Tag Archive for archaeology

Summer Session Course Digs for Middletown History

Students enrolled in the June Summer Session course, Field Methods in Archaeology, participated in several excavations on the triangle of land between Vine Street, Cross Street, and Knowles Avenue, known as the Beman Triangle. Several African-Americans built homes and lived in this area in mid-19th century. Although few above-ground traces now suggest the presence of this community, material about their lives survives in the record of their trash and other archaeological features that remain beneath the backyards of the houses on this land.

The course is taught by Sarah Croucher, assistant professor of anthropology, assistant professor of archeology, and provides general training in historical archaeological field methods. Through practical work, students learn excavation techniques, field recording, artifact analysis, and how to integrate relevant documentary and oral historical sources into archaeological interpretations.

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Roman Archaeologist Parslow Receives Residency at Institute for Advanced Study

Christopher Parslow, professor and chair of the Classical Studies Department, professor of archaeology, has been selected as a member of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., for the 2013 fall term. Parslow, a Roman archaeologist specializing in the ancient sites buried by the eruption of Vesuvius, will spend his semester-long residency working on a book on the Praedia (Properties) of Julia Felix in Pompeii.

He was chosen on the recommendation of the faculty of the School of Historical Studies at the Institute for Advanced Study, one of the world’s leading centers for theoretical research and intellectual inquiry. Each year, about a quarter of the nearly 200 scholars from dozens of countries studying at the Institute receive appointments to the School of Historical Studies. The visiting scholars, known as members and visitors, interact with fellow scholars within and across disciplines and conduct research unencumbered by teaching and administrative obligations.

Parslow has been a member of the Wesleyan faculty since 1991. As a Samuel H. Kress Fellow in Classical Art and Archaeology, he spent two years at the American Academy in Rome. His first book was Rediscovering Antiquity: Karl Weber and the Excavations of Herculaneum, Pompeii and Stabiae (Cambridge 1995), a biography of Karl Weber, the Swiss military engineer who sought to establish a more scientific approach to the study of the earliest excavations at those cities. His most recent article, “The Sacrarium of Isis in the Praedia Iuliae Felicis in Pompeii in its Archaeological and Historical Contexts,” was published this year in the volume Rediscovering the Ancient World on the Bay of Naples of the series Studies in the History of Art of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. His other publications include articles on the history of the early excavations in the Vesuvian landscape and on the results of his own excavations, on which Wesleyan students have participated.

Founded in 1930, the Institute for Advanced Study is a private, independent academic institution. Past faculty members have included Albert Einstein, who remained at the institute until his death in 1955, and distinguished scientists and scholars such as Kurt Gödel, J. Robert Oppenheimer and George Kennan. It has no formal links to other educational institutions but enjoys close, collaborative ties with Princeton University and other nearby institutions.

Students Co-Curate Local Archaeology Exhibit for Middlesex Historical Society

Hyunjin "Chelsey" Cho '13, Sarah Chrystler '13, Amy Cao '15 and Sarah Croucher, assistant professor of anthropology, assistant professor of archaeology, hold artifacts collected from the "Beman Triangle" site near Wesleyan. The pieces will be on exhibit April 4-May 31 in downtown Middletown.

Hyunjin “Chelsey” Cho ’13, Sarah Chrystler ’13, Amy Cao ’15 and Sarah Croucher, assistant professor of anthropology, assistant professor of archaeology, hold artifacts collected from the “Beman Triangle” site near Wesleyan. The pieces will be on exhibit April 4-May 31 in downtown Middletown.

Between Vine Street, Cross Street and Knowles Avenue near Wesleyan, an innocuous looking triangle of land forms the “Leverett Beman Historic District,” listed on the State Register of Historic Places and part of the Connecticut Freedom Trail. This area is the site of one of the earliest planned African American communities in the United States.

Blue glass artifact from the Beman site.

Students discovered this cobalt blue glass shard at the Beman site.

During the spring of 2012, Sarah Croucher, assistant professor of anthropology, assistant professor of archaeology, led an archeological excavation at the “Beman Triangle” site. Several Wesleyan students and community members participated in the dig and unearthed dozens of materials relating to healthcare and everyday practices, such as cooking and dining.

On April 4, Wesleyan will partner with the Middlesex County Historical Society to present an exhibit featuring many artifacts from the excavation. “Unearthing Community: Archaeology of the Beman Triangle” is curated by Croucher and three students: Sarah Chrystler ’13, Amy Cao ’15 and Hyunjin “Chelsey” Cho ’13. Cho is double majoring in art history and economics and has helped curate exhibits at the Davison Art Center and Smithsonian Institution.

“Artifacts from these excavations help to build a picture of daily life in these households during the late 19th century,” Croucher explained. “Materials from one of the houses also has provided a range of artifacts which seem to relate to late-19th century pharmaceutical production, opening up conversations as to the nature of healthcare at this time.”

