DIGGING UP THE PAST

Craig S. Chartier isn't afraid of getting his hands dirty. Or playing in the dirt. In fact, it's an occupational requirement.

As the Director and Principal Archaeologist with Plymouth Archaeological Rediscovery Project he recently conducted a brief survey of the grounds (and we do mean grounds) of the Captain Bangs Hallet House for the Historical Society of Old Yarmouth. Working with the assistance of two of his sons, both surprisingly experienced at spotting and identifying even the smallest artifacts in a shovelful of excavated soil, Craig dug a series of exploratory holes around the sides of the house.

He selected sites that might be expected to yield various items from the past. And indeed he did find shards of pottery, nails, pieces of glass and several bone fragments, likely from various domestic animals. Craig was able to quickly identify them and estimate their likely age.

The earth reveals its secrets, layer by layer.

YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU'LL FIND UNTIL YOU DIG

Holding up a fragment of pottery no bigger than a thumbnail, for example, he could tell whether it was from a drinking cup or a plate and if it was English or Chinese exportware. Examining a fragment of bone, he could tell it was from an animal, likely a pig, with marks on it that indicated it had been cut with a tool. He explained that "bone left in the soil would normally become soft, but as you can see this piece is hard. That's because it was burned. Fire removes the natural moisture and hardens it."

Normally, in digging on the Cape, Craig pointed out, "I would only have to dig down about a foot until I hit subsoil. But on one side of the Bangs Hallet House I went down over two feet before reaching subsoil. It's possible some earth moving had been done in that area."

We are awaiting a report from Craig's survey to see what the objects he was able to collect reveal about the history of the site.

Archaeologist Craig Chartier records details about an item unearthed in an exploratory test hole he dug at the Captain Bangs Hallet House. Items are bagged and tagged for later closer examination and to help provide a picture of what activities took place at the site and when they occurred.