Unearthing Bits Of The Past In Sandwich

GENE M. MARCHAND/ENTERPRISE - Craig Chartier, Blaine Borden and Katie Wiggins conducting work at the archaeological dig at the Wing Fort House. The pink flags that are seen at the site are a grid that allows the workers to document where artifacts are found.GENE M. MARCHAND/ENTERPRISE - Bruce Brockway, a volunteer from the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History, sifts through dirt found at the Wing Fort House archaeological dig. The volunteers sift through all of the dirt they find, hoping to come across artifacts that will give them an idea of how the Wings and Native Americans lived in the 17th and 18th centuries.GENE M. MARCHAND/ENTERPRISE - Bruce Brockoway is displaying a cow's tooth that was found at the site. According to principal archaeologist Craig Chartier, the bones and teeth can offer clues about the age of the animals, how they were slaughtered, and what they were used for. In the 17th and 18th centuries, cows could have been used as draft animals, for dairy, or for food.GENE M. MARCHAND/ENTERPRISE - Blaine Borden works on excavating the cellar hole that the team found while looking for evidence of kitchen gardens. Katie Wiggins is digging in a portion of the site where fragments of cow bones have been found.GENE M. MARCHAND/ENTERPRISE - Katie Wiggins and Bruce Brockway use sifters to sort through dirt from the site. As they dig through the site, dirt is collected into buckets and is then carefully sifted so they do not miss any small pieces of potential artifacts.GENE M. MARCHAND/ENTERPRISE - Principal archaeologist Craig Chartier talks with volunteer Katie Wiggins. The area Ms. Wiggins is working in contains mostly fragments of cow bones and teeth.GENE M. MARCHAND/ENTERPRISE - When potential artifacts are found on the site, they are put into plastic bags that are labeled with the site name, date, and where on the site the artifact was found.GENE M. MARCHAND/ENTERPRISE - The team found a piece of a cob pipe at the site. According to Craig Chartier, they are able to approximately date pipe pieces based on the size of the holes in the stems of the pipes, with earlier pipes having larger diameters than those of later time periods.GENE M. MARCHAND/ENTERPRISE - This display cases houses some of the artifacts that have been found at the dig. In the top row there are four Native American arrowheads and spear points, a handle that may have been used as a spoon handle, a button and thimble. The middle row has pieces of a tobacco pipe, shoe and belt buckle pieces, a shot pellet, and pieces of metal that would have been melted down and molded into gun shot. The bottom two pieces are a fragment of china and a broken spoon made of a material called latten. The spoon fragment was found in front of the kitchen door, leading Craig Chartier to suspect that it may have been used by a child as a tool to dig in the yard with.

Since the beginning of June, archaeologists and volunteers have been digging around the Wing Fort House on Spring Hill Road in East Sandwich, trying to find artifacts and clues as to how the Wing family lived while the house was occupied.

The house dates back to 1641. Its grounds have so far revealed evidence of occupation dating back 2,000 to 3,000 years. Workers have uncovered Native American spear points and post holes, suggesting that the grounds were inhabited long before the Wings called it home.

While archaeological work has been done on the grounds since 2006, the most recent dig was started at the request of the Wing family for their recent family reunion. Some members of the family even worked on the site while they were visiting Sandwich.

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“We were looking for evidence of kitchen gardens,” said principal archaeologist Craig S. Chartier. “We found a cellar hole. Now we’re trying to figure out what it’s doing here. It’s a real mystery.”

Mr. Chartier expects that they have about a week to go until they complete the current project.

However, the end of this dig does not signify the end of archaeological work to be done at the house. Last week, ground-penetrating radar was brought to the site and it located three anomalies under the floorboards of a part of the house that is known to be an extension of the original building.

With the anomalies showing evidence of organic material, the speculation is that these are gravesites of Stephen Wing’s wife and two children, one of whom was killed during King Philip’s War.

“The family is really excited about this,” Mr. Chartier said. “It’s up to them to decide what to do with it. It’s their house and potentially their ancestors.”

Caretaker and archaeologist David Wheelock said he has consulted other archaeologists on the findings at the East Sandwich site, but said that if there are seven archaeologists involved there will be seven different interpretations of any findings.

“We don’t quite understand what we’re seeing just yet,” Mr. Wheelock said.

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