This spring semester, students in George Leader’s Archaeological Field Methods class searched underground for clues into what life and times were like around our campus some 250 years ago.
They excavated areas around the exterior perimeter of the circa 1720 William Green Farmhouse, located on the southern edge of campus behind George Ackerman Park, in the hopes of learning more about its original owners.
When Leader arrived at TCNJ in 2013, he discovered a box of artifacts in the college’s anthropology lab. As it turned out, a bit of archaeological digging had been done outside of the farmhouse in the 1980s and 90s, but no thorough records were kept. Leader thought reviving the excavation site could be an opportunity to teach archaeological methods and bring to life some colonial history on our very own campus.
“It’s all the little things that we often forget about that can add up to provide a big picture about colonial and post-colonial life,” explained Leader. “Ceramic vessels, tobacco pipes, nails, shoes, bottle glass … all give us a tiny glimpse into their daily lives.”
For the students in the class, this dig is an opportunity to get hands-on experience with history.
“You can learn about archaeology in a classroom, but until you get down in the dirt and see the artifacts, you can never really understand it,” says history major Erin Meyer ’22. “And it’s addictive. I find something every time I dig.”
Leader and his students are looking for connections between the farmhouse and the Revolutionary War — specifically, evidence that supports documents that suggest that soldiers were quartered at the house. According to Leader, an interdisciplinary task force of TCNJ professors will begin archival research about the Green family in the near future.
Until then, Leader and his team of students will be hard at work. “We are still trying hard to locate other structures around the house. The smokehouse and the privy would be loaded with information!” he says.
— Sarah Voorhees ’20