Multiple houses dotted the Beman Triangle landscape in the 19th century

Sarah Croucher Discusses Community Archaeology in the Beman Triangle

In this video, Sarah Croucher, assistant professor of anthropology, assistant professor of archaeology, discusses her community archaeology project in the “Beman Triangle” in Middletown, Conn. The houses built on this land from the 1840s were home to a community of African Americans living in Middletown, tied to the nearby A.M.E. Zion Church. Artifacts discovered in the area from 19th century trash pits shed new light on the lives of the community members, and the longstanding relationship between the church, Middletown and Wesleyan. Read more about Croucher’s project in this past Wesleyan Connection article.

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5 Questions With . . . Sarah Croucher on Middletown’s Beman Triangle

Assistant professor Sarah Croucher is leading an archeological dig in the Beman Triangle, located between Vine Street, Cross Street, and Knowles Ave. Local resident Leverett Beman divided the land in 1847, and sold these plots off to other African-American families. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

In this issue of The Wesleyan Connection, we ask 5 Questions of Sarah Croucher, assistant professor of anthropology, assistant professor of archaeology, assistant professor of feminist, gender, and sexuality studies. Croucher will lead an archaeological dig on the site of the Beman Triangle in Middletown on April 28-29. The public is welcome to attend. To view photos of the dig on April 14-15 click here

Q: Professor Croucher, what exactly is the Beman Triangle and what is its significance to the history of Middletown?

A: The Beman Triangle is the land between Vine Street, Cross Street, and Knowles Ave., where homes have existed since the early 19th century. Local historian Liz Warner has shown that something very important happened here in the mid- to late-19th century. Leverett Beman, son of the first Pastor of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Zion Church in Middletown, had the land divided into plots by a surveyor in 1847, and sold these plots off to other African-American families. This seems to be a deliberately planned community; a way that members of the AME Zion Church could become property owners (something that remains hard for many people today), and live as neighbors in a relatively prosperous community. The Beman Triangle is of national importance as very few African-Americans were able to go through a similar community-building process in the mid-nineteenth century, when they still lacked U.S. citizenship and slavery was still legal in many states. Although the houses might not look like much today, the site is an important testament to the lives of the nineteenth century Beman Triangle community.

Q:  What do we know already about the AME Zion Church community?

A: There has been some wonderful historical research done on the Beman Triangle community by local historians Liz Warner and Janice Cunningham, as well as Wesleyan alumnus Jesse Nasta as part of his thesis. This work has shown us how active the residents were politically, in ways that are traceable through historical documents.

Wagoner Speaks on Indian Plateau at Penn State Conference

Phillip Wagoner, professor of art history and chair of the archaeology program, spoke on “Power, Memory, Architecture: Contested Sites on India’s Deccan Plateau, 1300-1600,” at Penn State University Park campus April 5.

Wagoner discussed his upcoming book of the same title, which focuses on the cultural history of the Deccan region of South India (1200-1600), primarily in the historical interactions between the region’s established Indic culture and the Persianate culture that arrived in the early 14th century.

Since 1987, Wagoner has been associated with the Vijayanagara Research Project, an international team of scholars in different disciplines dedicated to documentation and interpretation of the site of Vijayanagara, capital of the state that dominated the southern part of the Indian peninsula between the 1340s and 1565. This work has led to the publication of two books: Tidings of the King: A Translation and Ethnohistorical Analysis of the Rayavacakamu (University of Hawai’i Press,1993); and Vijayanagara: Architectural Inventory of the Sacred Centre, New Delhi (American Institute of Indian Studies and Manohar, 2001). Since 2000, his work has increasingly focused on Persianate Islamic architecture in the Deccan, ranging from the first appearance of Sultanate-style architecture in the region in the early 14th century, to the founding and design of Hyderabad, laid out as a new capital by the Qutb Shahi sultans in the late 16th century.

Students, Local Community Participate in Archaeology Dig

Students enrolled in Wesleyan's "Middletown Materials" class let an archeological excavation April 14-15 at the Beman Triangle on campus. The Beman Triangle is the land between Vine Street, Cross Street, and Knowles Ave., where homes have existed since the early 19th century. Pictured, teaching assistant Miriam Manda '12 helps local resident Mark with setting up a site.

Debbie Sierpinski: Assisting 4 Departments, Editing Classics Newsletter

Debbie Sierpinski, administrative assistant, pictured here with Christi Richardson ’10, has worked at Wesleyan more than 24 years. She manages the budgets for Classical Studies and English Departments and for the Archaeology and Medieval Studies programs.

Q: Debbie, you’re the administrative assistant for the Archaeology Program, Medieval Studies Program and the Classical Studies Department. Anything else?!

