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2006 Field Season at Newport Tower: Oct-Nov 2006

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Photo Tour
The last day
Wednesday, Nov 22, 2006

>> Next Blog: 2006 Newport Tower Excavation Wrapup: Nov-Dec 2006
<< Previous Blog: Approval for an Archaeological Dig in Touro Park

The party is over. The weather isn?t nice (easier to leave it). Dr. Mike Brennan, who has been our champion during the Project?s whole two months in the park, gets together with Dan Lynch and Jan for a photo, before he, Jan, and Ray Pasquariello head to radio station WADK and Art Berluti?s morning show. It?s a last chance to say a public thanks, to try and make at least a little sense of what we?ve tried to accomplish during the Tower Project.

This last is difficult if not impossible until the data from the excavation are analyzed. So far, what we know about Touro Park is that it has been used heavily since the 1850s. People have visited the Tower, walked their dogs, listened to band music emanating from the bygone bandstand, sat on benches in nice weather, created art of all kinds (see, for example, the painting attributed to Gilbert Stuart, which is now in residence at the Redwood Library). Its paths have been built and rebuilt; the bandstand was apparently rebuilt after the hurricane of 1938; the flagpole has changed position a few times; and the statues of Rev. Channing and Commodore Perry have taken up residence. The park's only truly enduring entities are its outlines (still bounded by Bellevue Avenue, Pelham Street, West Touro Park, and Mill Street) and the Tower, which has been in the same position ever since it was built. When was it built? Well, that?s another story, isn?t it?

We finish the last of the excavation. Sean Flynn, Newport Daily News reporter, arrives to answer the questions his readers have been asking since October 16: what have we found? That information will fill a volume when the reports are issued, and which we will pass along to the Newport City Council and Newport?s Parks, Recreation and Tourism Department, Sean and his readers and our many publics. For now, we can say we have a record of land and park use that stretches at least back to the late 17th century - and more work to do.

Our last duties of the day and the Project are to fill in the units (some archaeologist will be very surprised to find the outline of a pail of mud in one unit), roll up fencing, strap our workhorse of a wheelbarrow onto the top of Dan Lynch?s rental vehicle so that it won?t pick up and take him sailing off Pell Bridge. Then we say goodbye - to a professional crew that did a highly professional job in the search for more answers about the Newport Tower, and whose company and friendship we will miss very much indeed:

? Ray Pasquariello - archaeologist, principal investigator

? Dan Lynch - geophysicist, field supervisor

? Archaeologists -
Joyce Clements
Kate Descoteaux
Chris Ertl
Shane Henning
Kate Johnson
Dawn Lassman
Peter Molgaard
Richard Petyk

? Volunteers -
Judith Martinez
Davide Natali
Steve Voluckas

? Landscaping - Jason Lynch, JLynch Landscaping

? Mascots -
Bubbles
Tushie



Photo Tour
The Leaving Party
Tuesday, Nov 21, 2006

Work goes on as usual, though a bit more frenetically, since tomorrow is our last day of digging and cleaning up. Ron and I break early, because we?ve scheduled our leaving party for tonight at Aquidneck Pizza Restaurant, to honor our friends and helpers and say goodbye to the many people who have become our friends over the past two months.

We have a lot of thanks to give to many great people, and an evening?s party is not enough to say everything. When all is said and done, the list will be here - with the usual disclaimer of authors:? if I have forgotten anyone who helped us, I take full responsibility.? Stay tuned to the site - the list will be as comprehensive as I can make it, and heavy with editorializing.



Photo Tour
Life in the Park
Monday, Nov 20, 2006

It?s a day to record Touro Park and its inhabitants, signs, helpful features, leaf blowers from the Parks Department (our crew helps by cleaning away leaves prior to digging) neighbors and visitors, statuary and, of course, the patterns of Life in the Park. Newer park benches commemorate beloved people in other peoples? lives; signs show the challenge of parking in Newport: 2-hour parking, no park, one-way travel on Mill Street - or, rather than drive, take the trolley or better yet ride your bike (it?s healthier, after all) and park it in a handy bike rack. Don?t forget to drink plenty of water at the park?s fountain. Take a moment to walk around the statue of Commodore Matthew Perry and learn about his travels in Asian waters; Newport?s Sister City of Shimoda, Japan, helped restore the enclosure around this massive statue and its bronze story. And stop by the plaque commemorating Judah Touro and other contributors who made the park possible. The photos are our way of remembering our time in Touro Park.

