Roadshow digs up the past

Professor Matthew Moriarty and his students from the archaeology department helped at the Artifact Roadshow last month, where everyone was welcome to bring in an artifact to be recorded and researched.

Imagine you are outside, cleaning up, and you just let out your hens to get some fresh air. Peering into the hut, to your surprise, they had pecked something up. You bend down, curiosity strikes within you, and you dig out some weird relic.  

You begin to ask yourself what this object is, and where it came from. Suddenly, you question what grand secrets lie on this land, and what is this weird thing you hold? 

Then you hear about an event being done nearby at the Castleton Free Library, The Artifact Roadshow, and you decide to bring in this old object, and, to your surprise, find out it’s a valuable piece of history. 

This chicken coop story, as told by Dylan Fletcher of Castleton, is one of the many different tales that led various people to The Artifact Roadshow held in mid-March 2023. 

To the surprise of Mathew Moriarty, the director of Archaeology at Castleton University, and his fellow students, there were many more people present than they’d have ever imagined.  

“We had a huge number of people show up,” said Moriarty during an interview after the event. “I wasn’t sure if it was going to be just a couple of people or 20 or 30 people. It was on the high end rather than the low end, and people brought in some pretty interesting stuff.”  

Helping at the event were various students who take part in the ‘SCADS project,’ which stands for South Champlain Archeological Digitization Survey.’ Students take photographs and 3D scans of local collections that they’ve either found themselves here on campus or at events like the Road Show to bring together collections and learn from them.  

“We’re having so many members of the community come in,” said sophomore Emily Demers, an archaeology, geography, and applied anthropology major who helped greet various people as they came with their artifacts in the basement of the Castleton Free Library.  

“I work with this stuff a lot,” said another sophomore, Owen Edgecomb.  “It is really cool to see what people are bringing in from within the community.” 

Senior Luke Kosby helped direct various people to fill out sheets of paper to collect info about the artifacts.  

“We won’t be holding on to all of them,” said Kosby. “And the goal here is to record all info, and then research later and report back to what we’ve found.” 

“People find artifacts and come here to find out more about these things they’ve found and may not know about,” said Kosby as he worked quickly. “When it’s been stuck in the ground for some time, it’s up to us, an archeologists’ job to give context as to where, what, and why they were doing.” 

Joey Kinney, another student who sat behind the table and overlooked metals, looked at what seemed to be an old Morse Code machine. 

“I traded for it with my buddy for something,” said the man who brought in the device.  

One woman shared her story of her whale vertebrae. 

“I got it from Alaska. They use them as pieces of art, and it is highly valuable and tradable,” said the woman, who also brought in old snake eggs.  

Other finds included various arrowheads, stones, and even an old-looking shoe. The shoe itself was scanned into a 3D Printer by student Samantha LaPlante, who is part of Castleton’s Innovation Lab.  

“The whole goal of the project is to gather more info on local history,” said Moriarty. “The way you do that is both archival research or field research, but it is also connecting to other people in the area to people who found stuff in their yard, who have found stuff in their field.” 

Now that they’ve begun such a process of digging up old artifacts, Moriarty looks towards the future.  

“Castleton invited us to do an outdoor event in the summer sometime, and we are also invited to do one in Clarendon. We will continue to hold these, for a month or two, or even several years. This will be a big part of what we do, sort of bouncing around from various towns,” said Moriarty as he sifted through paperwork, a smile spread across his face.  

The next event will be held April 27 in Brandon. 

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