You’ve just completed the first archaeological dig on campus. Why Baker lawn?
This is the original site of Choate House, one of campus’s most intact areas of subsurface archaeology. Part of my goal was to make archaeology more visible.
What’s the history of the home?
One of the area’s fanciest houses, it was constructed in 1786 by Sylvanus Ripley and his wife, Abigail, the daughter of Eleazar Wheelock. He was one of the College’s first four graduates in 1771.
Why is this site special?
There’s an intact 1700s privy. They were a primary way people disposed of trash and are amazing time capsules. It will give us the most information and highest yield of artifacts.
Was it an outhouse?
No, these were fancy rich people who built an addition for storage on the back of their home. In the back corner was a privy you could get to without going outside in the winter.
What’s in it?
This is not your average privy hole. This thing is chock full of fancy stuff—Chinese porcelain, French champagne bottles, gold-encrusted teacups, silverware, bone-handled knives, carved ivory spoon handles, and a man’s 14-karat gold pinky ring.
What conclusions have you reached about life here long ago?
Stuff has come out of the ground so fast I haven’t had time to catalogue it in my brain, much less think through an analysis. We’re going to put together physical and virtual exhibitions, and classes will help analyze materials.
Your dig was during reunions. What did alums think?
We had a great response. I worried alums, after a glass of wine too many, might fall in one of these holes. We tried to fence them off during reunion events.