May 31 – June 2, 2015 – Days 13-15

written by Linda Ziegenbein

What do archaeologists do when it starts to rain?  On this project, we move indoors!  While the site was closed on Sunday and Monday, a couple of us continued to work at the site.  On Sunday, Peter Ames, a professional archaeologist who has volunteered at the site, and I excavated Unit Y31 which is next to the house and marks the eastern-most boundary of the site.  We didn’t uncover much, which convinces me that this area — part of a garden for about a hundred years — will not yield significant data for future research.  Remember that one of the reasons for this project is to record any subsurface data so that a new basement can be created below the house.  Signing off on this area means that we can focus on the area inside the house and just outside the rear door where we have discovered a lot of animal bone.

On Monday, Elena and I worked on a unit that Elena has been excavating in the house.  It was raining, so Elena excavated and handed me buckets of soil to screen for artifacts below a tent.  The stratigraphy (layers of soil) in the house is becoming clear.  For the first 10 cm level, we will discover many sewing pins, some newspaper fragments, and possibly some ceramic sherds or maybe a button.  These are mostly things that are small enough to have slipped between the boards in the house.  Nancy Rexford, the Director of Historic Northampton, specializes in the history of women’s clothing and she estimates that many of the sewing pins were created before 1850.

Below that initial level, the artifact density (the number of artifacts) decreases dramatically.  We will find perhaps a sewing pin or two and then charcoal and brick fragments.  What is interesting is that we haven’t found much that relates to the earliest period of occupation of the site. My opinion may change once the artifacts have all been washed and I get a good look at them after the field season ends, though!

Today, the brave kids from Leeds Elementary joined us in the damp, dreariness of the morning.  The rain prevented us from excavating, but the students helped us screen soil from the house for artifacts and helped in the lab.  We got some 18th and 19th-century games out for the kids and we all had a lot of fun.  I’m looking forward to the return of the dry weather and will let you all know what is happening as we enter our final week at the site.

A pinch pot carefully made by one of today's students.

A pinch pot carefully made by one of today’s students.


Mary shows the students an image from 1863 of the Clapp family in Northampton. While the Clapp family did not live in the Parsons House, the image allows us to compare their family to that of the Wrights (then living in the house).

We did quilling -- a craft using carefully rolled paper -- with the kids today.  They were much more proficient at this than some archaeologists (me)!

We did quilling — a craft using carefully rolled paper — with the kids today. They were much more proficient at this than some archaeologists (me)!


The base of unit Y31- notice the irrigation pipe and the reddish stain at the bottom of the unit. We screened the soil from that stain separately and found…nothing. This is good information that will allow us to choose future units to excavate.

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