City of Boston Archaeology Program

City of Boston Archaeology Program The City of Boston Archaeology Program celebrates Boston’s diverse history through preservation, excavation, and community engagement The goal of archaeology in Boston is to document archaeological sites that bring to light new and poorly recorded stories of a place’s past, while also engaging the local community in the discovery of their history.

Boston’s City Archaeology Program was founded in 1983 in response to massive archaeological excavations underway ahead of the Big Dig/Central Artery-Tunnel project. Today, the Program conducts excavations, curates archaeological collections from the city for researchers, and provides free educational programming to the public under the direction of the City Archaeologist, Joe Bagley. We expect con

Boston’s City Archaeology Program was founded in 1983 in response to massive archaeological excavations underway ahead of the Big Dig/Central Artery-Tunnel project. Today, the Program conducts excavations, curates archaeological collections from the city for researchers, and provides free educational programming to the public under the direction of the City Archaeologist, Joe Bagley. We expect con

Operating as usual

Happy Massachusetts Archaeology Month! The artifacts in this image were recovered from sites all over Boston, including ...
10/13/2021

Happy Massachusetts Archaeology Month! The artifacts in this image were recovered from sites all over Boston, including the former backyard of the Paul Revere House and Faneuil Hall. How many can you identify? 👀 Let us know in the comments!

October is Massachusetts Archaeology Month!

This month, we come together to share in our love of archaeology, emphasize the important role archaeology plays in understanding and interpreting Boston's past, and help to promote archaeology as historic preservation. The artifacts in the image come from multiple Boston archaeological sites and span thousands of years of Massachusetts history.

10/11/2021

Today, the City of Boston recognizes and celebrates Indigenous Peoples Day.

For more Indigenous voices, visit: http://ow.ly/3odO50Gpow4

We have some great news! It has been a journey, but after nearly two years of work, the first archaeological site to be ...
10/06/2021
Brook Farm Archaeological Site

We have some great news! It has been a journey, but after nearly two years of work, the first archaeological site to be fully digitized under our NEH grant funded Boston Digital Archaeology Project is complete!

You can now view our revamped webpage for Brook Farm Historic Site along with a fully searchable digital catalog including photographs of and provenience information for 98,413 artifacts.

You can also access free downloadable 3D models of artifacts, the Boston Landmarks Commission’s study report, and other information about the site.

Stay tuned for more announcements as the other sites go live! #Boston #archaeology #NEHgrant #BrookFarm

Last updated: 10/4/21 Brook Farm Archaeological Site Archaeologists carried out several surveys at Brook Farm in the 1990s documenting over 5,000 years of history at the Landmark-designated property Page Sections Section Nav The SiteThe DigThe ResultsThe DataThe Exhibit Still have questions? Contact...

Longtime Boston Archaeology fans have seen us post about this type of redware before (we get pretty excited about it her...
09/27/2021

Longtime Boston Archaeology fans have seen us post about this type of redware before (we get pretty excited about it here). This rim sherd (FHU-0066-011) excavated from Faneuil Hall in 2010 is a gorgeous example of Charlestown redware! The scalloped slip decoration is a tell-tale indicator that this vessel originated at one of the Charlestown potteries, potentially the Parker-Harris pottery. Grace Parker ran a large pottery in the mid-18th century and enslaved two people, Jack and Acton, to help produce this distinctive redware. Many Boston artisans used the labor of enslaved people to manufacture goods.

It’s possible that the intact vessel this sherd originated as part of was aboard a ship either coming to Boston’s Town Dock from Charlestown or bound for further shores. 18th-century Charlestown wares made it as far as Nova Scotia and South Carolina! #Boston #archaeology #NEHgrant #redware #pottery #Charlestown

Longtime Boston Archaeology fans have seen us post about this type of redware before (we get pretty excited about it here). This rim sherd (FHU-0066-011) excavated from Faneuil Hall in 2010 is a gorgeous example of Charlestown redware! The scalloped slip decoration is a tell-tale indicator that this vessel originated at one of the Charlestown potteries, potentially the Parker-Harris pottery. Grace Parker ran a large pottery in the mid-18th century and enslaved two people, Jack and Acton, to help produce this distinctive redware. Many Boston artisans used the labor of enslaved people to manufacture goods.

