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Archaeological Volunteers Excavate 250 Artifacts

Palmer White | JANUARY 4, 2021

Saturday mornings in Montgomery typically include breakfast sandwiches and large coffees — with a trip to the park or canal if the weather allows. Archaeological digs are an unusual weekend activity; however, the Stoutsburg Sourland African American Museum (SSAAM) held an excavation at their Hollow Road location: Mount Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church on December 12.

Volunteers use mesh screens to sort through the excavated materials in search of artifacts.

Caroline Katmann, SSAAM’s first executive director, says: “Our mission is to tell the stories of the African American community in the Sourlands.”

Katmann works alongside nine volunteer board members and three volunteer advisory board members. Michael Gall, president of the Archaeological Society of NJ (ASNJ), and Michelle Davenport, member-at-large of ASNJ, contacted SSAAM earlier this year regarding a potential partnership excavation on the museum’s historic site at the Mt. Zion AME, built in 1899.

“Archeology is one of the tools we can use in our search for the stories, so we were thrilled to have the opportunity to work with professional archaeologists,” Katmann said.

The excavated artifacts, dated from the late 1800s and 1900, include window glass, nails, bricks, white ceramic pieces, and an iron padlock. Michael and Ian Burrow, who is an SSAAM trustee and an archaeological resource management professional, organized the dig.

They included seven professional archaeologists from ASNJ at the dig site. SSAAM President John Buck, Vice President Bruce Daniels, Advisory Board Member Laurie Cleveland, and Katmann were also present.

Caroline Katmann, left, and Laurie Cleveland, right, work at the site of the Mt. Zion AME archaeological dig.

More than 100 Montgomery area residents volunteered to help with the dig, but SSAAM could only accept 32 in order to observe COVID social distancing requirements. The volunteers included families with children, ages 12 to 17, and adults.

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The Burrows chose to use the shovel-test-pit method of excavation, which involves digging a series of holes roughly one foot in diameter and two feet deep. Each excavated material is then placed in a mesh screen, so the artifacts are discovered though not destroyed. They also used metal detectors.

An excavated artifact, which appears to be an iron padlock.

After completing 12 tests, they discovered about 250 artifacts. The excavated artifacts, dated from the late 1800s and 1900, include window glass, nails, bricks, white ceramic pieces, and an iron padlock. After being cleaned, identified, and cataloged, these items will become a part of SSAAM’s collection.

The display will include technical details of the dig. SSAAM also will produce a written, illustrated report, which will be distributed to local historical organizations, libraries, and municipalities.


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