Campus Archaeologists Unearth Part of Burned Seminary Building Complex

Remnants of a sooty, greasy, blackened building floor, bits of burned brick, and nails warped by high temperatures are among the artifacts student archaeologists dug up as The Archaeology of Mary Lyon's New England course entered its second year. Visiting Assistant Professor of Anthropology Patricia Mangan says the charred and blackened area "is without a doubt the floor of a building that was part of the original Mount Holyoke Seminary when it burned in 1897!" Exactly what building it was remains unclear, though Mangan suspects it belonged to the conservatory (the Victorian-era term for greenhouse). She hopes to confirm that conclusion by running a pollen analysis of soil samples taken from this area.

Mangan and her students took advantage of the warm fall weather and dug right up to the last day of classes on December 15. In addition to excavating an east-west-oriented trench perpendicular to last year's trench, they returned this fall to the large kitchen "midden" (dump) located last year. In that area, this semester's students found numerous ceramics, glass, and some animal bones.

Trenches have now been filled in again, but all the work of the last two digging seasons "has been copiously recorded in notes, mapped, photographed, and placed on a grid map," Mangan says, so students and others can reconstruct the dig

To find out more about the class's findings this semester, check out senior Linda Benoit's archaeology Web site at