In the June 17, 1938 issue of The Phillipian, it was announced that Dr. Warren King Moorehead would be leaving his post as Director of the Department of Archaeology. This brought about the end of a long and prosperous career that saw Moorehead become an integral part of the Phillips Andover community and a major contributor to the field of archaeology as a whole.
Moorehead began his career in the 1880s when he studied at Denison University before becoming an assistant at the Smithsonian Institution and later the curator of the Ohio Archaeological and Historical Society (now the Ohio History Connection). He joined the Department of Archaeology at Phillips Andover at its inception in 1901 and was appointed as the first curator. In fact, he worked closely with Robert S. Peabody, the Department’s founder, to develop the idea of such an institution. During his time as part of the Department, Moorehead received a Master of Arts from Dartmouth and was made a Doctor of Science in 1927 by Oglethorpe University and again in 1930 by Denison University. He became the director of the Department after Dr. Charles Peabody stepped down in 1924.
The article that announces Dr. Moorehead’s retirement is not particularly long but does highlight some of the important aspects of his career. The article spends a majority of its content on his education and on his path to becoming the director. The article does include some of his other accomplishments, such as a partial list of publications, and a mention about his work with the US Board of Indian Commissioners. The article concludes by saying that his position within the archaeology community is undisputed and that he will be travelling to Europe with his wife for the summer.
Personally I was surprised with how Moorehead’s departure was presented in The Phillipian, particularly the brevity in which they describe his career. In the numerous issues of The Phillipian throughout the years that I have researched, it became clear just how much Moorehead fought for the rights of Native Americans and how he fought to bring the injustices committed against them to light. This was a frequently recurring topic for Moorehead and yet receives one sentence in his retirement article. This also occurs with his numerous archaeological discoveries from across the country. A significant aspect of Moorehead’s career was his participation in and leadership of numerous excavations and expeditions over the years and, unfortunately, that aspect receives little attention in this article, such as his work throughout New England, the Midwest, and Southeast. Although his methods do not meet today’s standards, Moorehead made multiple important contributions to the field that went unmentioned in his retirement article.
I think that the reason I was so surprised was that the reception that Moorehead received in this article differs from most of his other appearances in The Phillipian. Many of the articles that featured Moorehead over the years went into a fair amount of detail. Whether it was discussing a lecture or one of his expeditions, the reader was usually given more information. Moorehead was seemingly respected and well liked by the students, as evidenced in numerous articles praising his lectures, yet the announcement of his retirement is rather straightforward and relatively unemotional. One possible reason for this could be declining student interest in the Department over the few years prior to his retirement and his habit of giving very similar lectures every year. Moorehead’s sendoff did not mirror his depiction in previous issues of The Phillipian.
Warren King Moorehead was a staple of the Department of Archaeology from its inception in 1901 until his retirement in 1938 having served as both the curator and then as the director. He retired at the age of 72 and spent his brief retirement with his family before passing in January of 1939.
Check out the following Peabody blogs for more information and history about Warren K. Moorehead.
After I’ve spent nearly two years (minus five months of remote work) working to complete the inventory of the Peabody collection, we are so close to finishing! It has been a long process which wouldn’t have been possible without one thing: podcasts.
During those long hours cataloguing in the Peabody, it can get very quiet—and sometimes slightly creepy when you’re working alone in the basement of an old building which tends to make strange noises. Enter: podcasts, which not only help to pass the time but drown out any creepy noises or the sounds of disembodied footsteps coming from upstairs.
I had never listened to a podcast before working here, but now I can definitively say I am a podcast aficionado! I’ve spent the last two years listening to a wide variety of podcasts from beginning to end—some of which had six years’ worth of episodes to catch up on. I’d now like to share them with you in case anyone is in need of hundreds (possibly thousands, but I don’t want to do that math) of hours of listening material.
As a disclaimer, some of these podcasts do use explicit language so I have written an (E) next to each title which indicates that the podcast does use explicit language.
