Digging at Pilgrim and Native American memorial sparks intrigue

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Archaeologists painting a hill near Plymouth Rock where a park will be built in homage to the Pilgrims and their Native American predecessors have made a poignant find: this is not the first time the site has been used as a memorial

Archaeologists combing a hill near Plymouth Rock where a park will be built in homage to the pilgrims and their Native American predecessors have made a poignant find: this is not the first time the site has been used as a memorial.

David Landon, of the Fiske Center for Archaeological Research at the University of Massachusetts in Boston, said his team unearthed a cache of personal items that he said were buried there in the late 1800s, possibly by a heartbroken settler who had outlived his three children.

Landon says the items – glasses, clothes, sewing tools, pocket watch, and book – gave him chills. That’s because they appeared during the last excavation of Cole’s Hill, a National Historic Site in Plymouth, Massachusetts, where Memorial Park is expected to be built.

“Someone has clearly used this space in this way in the past to commemorate family members,” said Landon, whose team spent the last month scouring the waterfront site where the pilgrims are said to have disembarked. in 1620.

“It’s an incredible array of things that you typically don’t find as an archaeologist,” he said. “It has a lot to do with the memorial aspect of the site. The idea of ​​a human memorial there is emotionally powerful.

Remembrance Park was originally designed to mark the 2020 400th anniversary of the pilgrim’s arrival in 1620, the founding of the Plymouth settlement, and the settlers’ historic interactions with the indigenous Wampanoag people. But then the coronavirus pandemic struck, slowing down many commemoration events as well as construction. Work on the park is expected to start at the end of next year or early 2023.

The newly redesigned park will highlight three periods of epic historical challenges: the great death of 1616-19, when a fatal disease brought by other Europeans severely affected the Wampanoag people; the first winter of 1620-1621, when half of the Mayflower settlers perished from contagious disease; and the 2020 coronavirus pandemic.

Donna Curtin, executive director of the Pilgrim Society & Pilgrim Hall Museum, owner of the leaflet, said the discovery of “this extremely personal family cache” makes the site even more evocative.

“A project like this helps us remember that there is real emotional power in the story because real people have experienced it,” she said. “This is really the purpose of Memorial Park.

Who left the items in the ground? Early research points to Judith Jackson, a 19th century family matriarch who died in 1905. She was predeceased by her three children – a daughter who died very young, then an adult son and an adult daughter.

Some of the objects found date from the 1840s, and Landon thinks it’s likely that Jackson – who lived in one of the four colonial houses that once stood on Cole’s Hill – buried the objects in memory of the offspring to whom she had survived.

Archaeologists have also recovered stonecutting tools – evidence of a much older Wampanoag living site that appears to have survived the ravages of time as a 1700s house was built on top, protecting it from the elements, has said Landon.

“Sometimes when you look you find something, and sometimes you don’t,” he said. “It was a great success.”


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