Campus Currents

Not So Ancient History
Students look for archaeology relics on campus

Bookmark and Share
Easy to print version

Want to feel like a dinosaur? Peruse the list of potential excavation sites evaluated by the "The Lost Campus: The Archaeology of UNH" class and you'll find the names of familiar structures, one of which was once literally the "digs" of students but is now considered a source of relics.

Archaeology of UNH class
Mike Ross/UNH Photographic Services
OLD AND NEW: Students excavate the site of Pettee House for an archaeology class, while in the distance the new Peter T. Paul College of Business and Economics rises on Garrison Avenue.

Locations like the site of East and West Halls, a College Woods cabin destroyed in a 1938 windstorm, the train station originally located near T-Hall, the Faculty Club next to Congreve Hall (torn down in 1958), the foundation of the water tower behind Nesmith Hall (removed in the late 1970s) and the Beech Hill ski jump were among those considered by Anthropology 444 students before they selected the grassy, vacant lot where Pettee House once stood.

On a brisk spring day, 25 students huddled over seven neatly dug 1-by-1 meter squares, using trowels to methodically search the soil for artifacts from the former residence of three-time interim President Charles Holmes Pettee, a professor and dean who died in 1938. Before his house was demolished in 2007, it contained UNH's Department of Housing.

Meghan Howey, the assistant professor of anthropology and archaeology who created the freshman Discovery Program course, says the site already has yielded such clues from the past as a 1918 penny, handmade nails, bricks, ceramic pearlware and paint chips. "We're getting a life history of the building and we've learned about construction techniques and the maintenance of a Victorian-era house," she says.

A thick, jagged piece of glass almost a foot long was among the recent finds. "Look at how wavy it is," says Josh Beaucher '13 of Nashua, who suggested the location after noticing its overgrown walkway.

Meanwhile, course assistant Jillian Price '13 has won a UNH summer undergraduate research grant to excavate the location near the MUB where barracks were built in three days in 1918, and to do archival research on the transformation of UNH into a World War I training camp. The barracks later became the dorms called East and West Halls, which were demolished in 1971.

Howey dispels the notion that the sites are too contemporary. "As soon as people put something in the ground, it's archaeology," Howey says. "Trash doesn't lie; people do. You can't get that kind of resolution of daily activities from historical records or oral history.

"But you can interview people to get the oral history, look at archival records and then with the material evidence from archaeology, you can triangulate and get a true picture," she says. "We need all three."

blog comments powered by Disqus