By 11:00 a.m. Monday, less than two hours after the dig started, several exciting ceramic fragments had turned up in the upper layers of the Tennis Lawn test pit. Among them was a lovely fragment of Rockingham ware, a type of refined earthenware produced in North American ca.1830-1930 and distinguished by the presence of a brownish glaze with a dripped or mottled effect over a yellow base.
|Rockingham ware fragment found in the Tennis Lawn test pit
soon after the dig began, Monday, March 4.
Archaeologists dig test pits in layers, with the color of the soil or a change in texture and composition signifying the end of one layer and start of the next. In this way, artifacts can be understood in the context of the property’s history according to where they fall in the stratigraphy of the pit.
|The topsoil has been removed from this test
pit just west of the Tennis Lawn. Archaeologist
Joe Blondino is beginning to dig into
the next layer of soil.
|This test pit in the Tennis Lawn revealed flecks of brick
and charcoal in the layer just under the topsoil.
Throughout the week (when it isn’t snowing!) the archaeology team will continue digging up to seven test pits in hopes of uncovering more information about domestic life at Tudor Place, and particularly the lives of free and enslaved servants.
If you are interested in archaeology, or just curious to see how a dig operates, what a great time to visit Tudor Place and observe this exciting work in progress!