Sunday, February 19, 2017
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Digging into the mysteries of our past
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British archaeologist Paul Belford and colleague examine finds from a recent dig at Verdmont Museum. The group of local and overseas workers uncovered pottery, animal bones and a cauldron dating back hundreds of years. Photo by Terri Mello
To the average person, it’s just a bunch of broken pottery pieces.
But to Paul Belford, it’s a snapshot of Bermuda’s past.
“It’s not just archaeology, it’s a chance to learn about people,” said Belford, Senior Archaeologist at the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust in Shropshire, England.
Over the past two weeks archaeologists from the Bermuda National Trust and the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust have worked together excavating various sites around the island.
And last Saturday the two organizations hosted an Archaeology Open Day at Verdmont Museum, Smiths Parish, for the public to see what they found.
The projects, sponsored by Butterfield Bank, included a series of archaeological excavations at the historic Verdmont Museum, a survey of the island’s historic shipyards along the North Shore and an archaeological excavation in the grounds of Government House.
Lady Vereker initiated the work at Government House after discovering some artefacts while landscaping.
“The pottery and animal bones seemed to indicate that she had located a midden, which is a kind of ‘ancient trash heap’, and preliminary excavations suggest that it is actually far larger than we expected,” said Belford, who is leading the team of local and overseas archaeology students and volunteers on the project.
“These sites are very interesting for archaeologists because they represent a snapshot of the past.”
Richard Lowry, Chairman of the Trust’s Archaeological Research Committee, said that previous digs had concentrated on St. George’s, so Verdmont and Government House were new territory for them.
“Much has been written about the architectural history of Verdmont, but very little work has been done on its social history, which archaeology can help research,” he said.
“In much the same way our excavations at Tucker House in St. George helped us determine how people used to live and what they ate, we are trying to answer similar questions for the people who lived and worked at Verdmont in the 18th Century.”
Lowry said the main archaeological find at Vermont has been evidence of a third set of buildings along the eastern side of the front lawn.
“They must have been taken down sometime before the late 19th century as they do not appear on the 1899 Ordnance Survey,” he said. “Although further excavation and research is necessary, these buildings might have been the living quarters for the slaves or servants who lived and worked at Verdmont in the 18th and 19th Centuries.”
Artefacts on display at Saturday’s event included animal bones, a large cauldron and ornate pottery pieces.
The BNT Archaeology Committee is a volunteer group that undertakes archaeological excavations throughout the island. It often partners with internationally recognized institutions like The Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust, which specializes in historical archaeology and the archaeology of industrialization throughout England and abroad.
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