Digging Northampton’s History: A Community Archaeology Project

Digging Northampton’s History: A Community Archaeology Project

On Tuesdays through Saturdays from May 19 through June 6, 2015, an archaeological excavation is being conducted in Northampton at the site of the Parsons House, built in the early 1700s by Nathaniel Parsons, the grandson of Joseph Parsons, one of the founders of the city.

What good does collecting trash do when you’re studying history? A whole lot of it, if it’s the right trash! Local historians and archaeologists, both professional and amateur, will set about collecting historic trash for the community project, Digging Northampton’s History. An archaeological exploration of the history of Historic Northampton’s Nathaniel Parsons House, the project aims to collect artifacts so as to learn more about the lives of women and children in Northampton during the 18th century.

The area in which the dig will take place is now located underneath part of the house, but, before an addition was added in 1790, the space was outdoors – just outside the house’s back door, and was a place where household trash was often tossed. Excavation will take place underneath where the 1790 addition still stands, with the floor being removed in order to provide access. During the time period from which artifacts can be found (1713-1790), as many as 16 people lived in the home at a time, the majority of whom would have been women and children. As such, the majority of artifacts uncovered are expected to speak to the roles each had in the early days of Northampton. Families can follow the progress of the dig through the Project Diary, which will include information about the artifacts uncovered and their significance.

Families can visit Historic Northampton during the dig in order to learn about the process and the story behind the historic home (Nathaniel Parsons was one of the founders of the city!) The dig will take place from May 19th through June 6th, and will be open to visitors from 1-3pm Tuesday-Saturday. Additionally, three special Public Days will be held, offering visitors not only the chance to see the dig in operation, but to take a guided tour of the site and participate in special children’s activities. Public Days will be held on May 23rd and 30th and June 6th from 10am-2pm.

A limited number of spaces are available for volunteer amateur (or aspiring) archaeologists to help with the project. To inquire about volunteer opportunities, adults and responsible teens should contact project director Linda Ziegenbein at diggingnorthampton@gmail.com

Historic Northampton’s Parsons House is located on Bridge Street, next door to Historic Northampton’s main house (46 Bridge Street). Admission to the dig is free.

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