Bumper stickers are a hoot, especially when they refer to our favorite science of archaeology. ?Archaeology - digging up the past, for the future? especially hits home, since that?s what we?re trying to do. ?I am an archaeology goddess so kiss my feature? is slightly risqué or sardonic depending on your angle of view. License plates are a great way to make a statement: a New Hampshire plate reads ?DRTLOVR,? - and what?s this? An Arizona plate? What it doing in Rhode Island at this time of year? And what does ?18 GRAY? mean? (It?s a photo lens calibration term from the old days of black and white film - so guess who it belongs to?)

Finally, later in the day, a flock of Canada geese pays its respects to the Tower and Touro Park, circling the flagpole before turning away for their long flight south.

These are memories that will last forever.


Sunday in the Park
Sunday, Nov 19, 2006

Even on Sunday - Dan Lynch and Kate Johnson work in the park, catching up on record keeping. The last of the leaves from the linden, walnut and oak trees mix with the rock pile in the southwest unit, producing another great pattern.



Photo Tour
The red-tailed hawk swoops down to visit
Saturday, Nov 18, 2006

The sun is always welcome. Today is another Saturday used for catching up on work and for measuring and opening another unit on the southwest corner, adjacent to the rocky unit to see where the rocks lead. The stones of the Tower are keeping their counsel. Will we ever find out what they?re saying?

Ron likes to photograph patterns, both architectural and floral. Today we see interesting patterns architectural from the Newport Reading Room, and for the floral part patterns of a tree against the sky; yesterday?s patterns (see Friday?s photos) include tree trunks and their many species of lichen.

Suddenly, the red-tailed hawk swoops down and lands, rather incongruously, on Jan Slee?s porch across Mill Street. He?s a big fellow! I grab a camera and shoot away, and he doesn?t seem to care. Either he knows perfectly well who?s in charge (and it?s not I), or he?s really hungry. Where?s Bubbles?!? Luckily, she isn?t in the vicinity; a 21-year-old cat would be a slow-moving target for this guy.

We spend the evening with dear friends Jay and Suzette Schochet of Newport and take each others? pictures over supper at Norey?s, which has become one of our favorite places in Newport for good company and good food.



Photo Tour
Bedrock, and a circle of bread crumbs
Friday, Nov 17, 2006

Work on the north side proceeds in spite of the rain. In the 1x2 meter unit on the southwest side, the shovel test has revealed bedrock, which again was one of the anomalies shown on the GPR scan. Our coffee-tea-hot chocolate table takes shelter under the awning of our van. When the rain lets up a bit we?re visited by dogs - lots of dogs. We know almost all of the regular canine visitors to the park, from elegant Max the black standard poodle to Jake, protector of Dan Lynch?s mother Claire Rayner. Today we meet four new canine friends.

A little girl and her brother undertake to place a complete circle of bread crumbs around the Tower - a worthy enterprise in which we help by chaperoning them through the fenced area so they can finish the job. The birds (at least those who haven?t flown south by now) will love the crumbs. We worry about local cats like our mascot, Bubbles, because a red-tailed hawk has been hanging out in local trees. We see the hawk almost every day, high up in the trees.



Photo Tour
Mapping rocks and roots
Thursday, Nov 16, 2006

The crew is moving again, this time to an area north and a little east of the flagpole. Dan Lynch sets his tapes for his usual careful measurements in laying out the plots, with the help of The Kates. The fallen leaves - more on the ground than on the trees now - are pretty but a nuisance when archaeologists are trying to read numbers on tapes. Jason Lynch is again on hand to fill in units on the west side of the Tower; these have never had good grass cover, and Jason rakes them flat and throws on grass seed. Richard Petyk is still ?working rocks,? and Peter Molgaard is measuring and mapping their locations. The gang is still conscious of its promise to ?take care of the trees? and digs around roots in the units across the street from the Channing Church.

The crew moves one of our newer tents to a new location just north of the Tower, where they?ll put in another unit - surrounded, as usual, by orange construction fencing. The remaining 1x 2 meter unit on the southwest corner now has not only a carefully-preserved root but a shovel test hole, a check of soil lower than the official bottom.



