Students discover bits of history during dig

Posted Sept. 29, 2008, at 11:45 p.m.
Last modified March 20, 2011, at 5:58 a.m.

DEXTER, Maine — A shovel, their hands and patience were all it took last week for some Dexter Regional High School students to learn more about the town’s history.

Seated on the ground Friday behind Abbott Museum, students in Rick Whitney’s History of Maine class patiently searched holes they’d dug inside a grid of small squares. The students were on a quest to find artifacts left behind by previous generations.

The small plot of land they were searching previously was connected to Abbott Mill and in the 1800s was home to a boarding facility. After the facility was torn down in the early 1900s, the lot remained vacant.

“It’s an exploratory dig, but it’s turned out to be a good site,” Whitney said Friday. Whitney, who also is the local museum curator, hoped the exercise would capture the students’ interest in local history and would provide them with the procedures and techniques of doing to dig. “[I hope] some of the students will continue on digs when they’re in college,” he said.

Kim Weeks, a senior, thoroughly enjoyed the digs that were held Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Her meter square apparently was an ash pit because she found ashes, bones, bits of colored glass, pottery, brick and possibly marble. The marble could have come from the marble works that operated in the 1800s nearby where the American Legion Hall now stands.

“I love it, it’s so amazing to find what you can find in this dirt,” Weeks said.

Just as eager as Weeks was Michael Rosetti, a junior, who had dug deeper in his search than other students. “I think it’s pretty fun. I just like looking for stuff in the dirt,” he said Friday. He also noted the project was much better than sitting in a classroom.

Several hundred pieces including teeth, clay pipes and a penny were found during the week and each item was plotted on a map and placed in small plastic bags. The students will clean their discoveries and try to identify the pieces before writing a report. The pieces and the report will be displayed in the school.

“It will be interesting to see what we find,” Whitney said. Supplies for the dig were purchased by Whitney using funds he received last year when he was named Teacher of the Year.

The limited time available for the dig prevented the students from exploring the depths of the earth. “We’re only scratching the surface here,” Whitney said. The first artifacts were found 10 to 12 inches below the surface. To find something from the 1800s, other than the marble, would require a dig to more than 4 feet, he guessed.

Spending more time digging farther would have been OK for Weeks. While other students filled their holes and replaced the sod as the project came to a close Friday, Weeks stalled. “It’s just so interesting,” she said.

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