Duxbury Second Meeting House 2008

Field Work Theory and Method
Myles Standish Burial Ground
Recommended Reading
Recomended to Bring on a Dig
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Directions to Project Area
Project Background
Research Design
Project Area Geology
Duxbury Background History
Duxbury First and Second Meeting House History
Field Work Theory and Method

  Field Methods
Archaeological findings that can address some of the topics relating to community organization if the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the communal use of space around a community structure during pre-Revolutionary, Revolutionary and early federal periods, and the development and evolution of the meeting house throughout the nineteenth century.
Features that will be looked for during the Site Examination that have the potential to add to our understanding of these topics include the builder’s trench associated with the structure, deposits or anomalies in the yard outside of the structure possibly related to the position of fence lines or posts, , artifacts relating to the temporal period of use and the patterns of use outside and inside any possible structures, artifacts and anomalies relating to potential Native American occupation of the site prior to the arrival of the settlers in the 1630s These findings will be combined with the background research that is designed to identify the history of the property.
One of the purposes of the site examination is to help determine National Register eligibility by identifying what categories sites would fall under in the Register. This site may be eligible for nomination under Criteria D as a historic or prehistoric For the purpose of this site examination characteristics of the area within and surrounding any structures identified will be examined include two areas of research. The first are the processes or relationships that have been instrumental in shaping the environment such as spatial organization, land uses and activities, responses to natural features, and cultural traditions. The second are the physical components or features that make up the environment such as circulation networks, boundaries, vegetation related to land use, structural types, cluster arrangements, archaeological sites, small scale elements and perceptual qualities (McClelland et al 1990: 4-8).

Research questions for this project include the following:

-are there prehistoric archaeological deposits present within the project area

-how does any of the prehistoric material recovered relate to the two know

prehistoric sites located within and adjacent to the project area

-can the prehistoric assemblage be used to provide a better understanding of

the assemblages and archaeology identified at the two previously identified

archaeological sites

-are their architecturally related anomalies and deposits present within the

Second Meeting House Site project area

-if deposits are present, can they be determined to be related to the 17th or

18th century meeting houses believed to stand on or near the project area

-can the historic archaeological artifact assemblage be used to provide a better

understanding of the nature of the use of the meeting house and its surrounding


-are their potential 17th century human burials present within the project area


Site examination testing is conducted for two main goals: the determination of

the boundaries of the site and gaining a better understanding of the site's age,

contents, integrity and function so that the significance of the site can be

assessed. Site Examination testing will be limited to the area owned and

maintained by the Duxbury Rural and Historical Society. The purpose of the

Site Examination will be to give a preliminary definition of the size, data

contents and spatial arrangement of artifacts and features, especially any

structural elements such as building trench, floor deposits and material within

the adjacent foundation, for the purpose of assessing the site's integrity,

research potential, and significance, and in order to make an opinion of the

potential eligibility of the site for inclusion in the National and State Register of

Historic Places. Site Examination testing will also seek to identify any elements

relating to native American occupation, with the goal being to help provide a

better understanding of the tow sites located within and adjacent tot he project


Testing Strategy

The project area is expected to have a high archaeological potential to yield

evidence of prehistoric and historic use of this area of Duxbury. The site

contains one known prehistoric site dating to the early Archaic and Woodland

periods, and is adjacent to another significant prehistoric site, the Howland

orchard site. The topography, soil characteristics, distance to water and

distance to a suspected Native trail, indicates that even without the presence of

two other previously identified sites, the project area would maintain a high

sensitivity for prehistoric resources. The project area also has a high sensitivity

for containing potential historic resources. It is located adjacent tot he ancient

burial ground in Duxbury, the oldest maintained burial ground in America, it is

adjacent to a known historic road, and it is the suspected location of at least

the second (and possibly the first) meeting house in the town. Geographically it

is located at the center of a community core, Morton's Hole, dating from the

town's initial settlement and occupies a prominent rise within the town, making

it an elevated and visible location, predictably the type of location that meeting

houses were often situated on.

Proposed archaeological testing will take three forms. The first is a ground

penetrating radar survey to be performed by Russ Kempton, Principal of New

England Geophysical. Mr. Kempton will be responsible for designing and

conducting the GPR survey and providing a report of its results for inclusion in

the report. Mr. Kempton has had over 27 years of experience in geophysical

field surveys and has worked with law enforcement agencies, among others, in

identifying single and mass burials.

The GPR survey will be conducted to locate anomalies that may be associated

with the meeting house, grave shafts, or other features associated with the

property’s historical development. A scan focusing on depths from 12” to 10’ will

be used for this purpose. The full extent (such as grid size) and potential (such as

surveying the basement) of the GPR survey will be determined in the field by Mr.

Kempton. This type of survey will provide a noninvasive snapshot of subsurface

conditions that cannot otherwise be accomplished.

As GPR can only show that an anomaly exists below the surface and it is not

possible to determine exactly what that anomaly is field testing or ground truthing

of the anomalies identified by the GPR survey will be important to state with any

degree of certainty what is or is not present in the Project Area. After the data is

collected in the field component of the survey, all scans will be analyzed in a

computer program. The results of the computer analysis coupled with the

beginning and ending depths of the identified mass and Mr. Kempton’s years of

experience with this type of survey will be the identification of potential anomalies,

if they exist, within the Project Area. These locations will be ground-truthed.