Photo Tour
Touro Park is used in many ways
Wednesday, Nov 15, 2006

The weather is somewhat better. Kate Descoteaux uses scissors to trim around her unit, so that her measurements will be even more accurate. Ron does a study of crew boots - all different except in one respect: all are muddy. Rev. Channing pays no attention to Shane Henning, Dan Lynch and Peter Molgaard as they study paperwork and artifacts in plastic bags. One of the team?s many consultations is watched by visitors on the south side of the park.

The park is used in many ways - what someone described as ?passive? use, in that it has no carnival rides or other specific attractions except Rev. Channing and Commodore Perry on their pedestals, a few yearly festivals such as October?s Festa Italiana, and of course the Tower. People sit on benches in the sun, walk their dogs, or simply walk through on their way to somewhere else (Newport with its narrow streets is very much a walking town). One especially good use is as a therapy-dog training ground. The dog is eight-month-old Marley, and his owner-trainer is Michelle Datoli. Marley is not only beautiful but smart and learning fast. He and Michelle make a handsome pair.

In one of the southwest units, The Kates - Kate Johnson and Kate Descoteaux - find an enormous rock - big enough to be problem when they try to put it into a plastic artifacts bag. It?s interesting because it has cut marks on it, probably from shovels or picks but interesting enough to keep and study.



Photo Tour
"To Munsell or not to Munsell?" - that is the question
Tuesday, Nov 14, 2006

Another cold, wet day, and the crew wears plenty of rain gear. Units not being worked are covered with either plywood or tarps to keep them dry. The crew takes special care with rocks in the units. So that they don?t mark them, they use whisk brooms, brushes and plastic baby spoons to clean them before removing them. Why? So that the rocks can be checked in the lab for tool marks. Today we find, in the rock pile, a piece of bone, probably cow. Also, they guess, they?ve found a cut nail, as well as an oyster shall and a small piece of mortar.

One thing we know for sure: it?s Kate Johnson?s birthday! We celebrate the occasion with a chocolate cake, which Kate cuts with Ron?s Marshalltown Archaeology Trowel - would Marshalltown (Iowa) approve of this use? Shane Henning decides the cake must be tested against the Munsell Soil Color Chart: it tests at 5YR3/3 - ?dark reddish brown.? On the spot, we make Munsell a verb: ?to munsell (infinitive form) or not to munsell;? ?we are munselling,? and ?we have munselled.? We certainly munselled that cake!

In the afternoon I head for Warwick with art for some mementos we?re making for our Leaving Party on November 21. Shane Awards, out by the airport. Owner Bill Tuttle burns names onto the handles of the archaeological trowels - he considers this job a challenge.

I head back to Newport; the sky is so dark and low that the top of Pell Bridge from Jamestown to Newport is hidden in the clouds - very spooky.



Photo Tour
Of rain and old paths
Monday, Nov 13, 2006

It?s raining - again. The walls are zipped onto the large tent, and the two new tents we?ve bought protect new units southwest of the Tower. The corner of one unit was filled with rubble, apparently the base of an old path. We have discovered that Touro Park is has been landscaped - over and over again. While we have some idea from old Newport City atlas maps (1893 and 1907, for example) what some of the path layouts were, they don?t match the GPR scans, and we spend much time at the Newport Historical Society, trying to find old photos that will tell us what the paths looked like. NHS?s archivist Bert Lippincott finds us the most useful ones.



Photo Tour
Saturday overtime
Saturday, Nov 11, 2006

We work a Saturday for the first time. Fine weather means that Dan Lynch can bring out his ground-penetrating radar unit. He wants to check the southwest corner of the park, across Pelham Street from Rev. Channing?s Unitarian Church. While Dan and Kate Johnson do GPR, Peter Molgaard and Richard Petyk get caught up on paperwork, and Jason Lynch fills in the 1x2 meter unit. We break early, since it?s Saturday.



Photo Tour
A view from above
Friday, Nov 10, 2006

While work continues down into the ground, Ron Barstad goes upward - to the top of Jan Slee?s house. Teetering on the ridge line at about 40 feet above the surface, he photographs the 26-foot Tower and its surrounding area from a completely different perspective. Meanwhile, the crew is digging even deeper than before, in one corner of a unit, to check what lies under the usual last layer. One find stands out: a small piece of porcelain, red and blue on a cream background.

Jason Lynch of JLynch Landscaping is on hand to fill in a finished unit, and to fit together the sod so carefully marked when the unit was first dug. Ron and the crew toss in a 2006 quarter before Jason goes to work - a way of saying, ?We were here in 2006.?



