Visit Historic Deerfield’s Archaeological Dig

During the summer of 2007 I was finishing my bachelor’s degree, but because I was taking Business management as a major and an anthropology as my minor, I knew archaeological experience was necessary to confirm if archaeology was the focus I wanted to follow in anthropology. The department of anthropology at the University of Massachusetts has had a thirty year collaboration with the town of historic Deerfield. The goal of the excavation was to gain a better understanding of how the frary house was built.

Originally built around 1698, the Frary House became the Colonial Revival home of Miss Charlotte Alice Baker, who was a teacher, collector, and antiquarian researcher, and restored the home in 1892. Education, tourism, and the sale of arts and crafts served as an economic bridge to 20th-century Deerfield. Visitors came by rail, and later by trolley and my parents visited by automobile, to visit the site of my first excavation. Tourists enjoy the romance of a frontier village that has aged gracefully.

A Historic archaeologists dream is to find a coin, not because they are shiny and possibly worth money, but because it provides a dated context for all the artifacts found stratigraphically above the coin. Think about it like this, if a coin that was minted in 2019 falls out of your pocket today anything you drop after it should have been made in the year or around 2019 as well. The last day of our excavation I was lying on my side and reaching down about a meter into the excavation unit using my trowel when it struck something metallic. Excavating slowly, I moved the dirt around it and eventually lifted out the coin pictured above.

It turned out to be a cartwheel penny from Great Britain created in 1797. As the Unites States was still a young country and the United States Mint was created in 1792, it was still common for British coins to be used in 1797. The coin was catalogued and transferred to the University of Massachusetts conservation repository. I am unsure what stories this coin is telling currently, but maybe my supervisor Dr. Robert Paynter or field manager Dr. Quentin Lewis have more insights. After 12 years, the coin still holds a value in my heart for the excavation tales it contributed towards.

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