A: In October 2010, I was given a promotion and added the responsibility of also working for the English Department and Writing Workshop in the new Downey House operations support system. At times it is a bit challenging, but I am good at managing my time and priorities so the work gets done in a timely fashion. I wear many different hats and wear them well.

Q: How many years have you worked for Wesleyan, and in what departments?

A: I have credit for 24 years at Wesleyan. I have been at Wesleyan longer than that but I did not bridge all of the time. I have worked for the Classical Studies Department and Medieval Studies Program for 18 years. After a few years, the Archaeology Program was added on and then most recently, the English Department

Middletown Materials Class Posts Final Projects Online

The Middletown Materials: Archaeological Analysis class (ANTH 227) presented their final projects May 5-7 in the new Cross Street Archaeology Lab. The class was taught by Sarah Croucher, assistant professor of anthropology, assistant professor of archaeology, assistant professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies.

“The class has been doing fantastic work on beginning to reexamine archaeological contexts explored in the late 1970s by Professor Stephen Dyson and students,” she says. “They’ve had a tough job as the first class to begin working with this material, but have been making great progress with the artifacts and with working on associated archival information.”

Presentations were held across two class sessions, and included work on advertising in late 18th and early 19th century Middletown, the relationship of Middletown newspapers to the Magill site inhabitants, queer Marxist investigations of historical archaeology in Middletown, interpretations of bottles found in the rebuilding of the Wesleyan boathouse, and a tour of the remaining historical buildings on Wesleyan’s campus and their relationship to the changing history of Middletown.

Their work is published online at http://middletownmaterials.research.wesleyan.edu/student-posts/.

Fellowship has Croucher Focused on 19th Century East Africa

Second from left, Sara Croucher, assistant professor of anthropology, assistant professor of archaeology, assistant professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies, received a SAR Weatherhead Fellowship to Study Archaeology in 19th Century East Africa. She's pictured here with Rachel Miller-Howard '10, third from left.

Second from left, Sarah Croucher, assistant professor of anthropology, assistant professor of archaeology, assistant professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies, received a Weatherhead Fellowship to study the archaeology of 19th Century East Africa. She's pictured at the Ujiji excavation site in Western Tanzania during 2008 with, from left, Hajj M. Hajj, Tanzanian research associate; Rachel Miller-Howard ’10; and Florah Kessy, an M.A. student, from the University of Dar es Salaam.

As an archaeologist investigating 19th century sites in Zanzibar and Tanzania, it was impossible for Sarah Croucher to ignore the thousands of shreds of locally-produced and imported ceramics unearthed every day of excavations.

For archaeologists, these materials are vital to interpreting the social history of 19th century Islamic colonialism in East Africa.

“Many key questions remain uninvestigated, particularly in regard to how newly shared Zanzibar identities emerged during the 19th Century, which intersected with gender, religion, class and sexuality,” Croucher explains.

Sarah Croucher working in a trench

Sarah Croucher and research associate Hajj M. Hajj excavate at the site of Ujiji.

Croucher, assistant professor of anthropology, assistant professor of archaeology, assistant professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies, has been awarded a nine-month Weatherhead Fellowship by the School for Advanced Research (SAR) in Santa Fe, N.M. Resident scholars approach their research from anthropology or from related fields such as history, sociology, art and philosophy, with fellowships providing scholars with “time to think and write about topics important to the understanding of humankind.” Scholars are provided with housing and office space on the SAR campus in Santa Fe.

Croucher was awarded the fellowship to complete writing up the findings of her research, tied together into a project titled “Consuming Colonialism: Archaeological Investigations of Ceramics and Identities in 19th Century East Africa.”

The core of this study results from survey and excavation work Croucher directed in 2003 and 2005 to investigate clove plantation sites on Zanzibar. Further material is drawn from a 2006 survey project along the central caravan route taken by traders during the 19th Century and excavations in 2008 at the site of Ujiji in Western Tanzania, made famous by the expeditions of Stanley and

Speakers Raise Awareness of Native American Repatriation Challenges

In honor of the 20th anniversary of the passage of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), the Center for American Studies sponsored an event titled "Reconsidering Repatriation: Colonial Legacies, Indigenous Politics and Institutional Developments," held March 26 in Russell House. The event was held to raise awareness of critical issues regarding NAGPRA compliance in the context of both Wesleyan as an institution of higher learning that is subject to the federal law, and the particular challenges of repatriation in the southern New England region.

In honor of the 20th anniversary of the passage of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), the American Studies Program sponsored an event titled "Reconsidering Repatriation: Colonial Legacies, Indigenous Politics and Institutional Developments," held March 26 in Russell House. The event was held to raise awareness of critical issues regarding NAGPRA compliance in the context of both Wesleyan as an institution of higher learning that is subject to the federal law, and the particular challenges of repatriation in the southern New England region.