Photo Tour
A sunny day for coring
Thursday, Nov 9, 2006

Field Supervisor Dan Lynch decides to use another one of his many techniques for visualizing what goes on under the ground surface: he?ll take some soil cores on the east side of the Tower. He and Archaeologist Joyce Clements set up the coring equipment and soon have pulled up several cores. But the going isn?t easy: the ground is saturated and slippery, making it hard to eject the core. There are times when we all long for the warm, sunny days of the Southwest where, our friends in Tempe tell us (somewhat gleefully), the temperature is hovering around 80?F.

Yesterday?s storm has stripped more leaves from the trees. During the day, though, Newport?s weather improves, till finally we have a sunny sky back again. Units deepen; at one point, it?s difficult to see Kate Descoteaux at the bottom of a 1x1, and even Peter Molgaard and Shane Henning are up to their knees in the units they?re working. Sunlight actually hampers photography, so Kate Johnson and others shade the unit while Dan Lynch shoots his photos.

At the end of the day, before we lose the nice sunlight on the stones of the Tower, Ron takes a group shot. Top left to right: Ron Barstad, Peter Molgaard, Steve Voluckas, Richard Petyk, Shane Henning, Dan Lynch; bottom: Kate Descoteaux, Kate Johnson, Jan Barstad, Joyce Clements.



Photo Tour
Under tents, and a City Council meeting
Wednesday, Nov 8, 2006

Indeed, the weather has set in. All hands move Jan Slee?s tent over the 1 X 2 meter unit, but it?s not enough, with the wind blowing. The crew zips sides onto the tent, and makes sure the tarps covering the units not being worked are held down so that they stay dry. Everyone gets very muddy, but the excavations stay dry. Without the tent, it would be a swimming pool. The open space left when the tree root rotted out is very large - and the crew Dan Lynch decides it?s the anomaly pictured in the middle of the ground-penetrating radar scan he ran on the west side of the Tower. As someone said, you never know what an anomaly really is until you dig down and look at it. In spite of the rain, we have visitors, and I attempt to tell what we know and are finding out about the Tower and the land on which it stands.

At 6:30 p.m., Ray Pasquariello and I attend the Newport City Council meeting. We have a request: please let us work another week, till, November 22, to make up for the time we lost because of bad weather. The Council very kindly grants our request.



Photo Tour
Of pottery, leaves, cats and colors
Tuesday, Nov 7, 2006

Another special find of glazed pottery or porcelain, this one with a beautifully stippled flower, the only part of the vessel to survive, probably seen for the first time since the 19th century. As our crew does its work, the Parks Department crew does theirs, keeping the park neat and tidy by vacuuming up the seemingly endless supply of leaves from the park?s many huge trees.

Chris Ertl has brought his cat, Tushie, to the park today, since she has no cat-sitter at home. While we love having Tushie with us as a sort of unofficial ?inspector,? she is less pleased at being in a very strange environment.

Ron has added a new element to the photography of the units: a color card that allows correct depiction of ranges of colors - necessary in distinguishing soil color. Dan Lynch immediately incorporates it into his letter board for reference .

The sky is developing little puffy clouds - does that mean rain tomorrow? In New England, as they say, just wait and you?ll see - the weather has a way of changing very quickly.

Wednesday, November 8. Indeed, the weather has set in. All hands move Jan Slee?s tent over the 1 X 2 meter unit, but it?s not enough, with the wind blowing. The crew zips sides onto the tent, and makes sure the tarps covering the units not being worked are held down so that they stay dry. Everyone gets very muddy, but the excavations stay dry. Without the tent, it would be a swimming pool. The open space left when the tree root rotted out is very large - and the crew Dan Lynch decides it?s the anomaly pictured in the middle of the ground-penetrating radar scan he ran on the west side of the Tower. As someone said, you never know what an anomaly really is until you dig down and look at it. In spite of the rain, we have visitors, and I attempt to tell what we know and are finding out about the Tower and the land on which it stands.

At 6:30 p.m., Ray Pasquariello and I attend the Newport City Council meeting. We have a request: please let us work another week, till, November 22, to make up for the time we lost because of bad weather. The Council very kindly grants our request.