This podcast tells some of the darker stories from American history, from little known tales like the rainmaker who flooded San Diego to the only successful coup d’états to date. You’ll definitely learn some interesting stories that didn’t make it into our history books as kids.
Hosts Scott and Forrest investigate all things mysterious in this (sometimes very long) podcast. From strange disappearances to ghost stories to UFOs to Bigfoot and all things in between, they do incredibly deep dives to investigate evidence for and against these curious tales. The Peabody’s own Warren Moorehead was even mentioned in an episode exploring the legends of giants (if you haven’t already, check out the blog post I wrote about it). Two of my favorite topics they’ve covered are the disappearance of Amelia Earhart and the Dyatlov Pass incident.
This interview show features inanimate objects as guests, who tell their life stories and what it’s like to live like them. One of my favorite episodes is Lillian, a Song and Chioke, who was a grain of sand in his first episode, before being transformed into a pane of glass for his second episode.
This 12-episode immersive podcast series follows the investigation of Ryan Bailey, who is accidentally thrust into the secret world of mythical faeries. Join her as she unearths more of their secrets and the agency that is supposedly charged with protecting them.
In this weekly podcast, host Jonathan Van Ness (one of the hosts of TV show Queer Eye) sits down with an expert to talk about anything and everything he is curious about. Topics include politics, animals, social justice, history, and pretty much anything else you could think of. My favorite episodes are the ones where he explores the ancient histories of the Mediterranean, Egypt, China, and Mesoamerica. He has also done two very interesting episodes titled “How has the U.S. disrupted Native American food sources?” and “How are contemporary Native Americans thriving?”. With such a broad range of topics, there’s something for everyone and Jonathan’s hilarious quips and dynamic personality make it so fun to listen to.
This podcast tells the most entertaining and enraging stories from Greek and Roman mythology, told casually, sarcastically, and from a contemporary lens. Host Liv focuses on not only the wild things the Gods did, but also the rampant mistreatment of the women present in these stories. She also has very interesting conversations with authors and classicists to talk about their perceptions of the myths. Some of my favorite episodes are the series on Cupid and Psyche and the Medusa episodes.
In this bi-weekly podcast, host Aaron tells true-life scary stories. In these dark historical tales, he explores mysterious creatures, tragic events, and unusual happenings. Due to the success of the podcast, it was actually adapted into several books and a TV series!
From serial killers to disappearances, hosts John and Daryn break down these cases while Matt the Bartender mixes up drinks, making a heavy subject a little more palatable with their sense of humor. Unfortunately this podcast is no longer making new episodes, however there’s four years of weekly episodes for your listening pleasure!
This podcast features the stories of some of the most fascinating nobles and royals in history. Host Dana tells tales of tyrants, ill-fated love affairs, family drama, bad decisions, murder, and so much more. My favorite episode is titled “From Poland with Love” about noblewoman turned World War II spy, Krystyna Skarbek, but all of the episodes are incredibly interesting and paint a different picture of some royals than what you may have learned growing up.
In this weekly podcast, hosts Sara and Danny break down crimes of all kinds—murders, disappearances, cults, scams, and conspiracies—with a healthy dose of humor. My favorite episodes are the ones exploring cults, especially lesser-known cults, such as the Yellow Deli Cult and the Love Has Won Cult.
Hosts Katie and Nathan tell the stories of queens (and sometimes mistresses and other noblewomen) from history, from the well-known like Mary, Queen of Scots, to the lesser-known like Ranavalona. Their stories trace these women’s lives from birth to death, through tragedy and triumph, despite the unfortunate lack of information that was kept about some of these women. As a disclaimer, the first few episodes are actually very hard to listen to because of poor audio quality (they were still figuring things out!), so maybe skip ahead a few episodes if it bothers you. Some of the most interesting episodes in my opinion are on Sayyida Al Hurra, Boudica, and Victoria Woodhull.
In this true crime podcast, hosts John and Daryn (previously from Martinis and Murder) have rebranded and are back to tell more stories of disturbing crimes that leave us shaken, complete with their drinks and sense of humor.
