June 30, 2012
Dryden homestead offers clues to past
Binghamton University students dig for artifacts at village’s Southworth Homestead
DRYDEN — The Southworth Homestead in the village yielded some glimpses of its past Friday, as teams of archaeologists and their students explored the soil around the house and barn.
The Southworth family’s 176-year-old former farm and mansion at 14 North St. also provided a chance for Binghamton University students to work with a site that has not been touched yet by anyone else, as they learned survey and excavation techniques.
The homestead was willed to the Dryden Historical Society by the last family member, Rebecca Southworth Simpson, and will house some of the society’s collections and its office at some point.
By lunchtime, pink flags adorned the lawn around the house, marking places where a metal detector had located items buried in layers of soil. The students rested in the heat, enjoying the shade next to the house, then resumed work.
The eight students and three instructors from the university’s Archaeological Field School were joined by three staff from the Public Archaeology Facility, a research center at the university. They were invited to examine the site by Gina Prentiss, the Dryden Historical Society’s past president.
“We’re working with a wet area behind the barn that the society wants to fill in,” said Andrea Zlotucha Kozub, project director for the Public Archaeological Facility. “We’re going to do shovel tests, to assess the site. We might find something, we might not.”
Archaeologists can do surveys and site assessments to determine a location’s historical value and advise the property owner on what to do with it, such as whether to build.
Usually the teams would work on the site for about five days, digging holes 2 feet or more deep, seeing what the soil contains. But Friday’s work was just for one day.
The Binghamton University students are taking a six-week summer course that ends next week. They have been excavating a prehistoric site in Binghamton that has been excavated before.
Both sites are former farms, so Zlotucha Kozub and Luke Schulze, one of the university instructors, said they would find remnants of farm life such as pieces of glass and pottery, nails and animal bones.
That still shows how people lived centuries ago, said Schulze, whose academic specialty is uses of rural landscapes. Zlotucha Kozub specializes in bone analysis, notably animal bones.
“By examining bones, we learn how people were eating, what their husbandry practices were, how they were butchering animals — cutting or carving,” she said.
Prentiss said she hopes college students continue to use the homestead for learning the science of archaeology. She said Cornell University students have worked with the society before, in analyzing barns and areas of the village.
Matt Bandurchin, a Binghamton University junior who was part of a student team, said Friday’s activities were a nice change of pace. He is doing his first site excavations this summer.
“I don’t know what I’ll do with my major yet,” said the anthropology major. “I’ll focus on getting into graduate school.”
Schulze said working in the shade was a relief.
“We work in any weather,” he said, “but the Binghamton site we’ve been working with is totally in the open. This was a nice change.”
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