Photo Tour
Digging for television
Monday, Nov 6, 2006

On the job early in the morning, on the west side of the Tower. One 1 x 1 meter unit is open, being worked by Chris Ertl, Kate Johnson, and Kate Descoteaux. The thing about this line of work is that shoes always wind up muddy, especially at this time of year. The process is the same, careful measuring, removal of 10 centimeters of soil, screening, mapping, and record-keeping, scrupulously done by all members of the team. When photos are taken, the letter board is set up for each unit and each level.

While Peter Molgaard reads notes from last week?s work, Chris runs a soil sample through the multipage Munsell Soil Color Chart, an indispensable tool to describe soils at all levels of digging. Tree roots in both units receive special attention - we?ve pledged to do no harm to trees, as part of our agreement with the City of Newport, so the crew removes only dead roots and leaves live ones in place. We can do no harm at all to at least one tree - it was defunct a long time ago and has left only holes where its roots once were.

It?s a sunny day, and getting warmer, so coats come off. Next order of business is to open an excavation unit measuring 1 X 2 meters. Peter removes grassy sod (marked so that it can be put back in the same order when the unit is refilled). Chris and Shane talk tools over Dan Lynch?s two big tool boxes. What will work best over there? Dan and the crew consult constantly as holes deepen. An important find is a small piece of multicolored pottery or porcelain. The archaeologists have manuals devoted to photos of such pieces, to identify style and time period.

As usual, all units are perfect - straight sides and beautifully flat bottoms. Our volunteer Davide Natali is on hand to help with the work, while Richard Petyk and Peter Molgaard consult over the 1 X 2 meter unit. I am only an innocent bystander, who can only admire the work; but even I can see the changes in soil color down through the unit walls. It?s still a surprise - and fun - to see everyday things like dustpans in use!

Today Ron Heroux and Bob Poniatowsky are in the park to do a TV interview, which will air on local public access TV - Channels 18 and 15 - in the next week or two. Heroux interviews Principal Investigator Ray Pasquariello, and we take the two around the Tower, showing them the complex interior. Bob, the cameraman, keeps asking us to ?slow down - I can?t get it all on tape when you talk so fast!? We try, but it?s always exciting to talk about the Tower?s architecture and hard to pace our conversation just right for TV. It?s a perfect day for filming, and the Tower looks especially nice against the blue sky. So does Reverend William Ellery Channing, founder of the Unitarian Church, standing tall on his pedestal; he doesn?t face the Tower but looks across the street at his church.



Photo Tour
If you don't like the weather just wait a minute
Friday, Nov 3, 2006

The weather is much better - sunny though a bit nippy in the morning. The crew begins measurements for the second site, on the west side of the Tower. Everyone pitches in to move all our equipment to the other side and put up our ugly fence. The archaeologists open one hole - and immediately find a set of keys in the first layer - definitely 20th or even 21st century because one looks very much like a car key. If anyone out in cyperspace lost three keys on a ring in Touro Park within the past ten years, let us know.

Dan and Jason close up the last hole on the east side of the Tower. We begin our weekend knowing that we?re again embarking into the unknown. What will we find this next week?



Photo Tour
Rain, rain, rain. And cold.
Thursday, Nov 2, 2006

Rain and dropping temperatures are slowing our work. Several of the crew use the van to get their paperwork done; paperwork in the archaeology trade is extensive, involving not just maps but careful notes, lists of artifacts with numbers - paper, paper, paper. Later in the afternoon,Jason Lynch and others in the crew close several holes so that we can move to our next site tomorrow.

Suddenly a school bus arrives. This is an English class from West Greenwich High School, juniors come to see the tower the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow made famous in his 1841 poem ?A Skeleton in Armor.? They?re not at the park to see our work - they didn?t even know it was happening. Their teachers invite me onto the bus to tell them about the project. I try to relate what we?re doing to the fact that, even in 1841, no one really knew who had built the Tower and so made up stories about it.
PHOTOS COMING SOON...



Photo Tour
We survive Hollowe'en
Wednesday, Nov 1, 2006

We were concerned about the safety of our site on Hallowe?en, but the night passed without incident. We did see some very funny costumes around town - Newporters seem to have a great time on Hallowe?en.

At 1:30 Ray Pasquariello and I sit in front of microphones at WADK 1540 Radio and chat with host Bud Ciccilline on the station?s Open Forum talk show. We tell how we got involved in the project, we thank Newport?s City Council for allowing us to do it (first time in nearly 60 years!); Ray gives some details on the technology involved, and I talk about our school tours. Because our segment is only 30 minutes. Great experience for both of us, and good exposure for the project. We are asked to come back for a morning talk show.