It’s possible that the intact vessel this sherd originated as part of was aboard a ship either coming to Boston’s Town Dock from Charlestown or bound for further shores. 18th-century Charlestown wares made it as far as Nova Scotia and South Carolina! #Boston #archaeology #NEHgrant #redware #pottery #Charlestown

We’ve got another fun one for the hive mind on this gloomy Thursday! This partial sword hilt (PRH-0069-001) was recovere...
09/16/2021

We’ve got another fun one for the hive mind on this gloomy Thursday! This partial sword hilt (PRH-0069-001) was recovered during a 1983 excavation on The Paul Revere House property. Unfortunately, its provenience (information telling us where on the site it was found) has been lost over the years.

Our best guess is that it is part of a smallsword of the type worn formally by gentlemen of the 18th century, though it has been suggested that it could just be a toy. It looks to have been treated with tannic acid to preserve the iron giving it a blackened color. It features some decoration including a symbol which may be an “F” or an “S.” Are there any sword experts out there who can help us get a general date for this artifact or share any related knowledge? #Boston #archaeology #NEHgrant #PaulRevereHouse #swords

In honor of almost-October, take a look at this vanishing act performed by one of our artifact’s labels.  This porcelain...
09/08/2021

In honor of almost-October, take a look at this vanishing act performed by one of our artifact’s labels. This porcelain hair pomade lid was recovered by archaeologists in 2013 at Lathrop Place on The Paul Revere House property during work on their Education & Visitor Center. The decal (enameled image transferred onto the vessel) label states that this product was made by the House of Guerlain of Paris from beef marrow (“de moelle de boeuf”) and hazelnut oil (“et d’huile de noisette”) and was meant for maintenance of the hair (“pour l'entretre & la erne des cheveux”). In addition to the manipulation of the hair’s look, the product was said to have been beneficial for hair growth. The House of Guerlain, a popular French perfume and cosmetics company, was founded in 1828 and catered to "high society" customers. Their business was so successful that the company is still in business today. Guerlain was located at 42 Rue de Rivoli in Paris until 1840, when the company moved to 15 Rue de la Paix. Indicated by the earlier address labeled onto this pomade lid, this product was manufactured prior to their move, and may have been one of the first products being produced by Guerlain. The original decal label appears to have worn off during its time in the ground but the remnants of the overglaze decoration remain on the vessel lid’s surface. Image 3 shows what a Guerlain decal-decorated jar lid would have looked like with the full decal decoration pictured (complexion powder jar). Image 4 shows what a pomade pot/jar may have looked like (pictured here as a crème lénitive pot – 19th century). Artifact Provenience: LP2.0144 #boston #NEHgrant #archaeology #lathropplace #ceramics #guerlain

Today, we start our new #IMLSgrant project to digitize our early 17th century archaeological collections with a massive ...
09/01/2021

Today, we start our new #IMLSgrant project to digitize our early 17th century archaeological collections with a massive organization project to put the 1980s-pulled artifacts (back half of the boxes) back into their original provenience bags (front half of the boxes), so that the entire collection can be fully cataloged for the first time since they were excavated in the early 1980s. These collections are the Maudlin Archaeological Discrict artifacts from Charlestown, excavated ahead of the Big Dig, and they include the 1635-1655 James Garrett House collection, the largest 17th century artifact assemblage in Boston.

Today, we start our new #IMLSgrant project to digitize our early 17th century archaeological collections with a massive organization project to put the 1980s-pulled artifacts (back half of the boxes) back into their original provenience bags (front half of the boxes), so that the entire collection can be fully cataloged for the first time since they were excavated in the early 1980s. These collections are the Maudlin Archaeological Discrict artifacts from Charlestown, excavated ahead of the Big Dig, and they include the 1635-1655 James Garrett House collection, the largest 17th century artifact assemblage in Boston.

