Excavation Plans

Plans is of course the operative word here. Archaeology, by it’s very nature, is about discovery. While this is certainly the feature that tends to draw people to archaeology, it also means that even our most well-researched plans need to retain a degree of flexibility. Every archaeologist has a story about planning to excavate in one area, only to find something incredible in another area that requires all of their attention! That said, we’re approaching the McGrath Farm site with a few goals in mind. You can view a map of the areas we’ll be targeting for excavation below.

Map of proposed excavation areas, 2015-2016
Map of proposed excavation areas, 2015-2016

First, we want to investigate the two areas of the property that seem if they’ll hold architectural remains of the some sort. These areas are in the north sector of the property near Barrett’s Mill Road (where the supposed “bunkhouse” once stood) and in the southern sector of the property near the Assabet River (where the barn/agricultural ruins once stood). Excavation in these areas will help us verify the oral traditions regarding these structures. If we do end up locating the remains of the buildings, they have the potential to reveal their historical uses. Does the “bunkhouse” show evidence of use in the mid-20th century, possibly by German P.O.W.’s? What is the archaeological signature of foreign P.O.W. occupation (i.e., what sorts of artifacts would they have left behind)? Was the building near the river a barn, or did it serve some other purpose for the site’s historical occupants?

Second, we will target a couple of areas in proximity to the Assabet River where we might expect to find evidence of Native American activity. Previous archaeological investigation in Concord has uncovered a wealth of Native American sites, from small clusters of stone tools to seasonal campsites. In fact, in the latter half of the 20th century, a surface collector named Dale Farrell picked up a number of artifacts in the McGrath’s fields and reported the find to the Massachusetts Historical Commission. The preponderance of Native American materials in Concord is not surprising; throughout the Archaic and Woodland periods, Native American groups settled or made camp along rivers and lakes with increasing frequency. Such environments provided stable marine resources and navigable transportation routes. We’re hopeful that our investigation will yield additional information about Native American activity at the McGrath Farm site.

Finally, there are a few additional spots on the property that we plan to excavate to determine if they hold evidence of any activity from the recent or deeper past. We won’t know until we get our shovels into the ground.

This is the general plan as it currently exists. As we move forward with our fieldwork, you’ll be able to observe how our agenda changes as a result of our finds. No matter the twists and turns, we look forward to what the project will bring!

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