Excavation will be conducted through the use of appropriately sized excavation

units, as determined by the Project Archaeologist and Mr. Kempton, and placed

so that they expose the anomaly. Anomalies will not be excavated at this time,

only photographically and graphically recorded and left in situ. Ground truthing will

also be carried out in areas where GPR surveys revealed the presence of no

anomalies. This will be done in order to test if the GPR survey correctly identified

areas anomaly sterile areas as well as locations of potential anomalies.

If any human remains are revealed, excavation will cease, the area will be

protected from further impact, and the State Archaeologist will be contacted

immediately. It is understood that according to the Massachusetts Unmarked

Burial Law and regulations governing archaeological investigations under

permit, no authorization is provided to archaeologists to excavated human

remains without a Special Permit (950 CMR 70.20).

Following the GPR survey, sampling of the plowzone will be carried out

through the use of 50 cm square test pits that will be excavated at the 5 meter

grid intersection points in order to gather a sample of the plowzone/ A1

horizon and to help delimit the site boundaries and investigate the integrity of

the site. Test pit excavation will be carried out in 5 cm levels with the natural

soil horizon and will be limited to the excavation of the A1/ plowzone.

Excavation will not be carried out into the subsoil. Adjacent excavations may

be conducted in order to more fully expose any anomalies encountered in the

test pits. Upon reaching the subsoil, the subsoil surface will be scraped clean,

and recorded photographically and through the use of hand drawings and

written descriptions. No excavation will be carried out into the subsoil.

The project area measures 34.7 m on the south (Chestnut St.) side, 47.6 m on

the east side, 38 m on the west side and 31 m. on the north side. Employing a

five-meter grid, it is expected that a total of 63 test pits will need to be

excavated on the five meter grid.

Because the project area is located adjacent to the ancient burial ground, the

possibility does exist that unmarked burials or disarticulated elements from

previously disturbed burials could be encountered. Any bone that is

encountered will be field evaluated by the Principal Investigator to determine if

it could possibly be human. If the possibility exists that the bone may be

human, the State Archaeologist will be notified and it is understood that

according to the Massachusetts Unmarked Burial Law and regulations

governing archaeological investigations under permit, no authorization is

provided to archaeologists to excavated human remains without a Special

Permit (950 CMR 70.20).

All soil will be screened through archaeological screens fitted with 1/4 inch

hardware cloth. All artifacts recovered will be placed into separate bags by

unit and level for cleaning and cataloging following fieldwork. Detailed notes

will be kept for each of the excavation units, test trenches and test pits. These

notes will include descriptions of soil colors and textures as well as scale

drawing of all test units, trenches and pits.

The Duxbury Rural and Historical Society would like to have all artifacts

recovered as well as the original field notes, photographs and video be

deposited and curated at the Duxbury Rural and Historical Society's Drew

Archival Library, located within the Wright Building at 147 St. George Street,

Duxbury, Ma. The Wright Building was the home of the Duxbury Free Library

until 1997 when the Library relocated to a much larger, newly renovated

space. In 2005, the Town of Duxbury voted to appropriate Community

Preservation Funds to restore and adapt the Wright Building for new uses. The

original 1909 wing of the library has been restored to it's early 20th century

appearance. The Duxbury Rural and Historical Society utilizes the fully

climate-controlled facility to preserve their large collection of historic

documents and make them available to the public. The DRHS also hired an

archivist, Kerry Durkin, to manage the facility.

The Principal Investigator will carry out the fieldwork assisted by DRHS and

approved volunteers. MAP is well supplied with shovels, screens, tarps, soil

sample and artifact collection bags, Munsell Soil Color charts, compasses,

tape measures, flagging tape and all other materials needed to successfully

carry out field investigations. If the need arises we have sources for transits

and other fine scale mapping equipment.

F. Justification for Field Investigations

The project area of the Second Meeting House Site has a high potential for

containing both prehistoric and historic archaeological resources. Two

previously recorded prehistoric archaeological sites are located within or

adjacent to the project area. Both sites were collected at or excavated by the

members of the Massachusetts Archaeological Society and full field reports on

the nature of the archaeology at these sites is lacking. The collections from the

sites are also not curated in any single location but are maintained by the

individual excavators Both of these factors limit the amount of knowledge that

can be gained from their excavation, making it difficult to fully understand the

nature and significance of the occupations represented by them. Site

examination testing at the Second Meeting House Site has the potential to

provide a more detailed and professional examination of this area of Duxbury

and to allow for a better understanding of the avocational collections and

findings. The site also has a high historic archaeological potential. The project

area existed within the center of one of the first settlement nodes formed

following the initial settlement at Plymouth. It has the potential for revealing

information relating to the construction and utilization of both the first and

second meeting houses and also generally of the 17th century occupation in the

town of Duxbury itself. The project area is owned and maintained by the

Duxbury Rural and Historical Society, an independent non-profit organization

which is fully funding the project, and thus the project is not under and local,

state, or federal review. The DRHS believes that the site examination will

allow them to gain a better understanding of this piece of property that they

maintain, it will allow them the opportunity to promote both their goals of

education and preservation of historic and cultural resources, and to help

promote the need for conservation and preservation of cultural and historical

resources within the town as a whole. Excavation will be limited to the A1/

plowzone, and as a result the site integrity will be only slightly impacted and the

more significant intact prehistoric and historic deposits present in the subsoil

will be preserved for future excavation and testing. A site examination is

justified to investigate the project area to gather sufficient information to

determine whether the archaeological deposits associated with property are

eligible for listing in the National and State Register of Historic Places by

determining the limits of the deposits, and to assess their integrity, significance

and research potential of the site.


Copyright 2008 PARP