Long Island Archeology

Connecticut Archeology by longislandarcheology
May 5, 2008, 12:48 pm
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Living in the southwestern part of Connecticut, my county is very influenced by the media of the tri-state.  After researching the subject of archaeology in regards to the rest of the state of Connecticut, as well as where I live, I found that there are a number of different clubs, museums, and associations that are involved in some aspect of archaeology.  As Holtorf’s theory tried to explain, archaeology may be seen in the public eye as a brand.  For example, the Connecticut State Museum of Natural History observes an Archaeology Awareness Month during the month of October annually. 


(the CT State Museum of Natural History, from http://www.foundation.uconn.edu/basepage.asp?page=0324)

It’s main purpose is to educate the general public on the cultural diversity, fragility, and importance of the state’s lesser known archaeological resources, and the overall need for preservation of archaeological sites within the state.  Native American, European American, and African American heritages are celebrated through tours, posters, exhibits, and presentations that target people of all ages.  The Archaeology Expo in October of 2006 showed the efforts of the museum and various media outlets to show the importance of Archaeology in our state, providing knowledge to the young as well as adults. 

Just as in the heart of New York City there was a site unearthed where the present day African Burial Ground lays, urban areas in Connecticut such as New Haven and Hartford contain diverse archaeological resources existing beneath the paved ground surface, waiting to be discovered.  In addition to excavation sites on land, the Connecticut Office of State Archaeology has been trying to develop an awareness of the issues in underwater archaeology, given Connecticut’s extensive coast and inland lakes.  Much of Connecticut’s archaeology heritage lies undiscovered beneath the water.  Through local newspapers and internet sites, the state has begun to realize and communicate to the public people of how important digging and preservation is of these sites, both on the land and underwater. 

My hometown of Bridgeport, CT is a perfect example of an underwater site where state archaeologists tried to study and learn from.  One of a few underwater sites in CT, Bridgeport Harbor contains three sunken barges from 1974, when one took on water and dragged down the other two that were moored to it.  [show pics of sunken barges]  The three sit atop each other underwater and at low tide, one can see the upper edge of a side of one of the barges.  Of the three sunken barges, the most historical one that has gotten all of the media attention is the Elmer S. Dailey.  Built in 1915, it is considered the last Erie Canal boat in the country. 

(Erie Canal boats, via rochester.edu)

Due to proposed redevelopment in Bridgeport Harbor, the vessels were inspected in 1997 by the State Police diving team.  With so much deterioration, professional marine archaeologists have continued to help authorities determine the “potential for raising and preserving the barges, leaving them alone, or destroying them.  Listed as the only shipwrecks in Connecticut on the National Register of Historic Places, it has caused some conflict in my surrounding community.  Some people believed the ships should have been left alone and continued to be studied because of their historical significance, while others want development to go on regardless of what happens to the wrecks.  The development has gone on, all the while without the barges impeding the project.

Because of its location in the Long Island Sound, the Connecticut newspapers as well as the New York newspapers picked up on the story when the questions arose of how to deal with the sunken barges.  In a February of 1998 article of the NY Times, the question of whether or not relocation of the wrecks should take place was the main issue.  This story and its widespread attention in the media, including others, have portrayed archaeology and preservation in a somewhat negative light, stating that some projects are too expensive to take any action and claim the wrecks to be “worthless” because no one can enjoy them.  Because these barges are protected under law, no one has proved to be important enough to destroy or move them.  This particular story does not relate well with Holtorf’s assumption that archaeology is a brand.  In this case, it is more than a brand; it encompasses much more than just a brand name to identify something with.  With so many aspects of a project affected, one needs to look at archaeology as something more than just a brand name; its importance is rarely shown through everyday local media, but needs to seriously be made aware of.     



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