Monday, July 11, 2011

CONNECTICUT DIG UNCOVERING ARTIFACTS FROM PREHISTORIC TO 19TH CENTURY

Tucked away off Gallows Hill Road, near Redding, Connecticut, Ernie Wiegand, a Norwalk Community College archaeology professor, and his students have been digging and discovering prehistoric and historic artifacts left in the ground for hundreds and thousands of years. “We’ve been working here for 10, almost 11 years now,” said Mr. Wiegand.

A proposed subdivision for the property triggered a cultural assessment that eventually led to Mr. Wiegand’s interest in the property. Arrow Point Development was going to build 30 houses on the land, but because of the wetlands on the property, the developer called the state archaeologist, Nick Bellantoni. He, in turn, called the Redding town archaeologist to do an archaeological survey of the area, said Kathleen von Jena, the Planning Commission’s cultural resource adviser. This survey was the framework for the townwide Cultural Resource Assessment Survey, which identified areas that had potential prehistoric and historic artifacts, she said.

It was found that the property had archaeological resources and the land was then determined to be a nature sanctuary and could not be built on, said Mr. Wiegand.
As a result of the survey, only two houses were ultimately built on the property.

“I want to investigate a few more portions... There’s no reason to excavate everything, I want to leave the majority open for future digs,” said Professor Wiegand. “When future technology is developed, we are able to use those new techniques and maybe find things we wouldn’t be able to find now.”

Mr. Wiegand has mapped out areas to be explored by his students. They’ve found broken spear points and flakes of quartz and flint that date back to 2000 BC, said Mr. Wiegand. It has been thought that the area might have been a prehistoric hunting ground, he said.

Rocks with red markings were also found near an area that was said to be a prehistoric fireplace. Mr. Wiegand said it was carbon dated to be about 4,000 years old. Next to that there was a depression in the ground where the group decided to dig a pit. Eighteenth century Native American artifacts were found close in proximity. There were big pottery pieces and redware milkpan fragments found within an inch of one another. It was determined that these were once dropped and broken on a dirt floor, said Mr. Wiegand.

By referring to old census records, he thought he would be able to see who lived in that area during the 19th Century. Information is not clear but it is thought that two or three freed African Americans lived as tenant farmers on the Gallows Hill property, but it is not clear which side of the road they were on, said Mr. Wiegand.
“There might have been a house here. We hoped to find walls, but we never did,” he said.

“We’ve found plates, platters, hand-wrought nails,” he said. English pottery including a Delft tin-glazed tea set was found in addition to clay tobacco pipes, flat glass and window putty. “This shows that a window was once there,” said Mr. Wiegand “and we found part of a shoe buckle. We haven’t found many animal remains, just a pig molar and a cow molar. We haven’t found any buttons or eating utensils which would indicate someone living here.”















A few more digs are planned over the summer and in the fall, said Mr. Wiegand. After the dig is complete the artifacts that were discovered will belong to the town and The Nature Conservancy, which own the land, Mr. Wiegand said

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