Host Kate takes listeners on a time-travelling journey through history, one era at a time. She explores what life would have been like for women during these times, both the famous ones and the obscure. If you’ve ever wondered what ancient Romans ate for breakfast, what a day in the life of a Civil War nurse was like, or what the beauty routine of an ancient Egyptian was, then this is the podcast for you! I just finished all the episodes and am absolutely obsessed with it. I only wish there were more episodes for me to listen to!
In this immersive podcast experience set in a creepy old library, host Miranda Merrick and her dear friend Mr. Darling tell stories of the shadowy, mysterious, and macabre. From bog bodies to ancient books and curses, and from poison to demons, this podcast is perfect for anyone looking for something a little spooky.
In this eight-part series, host Anne travels to her hometown of Springfield, Missouri to follow up on an unsolved crime. On June 7, 1992, Sherrill Levitt, her daughter Suzie Streeter, and Suzie’s friend Stacy McCall all disappeared from Sherrill’s home, seemingly without a trace. Nearly thirty years later, there are still no answers for the women’s families. Follow Anne as she traces the stories of these women and how their disappearance changed this small town in the Ozarks forever.
This story-based podcast explores a new unexplained mystery each week, taking listeners on a journey through the strange and often eerie. Through bizarre tales of time-slips, mysterious disappearances, unexplained deaths, dabblings in the occult, and so much more, host Richard examines the nature of reality and the human condition. Some of the most interesting episodes in my opinion are “The Last Flight” about the disappearance of Frederick Valentich, and “When the Snow Melts” about the Dyatlov Pass incident (Astonishing Legends also did a deep dive on both of these topics in their podcast).
The Vanished (generally not explicit but some episodes do include explicit language)
This true crime podcast covers the stories of missing persons, generally lesser-known ones who may not have gotten much attention in the media. Going beyond conventional news reports, host Marissa dives into the story of each missing person, including interviews with family members, friends, and law enforcement. This podcast can be very sad to listen to but, like the host, I believe it’s important to keep the stories of these people alive so that hopefully one day their family can get closure.
Hosts Mike and Sarah reconsider past events or people that have been miscast or misrepresented in the public imagination and/or by the media, all with some sarcasm and a great sense of humor. This show has really changed my perception of so many things I thought I knew, from maligned women of the ‘90s to stranger danger. I love all of the episodes so it is very hard to pick any favorites, however some of the most interesting are “Human Trafficking”, “Tonya Harding”, “Political Correctness”, and the series on Princess Diana. I think this is probably my favorite podcast out of all I’ve listened to so I highly recommend it!
I hope that in sharing all of these with you, you can find something new and interesting to listen to and perhaps will learn some new things!
My name is Adam Way. I am currently a graduate student at the University of New Hampshire and am working towards my Master’s Degree in Museum Studies. This summer I am working as an independent researcher for the Peabody Institute looking through old Phillipians to see how the Institution has been perceived and presented by Phillips Academy students over time.
In the modern day, there are a number of factors that determine the best place for an artifact or specimen, whether it is in a museum, either private or public, or with the people for which the item has cultural significance. This, of course, has not always been the case. For a long time, the mentality regarding the storage, display, and ownership of artifacts was similar to that expressed in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: “It belongs in a museum.” This mind set and practice is certainly present during the early years of the Archaeology Department, now the Peabody Institute, and is reflected in the publication of its various acquisitions in the Phillipian.
There are numerous ways that a museum or institution, such as the Peabody, can increase the size of its collections. These methods include donations, purchasing and exchanging of collections, and conducting archaeological expeditions. Through these methods, the Peabody was able to amass a collection of around 81,000 specimens within its first twelve years of operation (according to the Founders’ Day issue of the Phillipian from Oct 11, 1913).