Our HUB History  podcast interview on Boston's Oldest Buildings and Boston archaeology is live! Check out the audio and ...
08/31/2021
Boston's Oldest Buildings and Where to Find Them, with Joe Bagley (episode 230) - HUB History: Boston history podcast

Our HUB History podcast interview on Boston's Oldest Buildings and Boston archaeology is live! Check out the audio and full transcript, below!

http://www.hubhistory.com/episodes/bostons-oldest-buildings-and-where-to-find-them-with-joe-bagley-episode-230/

Joe Bagley is the archaeologist for the city of Boston, and his new book Boston’s Oldest Buildings and Where to Find Them catalogs 50 of the oldest houses, stores, churches, and even lighthouses that still stand here in the Hub. In this episode, he tells us how it’s still possible to rediscover ...

Here is an early 18th century hemlock cone found by archaeologists under Faneuil Hall in 1991 during a survey for a futu...
08/25/2021

Here is an early 18th century hemlock cone found by archaeologists under Faneuil Hall in 1991 during a survey for a future elevator installation. The constantly wet conditions of the fill under and around Faneuil Hall makes the soils ideal for preserving organic artifacts. The soils from the deposit where the cone was found dated to ca. 1730, based on ceramics also found in the same deposit. The place that is now Faneuil Hall used to be Boston’s Town Dock, which was partially filled in 1728 to construct Faneuil Hall. Artifact: FHB.083.3295

We are teaming up with @AECOM archaeologists on a #CPAboston-funded project to digitize the 30,000 artifacts recovered by archaeologists during a survey under Faneuil Hall in 1991. We will also be creating a new exhibit in the Hall on Boston’s role in the Atlantic slave trade. We are taking photographs of every object, and will be sharing the photos, our digital catalog, and our exhibit with the public at the end of the project.

Here is an early 18th century hemlock cone found by archaeologists under Faneuil Hall in 1991 during a survey for a future elevator installation. The constantly wet conditions of the fill under and around Faneuil Hall makes the soils ideal for preserving organic artifacts. The soils from the deposit where the cone was found dated to ca. 1730, based on ceramics also found in the same deposit. The place that is now Faneuil Hall used to be Boston’s Town Dock, which was partially filled in 1728 to construct Faneuil Hall. Artifact: FHB.083.3295

We are teaming up with @AECOM archaeologists on a #CPAboston-funded project to digitize the 30,000 artifacts recovered by archaeologists during a survey under Faneuil Hall in 1991. We will also be creating a new exhibit in the Hall on Boston’s role in the Atlantic slave trade. We are taking photographs of every object, and will be sharing the photos, our digital catalog, and our exhibit with the public at the end of the project.

Many clay to***co pipes are decorated, including this one from the Faneuil Hall survey.  It shows a “lion rampant” which...
08/23/2021

Many clay to***co pipes are decorated, including this one from the Faneuil Hall survey. It shows a “lion rampant” which is a lion standing with its forepaws raised. Most of these pipes were made in England, where the lion (England) and unicorn (Scotland) symbols represent the United Kingdom. Can you think of an important building near Faneuil Hall where this symbol of English monarchy can be found? This pipe was recovered by archaeologists during 1991 excavations in the building's basement for a future elevator. The soils from that deposit dated to ca. 1730, based on ceramics also found in the same deposit. The place that is now Faneuil Hall used to be Boston’s Town Dock, which was partially filled in 1728 to construct Faneuil Hall. Artifact: FHB.030.1015

We are teaming up with @AECOM archaeologists on a #CPAboston-funded project to digitize the 30,000 artifacts recovered by archaeologists during a survey under Faneuil Hall in 1991. We will also be creating a new exhibit in the Hall on Boston’s role in the Atlantic slave trade. We are taking photographs of every object, and will be sharing the photos, our digital catalog, and our exhibit with the public at the end of the project.