Photo Tour
We meet Sue Carlson
Tuesday, Oct 31, 2006

Sue Carlson arrives from Edgecomb, Maine. She?s publications director for the New England Antiquities Research Society (see link for NEARA) and easily the best writer about the Tower, its history, the theories about its builder, and architecture of Europe that may be parallels to our structure. We?ve also met NEARA?s president, Dan Lorraine, and past president Rick Lynch. They?ve all wanted an excavation for a long time and are very supportive. NEARA?s fall conference is scheduled for Nov. 8-12 at Best Western Royal Plaza Hotel and Trade Center in Fitchburg, Maine.



Photo Tour
After the storm
Monday, Oct 30, 2006

The blow has blown out, and the tent is still with us. We clean up and put away our extra straps, till the next blow, should it come. Work goes on as usual. We hear that the City of Newport has lost 14 trees to wind, and we feel lucky.



Photo Tour
Saturday work in a storm
Saturday, Oct 28, 2006

Rain and rising wind. Volunteers Steve Voluckas and Judith Martinez go to Touro Park to check on our tent over the holes. The wind rises, and we decide we need to strap it down better if it?s not to sail off into the gray sky. We buy straps, stakes and fence posts and set about the job - four straps tied to large stakes, and metal fence posts at each tent pole. A car jack becomes a heavy hammer to help with the job. Ron films some video (of two inept women trying to figure out how racheting straps work) and some stills when his expertise isn?t needed. We fill buckets with soil and place them on our plywood panels over the holes. Dan Lynch calls, in his field supervisor?s capacity, concerned about the same thing. We tell him what we?ve done, and he thinks it will stand the blow. We go away with our fingers crossed.



Photo Tour
Big Tour Day
Friday, Oct 27, 2006

Margie Brennan brings a class from Thompson Middle School at 8:45 a.m. eighth-graders with great questions and lots of enthusiasm on a bright, cold day; her second class at noon, also 8th-graders, are just as much fun.

Joe Cassidy and his senior anthropology class spend several hours with us, learning techniques from the archaeologists and listening to Dan Lynch and Ray Pasquariello speak on their experience in archaeology and how it relates to our project. As the group walks round the Tower, their questions become serious. How can anyone tell who built it if early records of Newport were taken and lost at sea by the British during the American Revolution? What do we expect to find? Always that pesky question - to which we can only say: if we?re lucky, we?ll find whatever?s there. The group discusses the Tower?s architecture and tries to relate it to the various theories, but they?re now beginning to learn the danger of reaching a conclusion before the science is completed.

At the end of the session, Joe Cassidy assigns them another paper: a page on what they now think about the Tower. I ask if I can read those papers - they?re bound to be thoughtful. Then I have a brainstorm: if they agree, we?ll put them on the web site, so other people can enjoy reading their thoughts on the matter. They agree enthusiastically.



Photo Tour
We find an 1868 penny and old gravel paths
Thursday, Oct 26, 2006

The Boys and Girls Club kids come for their tour. They too have the chance to do some screening, and they turn up a genuine find: an 1868 Indian Head penny! They, like the others groups, are fascinated by the meteorite and how it moves in their hands under the magnet. And they love being out of doors and walking around the Tower to view it from all angles. They speculate on the possible builder ("People from Mars?" asks one). They also ask, as so many people do, if we've "found anything."

I?ve been invited to speak at Redwood Library at 6:00 p.m. James Wermuth, Newport conservation architect and columnist, has put together a program on ?archaeometry,? essentially the use of science in service to archaeology. He speaks first, about the multitude of technological methods used in the field, and describes his own fascinating project in Savannah, Georgia, involving a deteriorating monument to General Casimir Pulaski of the American Revolution. Paul Robinson, State Archaeologist with the Rhode Island Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission, speaks about the two-week visit to Narragansett Bay by Giovanni da Verrazzano in 1524, and the long-term results of that visit.

