PLYMOUTH NOTCH - Indiana Jones won't find much action at the
President Calvin Coolidge State Historic Site, but archaeologists
still find it pretty interesting.
As part of Vermont Archaeology Month, archaeologist Sheila
Charles gave a talk at the Coolidge site on Sept. 7 to a crowd of
about 20 people. Charles is a former Rutland resident and a
consulting archaeologist for the Green Mountain National Forest.
She is also a cultural resources specialist for the state of New
Hampshire's Department of Transportation.
"I'm always happy to come back to this beautiful spot," she
said. "There isn't a lot of archaeological work done here at all.
Archaeology is actually discouraged unless there is a strong reason
to do something, because archaeology is destructive. The resources
it uncovers are not renewable. Non-renewable resources should be
preserved and protected."
Charles discourages collectors from removing artifacts from a
site, unless it's done properly: making sure the artifact is
documented, photographed in situ, and at least some of its
"Otherwise, it's like ripping a page from a book," she said.
"I'll ask students what their favorite book is, and most of them
say, Harry Potter. I tell them taking an artifact is like ripping a
page out of Harry Potter. I caution against being a
Charles added that all archaeological activity is subject to both
state and federal law. All that aside, though, archeology is a
powerful tool for placing history in context of its times and
understanding the past.
"You're looking at elements of the past from 10,000 years ago to
the present," she said. "You're bringing the whole puzzle
Charles said that among the most interesting things she'd ever
unearthed was a chamber pot in Boston, emblazoned with the words
"George Rex," or "King George" in English.
"That was at a pre-1776 tavern," she said. "It's a sample of
political humor. That was an exceptional piece. It told us about
the politics and economics of the time."
Archaeology, said Charles, is one way to see how much of human
history is interconnected. In Colonial times, the key to this
region's history is to study the waterways: the lakes, the rivers
such as the Hudson and the Connecticut; they served as the chief
highways through the region. When the industrial era began, these
same waterways provided the power for the mills which sprung up on
the river banks, not to mention a complex genealogical network of
family trees to be navigated.
Bill Jenney, the Coolidge site administrator, said the site has
needed some help from archaeologists in the past.
"When we put in a village-wide fire suppression system, we had
someone analyze the area in case there was anything that would be
unnecessarily disturbed," he said. "It would be interesting to
investigate the early history here."
Vermont Archaeology Month continues with a number of events in the
This Saturday, Sept. 14, there will be a guided hike along the 18th
century Crown Point Road, which was critical to prosecuting the
French and Indian Wars. The four-mile walk begins at Paine's Tavern
in Cavendish, goes to the 1759 10th and 11th mile markers, and on
to Grout Cemetery. The event is free and begins at 10 a.m.
Organizers advise bringing lunch and water.
Also on Saturday, ecologist Tom Wessels will lead a walk and talk
on how to interpret a forest's history by looking at the trees -
their shapes, their scars, and the stumps. That takes place at the
Mount Independence State Historic Site in Orwell between 1 p.m. and
5 p.m., and costs $5.
Other events will be taking place in Addison County. For a
complete list of Archaeology Month events visit