While looking through the issues of the Phillipian, it quickly became clear to me that two of these methods of acquisition occurred more often than the third – donations and purchases/exchanges. Donations played a key role during the early years of the Archaeology Department and its collections as they allowed for the collections to grow without draining their available funds. The Department received donations from both individuals with private collections as well as from other organizations. This can be seen in instances like the gift from the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, where a sizable donation of clothing and ornaments from the Pacific Islands was made in March of 1910 (although these are not currently present in the Peabody’s collection). While donations like this did occur, it was much more common for individuals to make donations from their own private collections. These gifts tended to be smaller in size but would still dramatically impact the total collections due to the overall volume.
The other means of acquisition that occurred often was the act of purchasing collections or engaging in a trade. For example, In the Feb 1 issue of 1913, it was announced that Moorehead had traveled to Yarmouth, Maine to secure a collection from an Arthur Marks, Esq. By securing this collection, Moorehead added roughly 2000 specimens to the Department’s total collection. This was also only a few months after they had purchased another collection from W.H. Wheeler of Concord, MA. The Wheeler collection consisted of over 4000 objects from around New England and was the largest single purchase by the Department in the region.
The last way that the Department expands their collection is through sponsored archaeological expeditions. This method of acquiring new specimens definitely occurs less often than the other two methods, especially at first, but becomes more frequent as time goes on. According to the articles in the Phillipian, the specimens retrieved from archaeological digs was fairly limited at first. They mainly came from Moorehead and Peabody’s research expeditions, both throughout the States and in Europe. It was mentioned several times that both men shipped collections of varying sizes back from Southern France. The number of domestic digs did increase as the years went on as Moorehead started a yearly expedition to Maine that brought in roughly 1000 specimens in the first year alone (1912). This specific expedition would prove fruitful for Moorehead as he returned many times in the coming years. In addition to Moorehead’s expeditions, there would also be collection trips where a member of the Department would be sent to a region, such as Eastern Massachusetts, and would be tasked with finding artifacts from old sites. These trips were quite common and could bring in up to 8000 artifacts in one year (1912-13).
From what I have seen in the Phillipian’s coverage of the ever-expanding collection, these methods of adding to the total collections of the Department contributed roughly the same amount. The amount of donations and purchases of collections far outnumber the number of archaeological expeditions; however, they are often much smaller in size. The balance of these three methods is subject to change as I have only read what has happened in the early years of the Department. It is nonetheless impressive how the Department was able to amass such a large collection in such a small amount of time.
After months of cold temperatures and snow storms I’m sure we’re all looking forward to spring and warmer weather! This year the first day of spring, or the spring equinox, takes place on March 20th. To some, equinoxes mark nothing more than seasons passing by. But to others, they were and still are an important time for celebration.
For many Indigenous cultures around the world, the spring equinox is an important time for not only practical, but also ceremonial purposes. Equinoxes were traditionally used to determine what animals would be available for hunting, when to plant and harvest crops, and they marked periods of migration for nomadic groups.
The equinox is marked differently by Indigenous nations around the world, but because tracking the sun’s movements was essential for survival, some cultures found ways to do so in the form of solar calendars. The Maya calendar is perhaps the most well-known of these but there were many others. The Mayans also created other ways to track the sun. The Pyramid of Kulkulkan (or El Castillo) at the site of Chichén Itzá in the Yucatán Peninsula, displays a serpent along the staircase during the equinox. Many still flock to the site on the equinox to see the serpent today.
At the prehistoric site of Cahokia in Illinois, archaeologists in the 1960s discovered pits arranged into five large circles. Fragments of wood inside the pits indicated that sacred red cedar wood had been used as posts. Archaeologists dubbed this area as “Woodhenge” after realizing that some of the posts act as seasonal markers, marking the solstices and equinoxes. On the day of the spring equinox, the post marking this event aligns with Monk’s Mound (the largest Pre-Columbian earthwork in the Americas and the residence of the leader of Cahokia), where the sun emerges from behind the mound.