Now it?s my turn, and James has announced at the beginning of the evening that ?Jan Barstad will reveal a spectacular find from her investigation of the Newport Tower.? Given what we?ve learned about Touro Park so far, what is spectacular? I set Dan Lynch's GPR map on the easel and talk about what I consider the most important part of doing science: Honesty. As a geophysicist, Dan used the most amazing modern technology to produce accurate, colorful maps of what lies underground in Touro Park. But if a historian like me prematurely misinterprets the results, I could do real harm to science. Dan's map is absolutely accurate: it shows pea-gravel paths from the 1890s, and we've been able to verfiy their locations from historical photos and 1893 atlas in the Newport Historical Society's library, which Archivist Bert Lippincott allowed us to photograph. Dan's excellent work has revealed an important truth about the park: it was once honeycombed with such paths, many more than the park has today, and the crew has found hard evidence of those paths where they're digging. That's one of the truths of the park, though not a very spectacular one. If I had used the information Dan so carefully mapped to try to make a case for a spectacular find - or worse, refused to show it because it DIDN"T reveal a spectacular find - it would be as bad as an archaeologist "salting" his dig to prove his theory (read Tony Hillerman's "Dance Hall of the Dead" for a good mystery novel about that very subject).

I use the sad case of Biosphere 2 to make my point about truth in science. The eight people closed into Biosphere 2 from 1991 to 1993 thought they knew exactly how their two years of incarceration would play out; they had worked out all the details of how people could live in such a closed environment. But they hadn?t factored in decreasing oxygen content in their air. The oxygen was going somewhere, but where? Half the group thought it was interesting science and should be discussed; the other half didn?t want to admit they didn?t have all the answers. The second group won. Oxygen trucks were whistled up in the middle of the night and oxygen pumped into the facility, in the hope no one would notice. Of course, the press noticed - and the project?s credibility was gone, never to return (by the way, the oxygen was going two places never considered: to microorganisms in the facility?s soil, and into the curing of concrete in their structures).

Dan Lynch's initial GPR study suggested we had some sort of spectacular find - those paths fairly sparkled on his map, flashing like gold nuggets. The crew's excavations revealed the pea-gravel. That doesn?t mean that we won?t find an answer to ?Who Built the Newport Tower?? - only that to do good science requires that great care must be taken in the evaluation of the technology and the findings must be ground-truthed. Archaeologist Joyce Clements puts it most succinctly: ?The ground never lies to you. If what you see in the ground doesn?t make sense to you, study it because it will always tell you what?s actually going on.?



Photo Tour
We're not used to this cold weather
Wednesday, Oct 25, 2006

I?m having to buy warm clothes - boots, more socks, a windbreaker. It?s almost impossible to pack the right clothes for a New England autumn when you live in 100-degree heat in Tempe, Arizona!

The kids of the Thompson Middle School after-school program come for their tour in the later afternoon. When they see the tower, they begin to understand that it?s a unique structure, complete with fireplace, but my eight-year-old is still bluntly telling me the Vikings didn?t build it. This skeptical young man may one day make a fine archaeologist! Members of the group take turns screening soil and looking for artifacts. My own Marshalltown trowel is their tool, the first time it has gotten dirty.

As the archaeologists open two more holes, our super-excellent landscaper, Jason Lynch of J. Lynch Landscaping, carefully fills in our first two holes, tamping down each wheelbarrel-ful of soil, then putting the sod in place on top; the sod was cut and marked so that it goes exactly where it had been before we started.



Photo Tour
Jan goes to school; Ron keeps shooting
Tuesday, Oct 24, 2006

Jan speak to a senior anthropology class at Portsmouth High School at the terribly early hour of 7:35 a.m. (I?d forgotten the agonies of getting educated). Joe Cassidy?s class is one bright bunch, with all kinds of questions about the possible builder and the techniques we?re using to try to develop more information. Cassidy has had them write a one-page paper on what they think about the Tower; after I finish several of the students approach him, asking if they can rewrite their papers. Another huge compliment. Their take on the Tower will be especially interesting when they see it on Thursday.

Ron is taking about 200 photos a day. Twice as many when the weather is nice.



Photo Tour
The security fence goes up
Monday, Oct 23, 2006

Ron and I arrive at the site under clouds but no rain. We set up tables and chairs and I go for coffee. By the time I get back, Steve Voluckas has arrived with aluminum garden stakes so that he and Ron can make our truly ugly orange plastic fence a foot higher. It is unlovely but necessary. Chris Ertl and Shane Camplbell-Henning have joined the working group, along with Kate Johnson. Mike Brennan arrives to ask if I?d like to go on a local radio talk show; I suggest that Ray and I both do it, and Mike says he?ll set it up.



