Story posted October 18, 2010
Students in Scott MacEachern's Essentials of Archaeology course are hoping they will become privy to secrets of 19th century life buried underground at the Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain House. In fact, the student archaeologists would like to find the remains of the privy itself.
An outhouse is where unusual objects often end up, says MacEachern. "When you want to get rid of the evidence of what you've been doing, then you toss it down the privy," he chuckles. "That's a basic of historical archaeology wherever you work."
Excavation of the grounds of the Chamberlain House is the latest in a series of digs that have taken place on and around the Bowdoin campus for over a decade, as building projects have opened up opportunities for fieldwork by Bowdoin faculty and students.
Today, students have been dispatched into groups around four test pits, where they are learning how to excavate, bag and tag samples, then clean and catalog findings in the laboratory.
"Fieldwork is so central to the discipline," notes Professor of Anthropology MacEachern, an archaeologist who recently completed the largest archaeological survey ever undertaken in central Africa. "The students will end up with a much more immediate sense of what archaeology involves."
Fieldwork is offset by classroom instruction on subjects including site location, remote sensing techniques, radiocarbon dating, and lab techniques.
Civil War hero Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, Class of 1852, was Governor of Maine and Bowdoin College's sixth president. The Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain House is owned and maintained by the Pejepscot Historical Society.