Another example of using the sun to create certain images is found at the site of Chaco Canyon in New Mexico. At the top of the Fajada Butte are two spirals etched into the rock which on the equinox, are sliced by a dagger of sunlight, called the “Sun Dagger.” Unfortunately the rocks on the butte have shifted, possibly due to human traffic at the site, and now the sunlit images no longer appear. At other areas of the Chaco Canyon site, interred bird bones have been discovered, and archaeologists believe these were the result of sacrificing scarlet macaws during the equinox. Due to their red and yellow feathers, these birds were associated with the sun and fire, and it is thought that sacrificing them during the equinox was a symbolic way of ending the winter season. This was also a common practice among groups throughout the Southwest and Northern Mexico.
In the Anishinaabe tradition, spring is celebrated as the beginning of their new year. Known as the Sugar Moon, this was the time when maple sap would start to run from the trees. Maple sap is considered to have important medicinal properties to the Anishinaabe as it balanced the blood.
Spring traditions in many native cultures are inextricably linked to the sun and moon, as the beginning of spring is marked by the equinox. It was a time symbolic of balance, because during the equinox day and night are of equal length. Spring has also historically symbolized rebirth and growth. It is the time when the earth is awakening from its winter slumber, and the life cycle is beginning again. Animals come out of hibernation and plants begin to bloom and grow again. Many traditions that have grown out of the equinox are based around this idea of balance and new beginnings.
Spring was also recognized by many Native American groups as a time to gather together and make decisions about their communities. It was a time to discuss which groups travelled where, what to do about hostile tribes, and where they could find resources. Today, many Indigenous groups still hold spring equinox gatherings and celebrations, which generally include music, dancing, ritual ceremonies, arts and crafts, and a feast of traditional dishes.
While spring traditions may look different to everyone, I think most can agree that it is a time of growth and fresh starts. With the upcoming season we have a lot to look forward to. We get to smell the fresh, clean air after a spring rain and watch flowers start to bloom. And let’s not forget about spring cleaning! Hopefully warmer weather and fun spring activities are right around the corner!
One day while I was working in the basement of the Peabody, plugging away at inventorying drawers, I was listening to a podcast called Astonishing Legends. It was an episode titled “The Tall Ones” exploring the legends and lore surrounding giants around the world. It came as a surprise when I heard the hosts say the name W.K. Moorehead! My ears instantly pricked up.
The podcast hosts went on to cite a New York Times article written on July 14, 1916 under the headline “Find Horned Men’s Skulls: Remarkable Discovery by Archaeologists in the Susquehanna Valley”. The short article stated that Professor A.B. Skinner of the American Indian Museum, Rev. George Donehoo, Pennsylvania State Historian, and Professor W.K. Moorehead of the Phillips Andover Academy uncovered a burial mound at the Murray Farm site while conducting research at Tioga Point in the Susquehanna Valley. In the mound, they uncovered the remains of sixty-eight men, believed to have been buried around the year 1200 AD. According to the article, the average height of these men was seven feet, with many being even taller. Also found with the remains were very large stone celts and axes, further evidence of the men’s gigantic size. Perhaps most interesting of all, some of the skulls had two inch bone protuberances on their foreheads. Well, this was something to explore!
Looking through historical texts and documents, it is clear that giants have been a topic of interest for centuries. Not only are they mentioned in the Biblical story of David and Goliath, but in fairy tales such as Jack and the Beanstalk, and the legend of Paul Bunyan. One pervasive theory about giants is that they are actually Nephilim (also from the Bible), the offspring of an angel and a human. Even some historical figures such as Gilgamesh are thought by some to have been giants.
Many newspaper articles from across the country in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries claim to have found giant skeletons. Some accounts even call them a lost race of giant people, but many others hypothesize that they were giant Native Americans. An eight foot tall Native American skeleton was said to be found in Towanda, Pennsylvania in 1822. A headline from The World newspaper on October 6, 1895, read “Biggest Giant Ever Known-Nine Feet High and Probably a Prehistoric California Indian.” Some, like the Cardiff Giant, which was actually a buried stone statue, were proven to be hoaxes. Yet the stories still remain popular. Even Captain John Smith, in his account of meeting the Susquehanncocks in 1608, described them as giant-like. But were there really giants roaming this land before us? Or horned giants for that matter?