Many clay to***co pipes are decorated, including this one from the Faneuil Hall survey. It shows a “lion rampant” which is a lion standing with its forepaws raised. Most of these pipes were made in England, where the lion (England) and unicorn (Scotland) symbols represent the United Kingdom. Can you think of an important building near Faneuil Hall where this symbol of English monarchy can be found? This pipe was recovered by archaeologists during 1991 excavations in the building's basement for a future elevator. The soils from that deposit dated to ca. 1730, based on ceramics also found in the same deposit. The place that is now Faneuil Hall used to be Boston’s Town Dock, which was partially filled in 1728 to construct Faneuil Hall. Artifact: FHB.030.1015

We are teaming up with @AECOM archaeologists on a #CPAboston-funded project to digitize the 30,000 artifacts recovered by archaeologists during a survey under Faneuil Hall in 1991. We will also be creating a new exhibit in the Hall on Boston’s role in the Atlantic slave trade. We are taking photographs of every object, and will be sharing the photos, our digital catalog, and our exhibit with the public at the end of the project.

The preservation under Faneuil Hall is absolutely remarkable due to its waterlogged condition.  Many organic artifacts l...
08/19/2021

The preservation under Faneuil Hall is absolutely remarkable due to its waterlogged condition. Many organic artifacts like this corn husk would typically decompose on most Boston archaeological sites. It was found by archaeologists during 1991 excavations in the building's basement for a future elevator. The soils from that deposit dated to ca. 1730, based on ceramics also found in the same deposit. The place that is now Faneuil Hall used to be Boston’s Town Dock, which was partially filled in 1728 to construct Faneuil Hall. Artifact: FHB.039.0656

We are teaming up with @AECOM archaeologists on a #CPAboston-funded project to digitize the 30,000 artifacts recovered by archaeologists during a survey under Faneuil Hall in 1991. We will also be creating a new exhibit in the Hall on Boston’s role in the Atlantic slave trade. We are taking photographs of every object, and will be sharing the photos, our digital catalog, and our exhibit with the public at the end of the project.

The preservation under Faneuil Hall is absolutely remarkable due to its waterlogged condition. Many organic artifacts like this corn husk would typically decompose on most Boston archaeological sites. It was found by archaeologists during 1991 excavations in the building's basement for a future elevator. The soils from that deposit dated to ca. 1730, based on ceramics also found in the same deposit. The place that is now Faneuil Hall used to be Boston’s Town Dock, which was partially filled in 1728 to construct Faneuil Hall. Artifact: FHB.039.0656

We are teaming up with @AECOM archaeologists on a #CPAboston-funded project to digitize the 30,000 artifacts recovered by archaeologists during a survey under Faneuil Hall in 1991. We will also be creating a new exhibit in the Hall on Boston’s role in the Atlantic slave trade. We are taking photographs of every object, and will be sharing the photos, our digital catalog, and our exhibit with the public at the end of the project.

We can’t bottle up our excitement about this artifact! This embossed hinge-molded medicinal bottle (FHU-029-090) once co...
08/17/2021

We can’t bottle up our excitement about this artifact! This embossed hinge-molded medicinal bottle (FHU-029-090) once contained the famous Turlington’s Balsam of Life. Found during a 2010 excavation at Faneuil Hall, the bottle of elixir was manufactured in England and made its way to Town Dock via ship to cure the ails of mid-18th century Bostonians. Robert Turlington first patented his formula in 1743/44 and used every avenue available to keep it protected from imitators. He was a master marketer, using newspaper ads, an invented coat of arms, a 46-page booklet including customer testimonials, and this embossed bottle. The bottle became so recognizable that even after his death other purveyors of medicines continued to use it (sometimes even with Turlington’s name) to market their own formulas. This version of the Turlington bottle was manufactured from 1754-1920! In addition to its association with other 18th-century artifacts, ours has the distinctive hinge mold and pontil scar (image 2) that indicates an early manufacture date. Image 3, a drawing of an intact bottle, is from Olive Jones & Allen Vegotsky’s in-depth 2016 article readable here: https://orb.binghamton.edu/neha/vol45/iss1/1/ #Boston #archaeology #NEHgrant #bottles

