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Home Current Affairs O'Brien Boys Dig Up History at Jay Estate

O’Brien Boys Dig Up History at Jay Estate

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(PHOTO: Brothers Kyle and Reed O'Brien show the artifacts they discovered at the Jay estate.)

What does hands-on history really look like? Ask the young archaeologists in this past week's summer camp at the Jay Heritage Center. Six kids ages 8 to 12 got a rare field experience exploring one of Rye's greatest historic treasures, the landmark Jay estate.

Prior to digging, the campers first learned how to train their eyes to identify artifacts with the help of archaeology professor, Dr. Eugene Boesch who specializes in Paleo-Indian history. Next up, guest speaker, Education Director, Carol Ward, from the nearby Morris Jumel Mansion in Washington Heights showed them colonial pieces from the MJM collection including an iridescent glass bottle and a cannon ball (sounds like an episode of American Digger). 

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(PHOTO: All the dirt from the test pits is carefully examined in a screen.)

Then everyone handled and studied actual historical finds from the Jay Property including oxidized copper coat buttons and glazed ceramics. With the help of JHC's Program Director, Heather Craane, they learned how to record and draw their observations in journals, even creating their own primitive pottery.  Finally it was time to dig! Braving the unusually high heat and humidity they carefully gridded and dug test pits with Dr. Boesch, cataloguing their findings by strata before bagging and labeling their artifacts. 

They have already uncovered and identified numerous cultural resources for JHC and learned about everyday colonial life at John Jay's 1745 farmhouse, the place he grew up as a boy. This week's probes have yielded 18th and 19th century treasures including fragments of stoneware, blue and white Chinese export porcelain, square cut nails possibly from Jay's original 1745 farmhouse and outbuildings, as well as cut pig bones and cows' teeth. Some of their finds were a thin prehistoric blade also known as a flake, a Kaolin tobacco pipe bowl with makers' markings and a delicate white porcelain applique shaped like a flower.

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