Lauralton students turn grounds into archeological dig site

Lauralton Hall’s pilot archaeology class features an authentic archaeological dig on the school’s historic campus.

Students enrolled in the Science of Archaeology course are excavating the site of a former Victorian greenhouse on campus. The site was chosen based on the class’ archival research and photographs provided by a 1934 aerial survey conducted by the State of Connecticut.

In September students met with State of Connecticut Archaeologist Dr. Brian Jones, who lectured about site formation, excavation techniques and protocols, and artifact identification. In addition, students worked with Lauralton Hall’s library media center experts and archivists Theresa Lawler and Deborah Beauvais to learn about archival skills and examine historical documents and photos of the school’s property.

Students discovered the locations of former outbuildings such as an icehouse, conservatory, and greenhouses. The class also secured clearance for the project from “Call Before You Dig,” as required by the state for excavation.

“The archaeology project is one of our signature programs at Lauralton Hall,” said Elizabeth Miller, president and head of school. “We sit on a historic property with 150-plus years of stories to tell. Participating in an authentic excavation and archiving project is a unique opportunity for our students to combine history and science out in the field and to share the findings with the broader community.”

Lauralton Hall, established as a boarding school by the Sisters of Mercy in 1905, is on the State and National Registers of Historic Places. The original estate, built by Charles Hobby Pond in 1864, was named “Island View” for its then-unobstructed view of Charles Island off the Milford coast. The property later was purchased and enlarged by industrialist Henry Taylor who renamed the estate Lauralton Hall in honor of his daughter Laura.

According to Science Teacher April Kelley, who teaches the Science of Archaeology course, students first established a series of test plots at the dig site. Artifacts recovered will be documented following state archaeological protocols, removed to Lauralton Hall’s science labs for cleaning and analysis, and curated with the school’s archives.

“The students’ excitement continues to build as they uncover the early history of life at Lauralton and in the city of Milford,” said Kelley. “The dig is a wonderful opportunity for meaningful, authentic learning.”

Students will share their findings with Dr. Jones’ Office of the State Archaeology, Lauralton’s founders and sponsors the Sisters of Mercy, and the public through a written report in January. The public can follow the project as it progresses on Facebook @LauraltonHall, on Instagram (lauraltoncrusaders) and Twitter #wediglauralton.