After some further digging, it was discovered that the “horned giants” found by Moorehead and others at Murray Farm were not horned at all, nor were they giants. Professor Skinner wrote a corrected article for the New York Times but it was not as publicized as the original, so it is harder to find. Apparently while excavating the site, a workman shouted out “There are horns over his head!”, after discovering a bundle burial which had been covered with deer antlers. An excited visitor or reporter at the site heard this and asked another workman, who decided to play a joke and claim that the skeletons had horns growing out of their heads. Another version says that a disgruntled camp cook made up the story.
This explains the story about the horns, but what about the supposed enormous height of these individuals and the other accounts of giants found nearby? It is thought that these skeletons, as well as accounts of living “giant” Susquehannocks, were not giant at all, but just taller than average. At the time, the average height of most Europeans was about five feet six inches tall, whereas Native Americans were thought to average about six feet tall. While six inches is not that big of a difference, anyone taller than six feet may seem like a giant to the generally shorter Europeans.
Another reason for the discovery of “giant” skeletons is that these bones were often misidentified as human when they actually belonged to extinct animal species. It may seem far-fetched that anyone could misidentify a mammoth bone as that of a human, but other than the skull, human bones actually look very much like animal bones. So to someone not trained in osteology, a very large rib bone may seem like it is from a human skeleton. Many skeletal remains have been innocently misidentified this way, not only as giants, but as monsters or “Titans” as well.
Over time it seems that this giant narrative of Native Americans by Europeans was exaggerated and, coupled with misidentified animal bones, resulted in the discovery of “giant skeletons.” However, these so-called giant skeletons always seem to mysteriously disappear after being excavated, leading many to believe that they either never existed, were misidentified animal bones, or it was actually just a taller than average person.
After hearing the podcast, I did some digging of my own through Moorehead’s records, just in case I could find anything related to the “horned giants”. I found many documents related to the Susquehanna Valley expedition as well as correspondences between Moorehead, Skinner, and Donehoo. None of these documents ever mentioned the “horned giants” or the article written in the New York Times. I did find a picture of Professor Skinner holding a perfectly normal looking skull with no protuberances while at Murray Farm. Moorehead also wrote a short report of the excavation, and again, no mention of giants was found.
Even though the horned giants of Pennsylvania turned out to be nothing more than a tall tale (pun intended), it was fun to hear a story about Moorehead on one of my new favorite podcasts! I wonder what interesting stories I’ll uncover next!
My name is Emily and I have been working as the new Inventory Specialist at the Peabody Institute for about a month now. My job is to assist with the current inventory and rehousing project. My day to day work consists of moving artifacts from their old wooden storage drawers into new archival boxes which better preserve the objects.
I grew up in a small town called Andover, New York (I know, how ironic) before moving to Buffalo to pursue my Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology. From there, I spent a year in Florence, Italy doing coursework for my MA in Museum Studies which I completed this past August. During my time in Italy, I learned collections care and management from some of the most famous museums in the world including the Uffizi Gallery and the Vatican Museum. This is only my first position working in a museum but I have completed museum internships back home in Buffalo as well as in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
I have always been passionate about archaeology and indigenous studies so I am excited to be in a position where I can apply my knowledge of both and continue to learn more. Even though I have only been here a few weeks, I have learned so much already. It is amazing to be able to work with and handle objects every day which are hundreds of years old and come from all over the continent. Objects that I have been studying for the past five years are now a part of my everyday life and it is truly such a rewarding experience.
Overall I am very excited to be in this position and can’t wait to see what else I will learn and do during my time at the Peabody!