We can not WAIT to share with you all the thousands and thousands of early 17th century artifacts we are about to re-cat...
08/16/2021
City Archaeologist announces federal grant to showcase 17th century artifacts

We can not WAIT to share with you all the thousands and thousands of early 17th century artifacts we are about to re-catalog and photograph starting this fall! All four sites are from #Charlestown and were surveyed ahead of Boston's Big Dig project. They include Gov. John Winthrop's 1629 Great House site, the 1635-1775 Long Ordinary (later renamed Three Cranes Tavern) site, and two private homes, that of James and Deborah Garrett (1638-1655) and John Smith (1644-1691).

The Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) has awarded the City of Boston Archaeology Program (Program) a $160,000 matching grant to digitally document 17th century collections housed at the City of Boston Archaeology Laboratory in West Roxbury. This work will help preserve these collectio...

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General information

The City Archaeology Program is divided into three main categories: review, lab, and field work. Review includes reviewing construction and landscape projects in Boston for their impacts on archaeological resources, lab work includes analysis and curation of a growing collection of nearly 2,000 boxes of archaeologically-recovered artifacts from Boston, and field work includes excavations on city-owned and non-profit-owned lands in Boston

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The goal of archaeology in Boston is to document archaeological sites that bring to light new and poorly recorded stories of a place’s past, while also engaging the local community in the discovery of their history.

Boston’s City Archaeology Program was founded in 1983 in response to massive archaeological excavations underway ahead of the Big Dig/Central Artery-Tunnel project. Today, the Program conducts excavations, curates archaeological collections from the city for researchers, and provides free educational programming to the public under the direction of the City Archaeologist, Joe Bagley.

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NEW Tiny Lecture. "Protecting the Soul." Some call them witches' marks. Scholars prefer the term “apotropaic marks.” What are they? Throughout the United Kingdom, Eastern Europe, colonial North America and Canada, mysterious whirls, inverted "v" shapes, or tetrafoils can be found in churches, households, and, most frequently, cemeteries. Marks have been found in sites as well-known as the Tower of London, York Minster, and Shakespeare's birthplace demonstrating their geographic spread and ubiquity. They have been found in settings as far back as ancient Rome and Judea and have been transmitted across the centuries. These marks represent Apotropaic magic—a type of magic intended to turn away harm or evil influences, by deflecting misfortune or averting the evil eye. Apotropaic magic can also symbolize vague superstition or traditions, as in good luck charms, amulets, or gestures such as crossed fingers or knocking on wood. Discover how these marks were meant to protect a soul when placed on headstones in the British Aisles and in the Americas as Robyn Lacy shares research for a forthcoming book with you.
Found this piece of china near Middlesex Canal. Any idea how old this is?
Thought you might be able to tell me what this is!! Found it in my yard today in my garden area - every time I turn the soil over something new pops up - forks, old buttons, marbles. Has some heft to it. No idea what it could be - Help!
Hello City of Boston archeologists! I’d love to know the identity and significance of objects I’ve dug up from my West Roxbury yard. Posting the first pic here....more to come if you are willing.
Is anything been found at the excavations at the North End Ballfields Remnants of the Molasses Tank? The Fire Station?, or The City Paving Yard?
How would I be able to help with a dig?
Hello! Just wondering when sign up for digs and volunteering be starting this year? Thanks!
will there ever be a dig on a sat/sun ?
Found at Mount Auburn Cemetery while restoring foundations. Any ideas about this?
Hello, all. It's Archaeology Month again, and I am back with my yearly challenge/nudge. Please join me in supporting the City of Boston Archaeology Program. I'm about to put my annual contribution in the mail. And I'm sending praise to Joe for all his good work as well as to all of you who contribute your time as volunteers to our City Archaeology Program. Boston Archaeology Strong!!!
Will you be at the Pierce-Hichborn dig tomorrow? When does the dig end?