Life On The Northern Frontier

In the late 17th and early 18th centuries, the English settlement of Berwick in what is now southern Maine survived several wars with Native Americans and eventually achieved peace and prosperity. Researchers are trying to understand what life was like for Berwick’s residents.

These fragments of German stoneware tankards were discovered in the stone-walled cellar. They date to the early-to-mid 1700s.Credit: Neill De Paoli .
These fragments of German stoneware tankards were discovered in the stone-walled cellar. They date to the early-to-mid 1700s. Credit: Neill De Paoli .

2015: By Wayne Curtis.

A few yards from an immaculately-maintained late-18th-century Georgian house in southern Maine is an equally immaculate hole in the ground, its edges as precise as if cut with a miter saw. Two people stand at the edge of the hole, talking to the pair of legs that are sticking upright from it. A muffled voice comes from below. “I’m just seeing redeposited subsoil,” says the voice.

The legs lower to horizontal, and a body gradually emerges. Attached to it is the somewhat crimson face of Neill De Paoli, an independent archaeologist who for several years has been working under the sponsorship of the Old Berwick Historical Society. “We’re digging here north of the Gen. Ichabod Goodwin House. And what we’re tying to do is see if there’s any evidence of an earlier foundation, or any outbuildings from the pre-1700 era that got trashed,” he explains when he regains his breath. Pointing to the Georgian house, he continues, “the vast majority of what we’re finding is coming from the Gen. Ichabod Goodwin house and the structure that preceded it.”

The story of how and why this hole came to exist began six years ago, with a passing comment from De Paoli’s former boss. She told him that Harvey and Paula Bennett, who had bought the Goodwin House in 2004, had been doing some remodeling, and a carpenter had found a piece of ceramic redware inside a wall. The Bennetts wanted to know more about this pottery sherd.

Summary. Read More in our Winter 2015 Issue of American Archaeology, Vol. 19 No. 3

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