Project 400, Plymouth, MA Projects  

Plymouth Colony Archaeological Fieldschool

May 26–June 26, 2020 • Plymouth, Massachusetts

Plymouth Colony Archaeological Survey—
Project Overview

The approaching 400th anniversary of the founding of the Plymouth Colony provides a unique opportunity for research and education on the early colonial history and archaeology of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The Andrew Fiske Memorial Center for Archaeological Research at University of Massachusetts Boston, in conjunction with Plimoth Plantation and the Town of Plymouth, has begun planning for a series of collaborative initiatives focused on this quatercentenary. Over the next 10 years we expect to work, in cooperation with other scholars and stakeholders, on archaeological research projects and fieldschools, public programming, teacher training, and similar activities. These projects would be designed to help create a scholarly legacy for the 400th anniversary, teach students and teachers the archaeology and history of Plymouth and its place in the 17th-century Atlantic World, and engage the public in a meaningful consideration of the period and its impact on both Colonial and Native communities.

As an initial step in this effort we plan to undertake a thematic reconnaissance survey of the archaeological resources related to the Plymouth Colony. While the archaeology of some of these sites is well known (Deetz 1977, 2001), recent reanalysis has shown the potential value of modern analytical approaches to site interpretation (Beaudry et al. 2003). We plan a central geographic focus on the settlement around historic Plymouth Bay, including the current Towns of Plymouth, Kingston, and Duxbury. While a major focus is on the period of the Plymouth Colony (1620-1691), we are also interested in Native American sites that pre-date or are contemporaneous with the Colony. We expect this project to include: 1) a review of known site information and existing archaeological collections; 2) historical research on potential site locations; 3) compilation of modern and historic map data in a GIS database; 4) ranking of archaeological resource potential and sensitivity of different areas; 5) preparation of a descriptive and interpretive report summarizing the results of this work; and 6) preparation of site forms for any new sites identified.

We plan to include a focus on areas of downtown Plymouth, especially the core area of the earliest fortified settlement and the surrounding neighborhood. This area has seen substantial modern development and urban renewal (Goldstein 2007), raising concerns about site integrity and making the identification of potential sites challenging. However, archaeological work in other even more urbanized areas, such as Boston and New York, has shown the potential for important sites to be preserved even in the urban environment. The initial reconnaissance phase will include non-destructive geophysical remote sensing of one or more sites in the downtown area to test the effectiveness of this equipment for site identification and assessment.

We envision this archaeological reconnaissance survey as a first step in a larger project. Our hope is to help bring added public attention to the coming 400th anniversary and thereby catalyze a series of follow-on projects. This could take a variety of forms, including town-wide archaeological resource surveys in surrounding communities, preparation of National Register nominations for significant archaeological or historical sites or districts, or additional reconnaissance level work on other geographic areas of the Plymouth Colony. For our part, we anticipate this reconnaissance survey to be followed by grant writing to other funding sources—such as National Geographic, the National Science Foundation, or National Endowment for the Humanities—to support an expanded period of remote sensing and archaeological testing on a series of sites identified by the survey.

This work will be done in collaboration with Plimoth Plantation, the Town of Plymouth and with the Native American Institute at UMass Boston. We will work to ensure that Native perspectives and concerns are integrated into the project from the outset. We will also work with Plimoth Plantation—drawing on the museum’s expertise in public education and public programming—to help translate our archaeological work for the widest possible audience. While some of the public programming will likely develop outside the time frame of this reconnaissance project, we are committed to a long-term public education and engagement effort as part of this work.

References cited
Beaudry, M.C., Goldstein, K.J., & Chartier, C. (2003). Archaeology of the Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts. Avalon Chronicles 8: 155-186.
Deetz, J. (1977). In Small Things Forgotten: The Archaeology of Early American Life. Doubleday, Garden City, NY.
Deetz, J., & Deetz, P.S. (2001). The Times of Their Lives: Life, Love, and Death in Plymouth Colony. W. H. Freeman, New York.
Goldstein, K.J. (2007). From pilgrims to poverty: Biography of an urban renewal neighborhood in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Ph.D. dissertation, Boston University, Boston.



Massachusetts Historical Commission Survey and Planning Project: Plymouth Colony Archaeological Reconnaissance Survey

Cultural Resource Management Study No. 64: Eel River Farm (19PL521) Intensive Archaeological Survey, Plymouth, Massachusetts. April 201

Cultural Resource Management Study No. 65: Spring Street, Plymouth, Massachusetts. 2014.

Cultural Resource Management Study No. 67: Plymouth Colony Archaeological Reconnaissance Survey, Plymouth, Massachusetts. October 2014.

Cultural Resource Management Study No. 70: Project 400: The Plymouth Colony Archaeological Survey, Report on the 2014 Field Season, Burial Hill Plymouth, Massachusetts. 2015.

Plymouth Colony Archaeological Survey: Results of 2015 Excavations on Burial Hill, SHA Poster, January 2016

Cultural Resourse Management Study No. 75a: Project 400: The Plymouth Colony Archaeological Survey Public Summary Report on the 2015 Field Season Burial Hill, Plymouth, Massachusetts. August 2016.

Plymouth Colony Archaeological Survey: Plymouth Memory Capsule: A 19th Century Tale of Woe?, SHA Poster, January 2017

Graduate Masters Theses

Kellie Bowers - Native Interactions and Economic Exchange: A Re-Evaluation of Plymouth Colony Collections

Meredith Luze - Living the History: The Role of Archaeology in the Interpretation of the Wampanoag Homesite at Plimoth Plantation