Anthropology Students Wrap Up Fall Dig

Students in Mr. Reed’s Anthropology class assess and document found artifacts


The brisk cold this fall didn’t stop ELHS’ Anthropology class from finding interesting and new artifacts on historical EL farm property, Brookside Farm (the Smith-Harris house).

“This is an Anthropology class; not an archeology class. Archaeology is only a part of it,” Anthropology teacher Willard Reed said.

Anthropology is the scientific study of humanity, concerned with human behavior, human biology, cultures, societies and linguistics, in both the present and past. Anthropology is an umbrella term that includes archeology, or excavation.

Since this school year has returned to some normalcy, the Anthropology class was able to go on their dig as a whole class instead of being split due to last year’s hybrid format. This semester’s class has found a variety of unique objects during their dig that Mr. Reed hasn’t seen before.

“We’ve been looking at some type of weird, little medallion. Dean [Palermo] found the lipstick container. We originally thought it was casing to protect some wire,” Mr. Reed said. “Trey [England] found a couple of pieces of a button, and the nice thing was he kept looking and looking and found enough pieces to put it back together.”

Mr. Reed and the rest of the class were informed that the site of the dig could be the missing outbuilding, the ice house. No one has yet to prove exactly where the Smith-Harris ice house once stood. The students continue to research the objects to find “signature pieces,” or objects that will prove this site to be the location of the ice house, such as tools for ice harvesting. The variety of items, from farm tools to lipstick, make a conclusion difficult to come to.

The class also found large pieces of metal thought to secure a pipe, a buckle, a variety of buttons, an arrowhead, dozens of nails, pieces of glass, and bits of metal tools.

The location was once farmland, so the class cannot rely completely on depth to date objects since the land was plowed and turned over countless times. To more accurately date objects, the class relies on dating nails, pottery glazes, and pieces of glass through analyzing their appearance. The class has dated various artifacts as early as the 1800s up to the 1960s.

Mr. Reed plays a pivotal role in not only teaching about the different aspects of anthropology, but also teaching about identifying certain artifacts. The students themselves play the role of actually digging the artifacts, keeping journals, dating, cleaning, and identifying artifacts. Senior James Chekal has a unique role in the class- creating the “manifest.”

“At the end of the dig, we collected all of our evidence in bags, and now what we’re doing is we’re cleaning and labeling them. For every bag we clean, we make a note card and put it in the bag but we also make a second card and put it in a box. My job is going to be taking all of the cards in the box and making an excel spreadsheet for the totals of the dig,” said Chekal.

Students don’t just get the chance to get outside, they add to local history through their finds. The work students do goes beyond the classroom and adds to EL’s history.

“I knew people who had taken it and they said it was fun. You get to go outside of school for your first block instead of having to sit in a classroom. And you get to dig stuff up which is a nice break from normal classes,” said senior Tommy McGrath.

The artifacts dug up by the class will all be given to the Brookside Farm Museum after the manifest is completed. The student who kept the best journal during the semester will also have their journal donated to the museum’s library as part of their permanent records.