Danielle Cathcart is helping to make history by piecing history back together again.
The third-year graduate student in the Historical Archaeology program is a teaching assistant this summer at the Archaeological Field School at the Historic Gore Estate, a summer field school offered through University College that is a collaboration between the Anthropology Department and the Andrew Fiske Memorial Center for Archaeological Research.
Gore Place, the former home of Massachusetts Governor Christopher Gore, is located in Waltham, about a half hour from the UMass Boston campus. The history of the Boston area is another asset to being a student at UMass Boston.
“I was most attracted to not only the location [of the UMass Boston campus], but the promise of a wide range of research opportunities in an exciting and historical setting. I have had the privilege to work with and learn from some of the most distinguished and respected minds in my field from whom I’ve acquired the skills most vital to success in any future employment opportunities or research endeavors,” says Cathcart, who was born in San Diego but grew up in Virginia.
Cathcart and the other students will be expanding on excavations from previous years, focusing on uncovering various components of a historic 1806 greenhouse that was demolished in the early 1840s. During the 2008 field school experience, students found fragments of marble floor tiles and planting pots, and hundreds of pieces of window glass.
“We would like to reveal how this structure was designed, the interior layout, and the nature of the watering and heating systems. We hope this summer’s research will assist the Gore Place Society in restoring the grounds to what they looked like during Governor Gore’s tenure,” Cathcart says.
Christa Beranek, a research archaeologist for the Fiske Center, says Gore Place curators would like to learn enough about the greenhouse to possibly build a reconstruction.
“Greenhouses were expensive, unusual, and high-tech structures in the early 19th century,” Beranek says.
She says that once this work is done, it will be the first major excavation of a 19th-century greenhouse in all of New England.
The field school at Gore Place is one of two local archaeological field programs being offered by the Fiske Center and Anthropology Department through University College this summer; the other is at Hassanamesit Woods in Grafton.
“Students who participate in these projects are not only learning about archaeology in a very hands-on way, using the most up-to-date archaeological technologies, but they are also helping local organizations answer real research questions,” Beranek says.
Cathcart has worked on two other major field projects with the Fiske Center, working on a short survey of the Westport Town Farm, a property managed by the Trustees of Reservations, and an excavation at the Durant-Kenrick House in Newton.
“My partner and I were assigned to excavate the remaining portions of the interior [of an outbuilding] and I will always remember the moment our trowels scraped the brick floor that was the original surface of the building. The interior was filled with the discarded materials of everyday life for the 19th-century inhabitant. For historical archaeologists, this is what we love seeing,” Cathcart says.
In the Field
- Archaeological Field School at the Historic Gore Estate
- Field School in Historical Archaeology at Hassanamesit Woods