Hello! We are Arthur Anderson and Gabe Hrynick, faculty at the University of New England and University of New Brunswick, respectively. Much of our fieldwork together is in far Down East, Maine on Cobscook Bay in Washington County. We’ve been lucky enough to make a few visits to the Peabody over the last few years to get an understanding of the collections housed there from this area. Now we’re excited to be back for an extended visit to explore these collections further! The Peabody’s collections are particularly important to our research because in many cases they may be all that’s left of sites that have eroded due to rising sea levels and increased storm magnitude.
The Peabody collections from Cobscook Bay are almost all the product of the Northeastern Archaeological Survey from the late 1940s to the middle 1950s. The project was initially led by Robert Dyson, future director of the Penn Museum, but effectively taken over by Theodore Stoddard, the most consistent member of the crew over those years. In addition to NAS members from the Peabody, Stoddard worked closely with avocational archaeologists in the area. The most prominent of these was Isaac W. Kingsbury, a Hartford internist who summered in Perry, Maine and seems to have been a local point of contact for the survey crew, and even occasionally published his findings in the Bulletin of the Massachusetts Archaeological Society. One of the most interesting aspects of our research in the Peabody Collections has been reconstructing the work undertaken during those years largely from charming and expansive correspondence between Kingsbury and Stoddard to better understand the context of their records and collections. It’s also a lot of fun to read their accounts of the joys and challenges of working in an area that we love. We can commiserate with their complaints of construction on US Route 1 almost every summer and the barrage of mosquitoes and black flies. We certainly identify with ‘day book’ entries recounting their discussions of the latest archaeological publications on the long drive there. Unfortunately, Frank’s Restaurant in Freeport is long gone, so we can’t comment on their lunch recommendations.
Arthur hard at work at Reversing Falls, ME
Reversing Falls isn’t a bad lunch spot
In addition to better understanding the NAS collections, we’ve been looking for some very specific artifacts within it. Our current project, funded by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada, focuses on the very earliest period of European interaction with Maine and the Maritime Provinces. This is often referred to as the Protohistoric period. By examining old collections for things like glass trade beads, early iron axes and fragments of copper kettle that we have much more context for and information about than they did in the middle of the 20th century, we hope that we can better understand the period and potentially re-locate sites we know to have Protohistoric components thanks to the Peabody collections.
My name is Ryan Collins, and I am an Archaeological Anthropologist specializing in Ancient Maya Culture. I recently earned a Ph.D. in Anthropology from Brandeis University where I also instruct courses (as well as at Northeastern University and Lesley Art + Design) in Archaeology, Anthropology, Latin America, and Material Culture Studies.
I am also fortunate enough to have two roles with the Robert S. Peabody Institute of Archaeology. First, I am the Transcription Project Associate, working through the museum’s original bound ledgers to create a digital inventory. While there are several subjects of interest that I want to explore from the Ledger Transcription Project (including the stories of somewhat mysterious artifacts), the subject of this post will focus on my role as the Lead Archaeologist with Mansion House Excavations happening on Phillips Academy’s Campus during the Summer Session with the Lower School Institute. The Mansion House excavations happen in collaboration with the Robert S. Peabody Institute of Archaeology which houses recovered artifacts as well as materials that once belonged in the late 18th-century building.
The Mansion House at Phillips Academy Andover is a site of significant historical importance in the local community. Built during the Revolutionary War in 1782 (though fully completed in 1785) it was home to Phillips Academy Andover’s founder, Judge Samuel “Esquire” Phillips Jr., and his family until 1812. During this time Judge Phillips, his wife Phoebe Phillips, and their family were known to cultivate a warm and inviting atmosphere to the students of the academy while also hosting notable political figures of the day like President George Washington.
With the decline of Phoebe Phillips’ health in 1812, the Trustees of Phillips Academy purchased Mansion House converting it into an Inn and Tavern. As an Inn and Tavern, Mansion House became a central meeting place for students and faculty of the academy as well as for residents in Andover. Over the years Mansion House hosted notable guests including Emerson, Webster, President Andrew Jackson, and Mark Twain among many others. Although, when looking through the guest ledger on the date of his stay, Mark Twain’s signature is absent having mysteriously been cut out.
