The Fiske Center Blog

Weblog for the Fiske Center for Archaeological Research at the University of Massachusetts Boston.

Finishing up the Field Season at Hassanamesit Woods


Well, it had to end sooner or later! This Friday we wrapped up another successful field school at Hassanamesit Woods. It seems like we really broadened our understanding of the Sarah Boston Site this year; we branched out from the house and immediate yard areas to investigate spaces further afield that may have played an important role in daily life on the Farmstead. While we did not find the barn, we investigated several subsurface rock features, some of which were found using Ground Penetrating Radar. We uncovered a few cobbled surfaces, possibly associated with a barn or outbuilding, that may have served a practical purpose on a muddy, heavily trodden hillside. We also developed a more specific and technical understanding of the foundation itself, investigating the drainage system under and around the house, in great detail. What we found was a stone lined and capped drain that ran from a sand bed under the house, down the hill, to a sump/outwash area away from the house. Our findings seemed to be corroborated by the authority on farm drainage in the 19th century, Henry Flagg French, who wrote his popular text, “Farm Drainage” in the 1850s that was widely referenced around New England. It said:

French's 1859 stone drain illustration, showing a trench, a stone channel, a gravel cap and fill on top

“Many, perhaps most, of the cellars in New England are in some way drained, usually by a stone culvert, laid a little lower than the bottom of the cellar, into which the water is conducted, in the Spring, when it bursts through the walls, or rises at the bottom, by means of little ditches scooped out in the surface.” (in Farm Drainage by Henry F. French 1859:119)

Trevor uncovers the stone capped drain feature right outside the house foundation in 2008

While we haven’t found any evidence of “little ditches” in the surface of the cellar floor, it is interesting to note that the floor surface itself was sloped inward and downward, facilitating the drainage of water out of the cellar via the stone drain, which begins right outside the downslope wall of the house. We’ve also noticed, in the process of excavations, a possible linear brick feature through the entire foundation from west to east. It has been destroyed by the collapse, but could it once have been a brick drainage channel that ran through the cellar? Not only would such a feature provide an easy way for water to flow through the cellar and down the hillside, but it would have provided the family a convenient source of refrigeration.

Students exposed the same capped drain feature further down the hill in 2012

We also had some luck further defining the shape of the cellar itself. Thoughts on that topic are forthcoming; I hope to have some 3D imaging of the entire cellar feature in a week or so. You can also expect some interesting guest posts from our resident lab technicians in training. Six of our undergraduate field school students have joined me at the Fiske Center for Archaeological Research for a two week lab class. They will be offering some insights into common lab procedures in a week or two, so stay tuned! Until next time!

The site was bustling with activity on the last day of excavations!

by Heather Law Pezzarossi


  1. Taubotne for keeping us informed. I can hardly wait for the future posts.

  2. You wrap up the season so soon? You’d have to drag me out of there!

  3. thanks Cheryll!

  4. I enjoy your blog posts. Any new evidence discovered this year of older habitations on this site, specifically of the praying village? Thanks.

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