Oct 10, 2013
11:13 AM

October is Connecticut Archaeology Awareness Month

October is Connecticut Archaeology Awareness Month


October is Connecticut Archaeology Awareness Month, a great opportunity to learn more about what achaeologists do here in Connecticut, and why their work is so important to all of us.

In celebration, the Connecticut State Museum of Natural History and the Connecticut Archaeology Center are sponsoring two events this month.

The first is an "Archaeology Field Workshop" on October 12 from 9 a.m. to noon at UConn in Storrs (exact location to be sent to participant). This is an activity where participants "will be part of a real archaeological field crew, doing hands-on fieldwork at a genuine, ongoing archaeological dig at UConn." Advanced registration is required.

The second event is an Archaeology Fair on October 19 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Keeney Memorial Cultural Center in Wethersfield.  At this event, visitors will be able to "explore and learn about many of the archaeological investigations going on around the state," in addition to "local archaeological societies, historical societies and universities will have displays highlighting past and current excavations and research." No advanced registration is required, and there's a suggested donation of $5.

The Friends of the Office of State Archaeology in Connecticut also is sponsoring a slew of events this month—some highlights:

• On Oct. 17 at 8 p.m. at the Bruce Museum, Greenwich: "Excavations, Archives & Artisans: 21st Century Archaeology in Peru's Lake Titicaca Basin & the Emergence of the Philistine Kingdoms," presented by Elizabeth Klarich, professor of anthropology at Five College, and sponsored by Archaeology Associates of Greenwich Lecture.

• On Oct. 19 at 12:30 p.m. at the Institute of American Indian Studies in Washington: "Friction Fire," a lecture by Andrew Dobos and Deneen Bernier of Three Red Trees School of Natural Living that includes hands-on demonstrations on how to make fire.

• On Oct. 22 at noon at the Old State House in Hartford and Oct. 26 at 2 p.m. at the Danbury Museum and Historical Society in Danbury: "New England Vampire Folk Belief," presented by Dr. Nicholas Bellantoni, the Connecticut state archaeologist, during which he will discuss "the history of the Jewett City vampires, including origins of the beliefs in the undead seeking nourishment from family members and how the living were protected."

• On Oct. 31 at the New Haven Museum, New Haven: A symposium on the New Haven Green Burials, presented by Dr. Nicholas Bellantoni, who will lead a discussion on skeletons unearthed on the New Haven Green last October during Superstorm Sandy.

In May 2012, I had the privilege of interviewing Dr. Bellantoni, who has some terrific stories to share, in addition to stumbling upon the graves of "Jewett City vampires," such as how he led the History Channel investigation of bone fragments purported to be Hitler's skull. He is very passionate about archaeology, history and his work, and is always a pleasure to listen to.

In our interview, while discussing the role of archaeology in an evergrowing digital world, Dr. Bellantoni said, "Archaeology teaches us about how humans have adapted and changed their behavior for thousands of years. The concept of sustainability, of how we make decisions today on how we live on the land and manage food resources—people have done this before. Only they’ve done it at different levels of technology at different times, and we can learn from those decisions. Humans are humans, whether they occupied the planet thousands of years ago or they occupy it today in the 21st century."

Archaeology is about studying the past, but it's also about looking for clues regarding human behavior. A few years back, I got to join Dr. Kenny Feder, a professor of archaeology at Central Connecticut State University, on an archaeological excavation in the People's Forest in Barkhamsted. Dr. Feder and his team were investigating the site of "The Lighthouse," a Colonial-era settlement whose hearth fires served as a beacon to weary stagecoach drivers traversing the Farmington River Turnpike from Albany to Hartford, alerting them that it was only five miles to New Hartford, where they could water their horses, get food and rest. It was the home of Narragansett Indian James Chaugham and white Colonist Molly Barber, who were forced to live in the isolated spot as their mixed-race union was shunned by society.

The dig itself was deliberate, disciplined work, but made fun by the enthusiasm of Dr. Feder and his team. During my visit, Dr. Feder quoted the opening of H.P. Hartley’s novel The Go-Between: “The past is a foreign country," and then added, “I want to explore that foreign country. [Our work is] something visceral, a connection to the past. I can intellectualize it—James Chaugham lived in a place called The Lighthouse over 200 years ago. But then we can come out here and see where the foundation to his home was, we can dig up and hold a piece of a plate that he owned. To me, that’s pretty cool.”

The coolness goes on all month. Explore some yourself!


October is Connecticut Archaeology Awareness Month

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