Archaeology campers have spent the past week digging around . A group of six children, ages 8 through 12, have been learning the fundamentals of archaeology in general along with the particular history of the John Jay Estate. In just a few days, the children have learned an impressive amount of information and made some very exciting, impressive finds along the way.
Executive director Suzanne Clary said she realized there was a prime opportunity for the experience last summer when high schoolers studied architecture and energy conservation on the estate property.
With the guidance and expert instruction of Dr. Eugene Boesch, archaeologist with the Westchester County and Putnam County Historic Preservation Advisory Committees, the unique "dirt-under-your-fingernails field experience" was born.
By any measure, the week has been a rousing success. On Monday, Carol Ward from Morris-Jumel Mansion in Washington Heights came for a guest lecture and for the rest of week the campers have absorbed a curriculum of archaeology terms and techniques that would rattle an eager graduate student.
The campers crouched intently under a thicket of small shade trees behind the main house of the estate property, digging into carefully gridded pits pulling out finds of paleo and colonial era pottery, smoking pipe stems and animal bones.
"It's a pig bone," said Emma, 8, definitively. She and her young colleagues all deftly described and carefully bagged their excavated finds. Taken together, those bits and pieces of household wares fill in more details of the history of the Jay family and the use of their property over generations.
Clary thinks those pig bones and pottery pieces may indicate the location of a smokehouse right between the already identified kitchen and icehouse sites on the property.
As important as the discovery of even more perspective on the historic Jay estate, which dates back to 1745, it's the evident excitement and thorough engagement of the campers that is really significant for archaeologist Boesch.
"We [Boesch and Clary] understand how important the site is and that we act as stewards," said Dr. Boesch. "But it's really important the kids understand the consistent effort it takes to edcuate and preserve this place."
Clary is hopeful the archaeology experience will return next summer and plans to bury a time capsule with the children for future campers to excavate.