By Bill Croney
Barre’s Vermont Granite Museum was busier than usual last weekend. A group of 26 Boy Scouts representing eight different troops from all over the state arrived on the Museum grounds last Friday afternoon and camped out there until Sunday afternoon.
The Scouts were there to take part in the first Vermont Granite Museum Archaeological Weekend. All day Saturday was dedicated to digging at a small site out in back of the Museum under the direction of Cooper Sheldon, an intern at the museum this summer and an Archeology student at SUNY Potsdam in New York, Jess Robinson, a Vermont State Archeologist, and Jacob Clay of the Natural Resources Conservation Service. As a result of working on the dig for eight hours, the scouts each earned their Archeology Merit Badge.
“We are here to help educate these Boy Scouts about archeology and what we can learn from the past. We want them to learn some of the concepts and techniques of archeology,” Robinson said.
The dig site was a small area in back of the museum and it was marked out with flags and divided areas.
“This is sort of a back dirt pile related to the clearing of this industrial archeological landscape. There are various kinds of archeology. There is pre-historic archeology and historic archeology,” Robinson said.
“There is actually a sub set of archeology that we refer to as industrial archeology. There is a lot of literature about industry but there is not a lot about the lives and the daily routines of workers. Industrial archeology like we are doing here is used as a compliment to the written record.
“What we are looking for here is anything related to the daily workings of this particular industry (the Granite industry). So we are sifting through this pile looking for clues. This pile is essentially a refuse pile of what was discarded by the people who worked here.”
Robinson said the Boys Scouts found what are likely food remains and some small indications of industrial work — some slag that is likely from welding and other industrial processes. The scouts also found some washers, nails and other indications about the daily work here. There weren’t any extraordinary finds, but the scouts learned archeology techniques.
The scouts were divided into two groups, one group digging, sifting, and recording its findings for a half-day while the second group was inside the Granite Museum doing a mock excavation and getting an overall view of an archeological dig. After lunch, the groups switched places so it was a full day for both groups.
The scouts discovered that doing things the right way was a slow and exacting process- especially the logging of each “find”.
“I think it’s cool digging and looking at the soil covers and finding out what is in the pile. It’s interesting to find out how it got there and its relevance to the company. Filling out the log sheet on an item is pretty complex. We have to be accurate about what we think it is and where it came from in the dig,” said Sebastian Tanguay, who is from East Montpelier and is a member of Barre’s Troop 714.
All of the scouts were very engaged in the process and couldn’t wait to see what turned up as each bucket of dirt was dumped on to the sifting screen.
“I like what we’re doing. It’s interesting finding out what went on here,” said Scout Andrew Emerson.
“The scouts are learning that you have to be very methodical, very careful and very accurate about where any “find” comes from in the dig site. We are going rather slowly but we are stressing the fundamentals. They have discovered that going slow rather than rushing is very important,” Robinson.
The day was hot, the air was muggy and the progress was slow but Boy Scout Jackson Kingsbury of Troop 727 (who had carried his share of buckets of dirt to the sifter) summed things up nicely. “It’s fun. I like this stuff. It’s very informational,” he said.