The history of Mansion House and its guests is enough to capture the attention of archaeologists. However, beneath Mansion House’s rich past is an enduring mystery – who burned it down? On the very early morning of November 29th, 1887, around 2:00 am the tenants were awoken by thick smoke coming from a fire in the rear base of the house near a pile of woodchips. A second fire was discovered shortly after in a third-floor room at the front of the house. Despite the best efforts of the local fire brigade and a galvanized town, Mansion House could not be saved. As chronicled by the Andover Townsman on December 2nd, 1887, Mansion House did not collapse, but it “slowly melted” into its foundations.
Most sites and buildings that archaeologists explore are little more than skeletons of their former selves. This reality puts limits on the archaeological record (often refuse in this context) and on the questions that archaeologists can ask about a site to broad notions of process or change over time. With Mansion House, a question of this variety would be: How did Mansion House change over time? What traditions are evident in the material remains of the site? However, because Mansion House burned into its foundations, we have access to an event, a specific moment in time. In this way, the materials students recover from Mansion House will help then share different informed stories about the site, its residents, and life in the 18th and 19th centuries. (IMAGE 4)
In 2018, our excavations confirmed the location of Mansion House by finding one of its (at least) 6 chimneys and the remains of an iron furnace. This finding not only establishes a more precise understanding of where Mansion House’s foundations are currently situated but it allows us to explore the material remains that have sat untouched for 132 years. With luck, this year’s investigations will allow us to understand even more about life in Mansion House during its final days. While the mysteries around the long-ago fire are unlikely to be solved, more insight will undoubtedly be learned about Phillips Academy and the local Andover community. Excavations at Mansion House will reopen in July of 2019.
No one invited us to the party but we’ve stayed for over nine years. And the desserts keep getting better. Not that what we do would come under the category of party. What should be obvious to readers of this blog is that I am talking about what it is like to volunteer at the Peabody Institute. First of all, who can volunteer? Being a graduate of Phillips Academy helps in passing the rigorous entrance examination but there are exceptions, such as my wife, Susan, whose qualifications, while many, started with marriage. This automatically reduces the interview process (but does not eliminate the background check.) And what do volunteers do?
Some of you might get the wrong impression that all we do is what the staff shy away from. Far from it. There have been plenty of occasions where it was all we could do to pry staff apart from a project to allow us to either dig into the unknown (such as categorizing about one hundred yards of unclassified photos) or finish it off (such as one hundred yards of labels.)
Of course, I am exaggerating. (No point in frightening you.) I have handled (and often read) documents from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries; paleolithic artifacts from 10,000 B.C.E; ledgers with tens of thousands of entries. I can picture specific bifaces, sherds and feathers.
What my wife, Susan, and I have been doing has varied considerably over the years as staff have come and gone, priorities have shifted, and time frames have expanded. I like to think that volunteering has allowed the Peabody to think in terms of decades, not centuries. This might come as a surprise until you consider that the Peabody is home to somewhere in the vicinity of 600,000 artifacts.
For quite a number of the past nine years, Susan and Leah (another spectacular volunteer) have been inspecting, vacuuming and protecting textiles from Guatemala. Although the end of the project has been in their sights for the past year, Einstein’s theory of special relativity keeps getting in the way (time slowing, distances shortening…easy stuff.) Eager to try my own hand at a multitude of projects, my time has been slowed as well. Despite Einstein’s slowing of time as we operate at the speed of light, sadly, all of us working as an extended family inside the Peabody’s walls have grown somewhat older (but not by much and not at the same rate.)
Most recently, I had the task of filling out labels to put on a few of the 1,500 drawers containing a variety of artifacts. It was a matter of necessity, not just my dexterity and eye coordination. When I completed that task, it was my honor to look for the “absence” of items. It all started with the discovery that an item had been “mislabeled.” That’s akin to looking through a haystack and saying you didn’t find the needle. And winning means you did not find the needle.
Sometimes I write blogs. I’ll stop here because my limit is 500 words. (Only staff can do more!)