Photo Tour
A second hole is started and more school kids
Friday, Oct 20, 2006

Another hole is open, making a total of four, and we become aware that there is a layer that appears in every one: about three inches of pea gravel under the topsoil fill. The group refers to our GPR map - has the pea gravel caused the wing-and-oval pattern that?s so startling against the blue background of undisturbed soil? If so, what is the significance of the pea gravel? I remember seeing some old atlases of Newport in the Newport Historical Society archives that showed various years of Touro Park?s existence. The group needs to see what sorts of paths were in the park at various stages. So Ron drives me down to the Historical Society (it?s raining), and Bert Lippincott, NHS librarian and archivist, kindly helps me track down one atlas from 1893 and one from 1907. We?re not allowed to put the delicately hand-colored maps on the copier, so I go back to the park to get Ron and his digital camera to take some photos. When printed, they tell the archaeologists exactly what they need to know: in 1893, the park was honeycombed with pea-gravel paths, which show up so dramatically on the GPR . The 1907 map shows that the path system was considerably simplified, almost the configuration we see in the park today but more curved. Ron superimposes today?s paths over each of the others and discovers that the artist who drew the 1893 map put the Tower in the wrong place.

Today?s educational visit takes us to the Boys and Girls Club of Newport. Like the MLK group, these 8 to 11-year-olds aren?t sure they know what I?m talking about when I describe the Tower to them. They?ll recognize it when they see it next week Bill Nye The Science Guy does his stuff here too - a hyper dude, I must say, but he?s fun and entertaining - and he gets his facts right. Can?t ask for more.



Photo Tour
Bottom of first excavation unit
Thursday, Oct 19, 2006

By now the reference hole is about as deep as it will need to be - down past human activity into prehistoric times, about 2,000-3,000 years ago. The archaeologists explain that they have excavated three ?sterile? layers (meaning no cultural artifacts or features). They screen even this soil, and we come upon our first real find: a meteorite! They find it by running a large magnet over the rocks and debris that doesn?t fall through the screen, with the hope of finding nails and other metal objects they can?t see - and up pops what looks to be an ordinary stone but obviously attracted to the magnet by its iron content. Ron can even tell the group which side of the meteorite entered the atmosphere first - the side rounded and smoothed by heat and friction.

Our educational program kicks off when Elaine Bunnell and Marilyn Brockway of Redwood Library take me to Martin Luther King center to talk to an after-school group of children. I show them our GPR scan and tell them a little about the dig in Touro Park. Elaine and Marilyn show a DVD on archaeology by Bill Nye The Science Guy, to prepare the kids for their visit to the park next week.

Antonella Pasquariello, Archaeologist Ray?s wife, drops by with their two children, Maxwell and Valentina. By this time, we have also acquired a Project Mascot, a one-eared cat named Bubbles, who joined us for the groundbreaking festivities and decided to stay on as ?Sunny-day Supervisor:? at the ripe old age of 21, she knows better than to work in the rain, unlike some crazy human archaeologists.



Photo Tour
Serious digging and school kids
Wednesday, Oct 18, 2006

By now the reference hole is about as deep as it will need to be - down past human activity into prehistoric times, about 2,000-3,000 years ago. The archaeologists explain that they have excavated three ?sterile? layers (no human activity and precious little organic matter, which makes us ask how that earthworm at the bottom of the hole has managed to survive). They screen even this soil, and we come upon our first real find: a meteorite! They find it by running a large magnet over the rocks and debris that doesn?t fall through the screen, with the hope of finding nails and other metal objects they can?t see - and up pops what looks to be an ordinary stone but obviously attracted to the magnet by its iron content. Ron can even tell the group which side of the meteorite entered the atmosphere first - the side rounded and smoothed by heat and friction. [Ron was wrong. See our report from the Center for Meteorite Studies here. ]

Our educational program kicks off when Elaine Bunnell and Marilyn Brockway of Redwood Library take me to Martin Luther King center to talk to an after-school group of children. I show them our GPR scan and tell them a little about the dig in Touro Park. Elaine and Marilyn show a DVD on archaeology by Bill Nye The Science Guy, to prepare the kids for their visit to the park next week.

Antonella Pasquariello, Archaeologist Ray?s wife, drops by with their two children, Maxwell and Valentina. By this time, we have also acquired a Project Mascot, a one-eared cat named Bubbles, who joined us for the groundbreaking festivities and decided to stay on as ?Sunny-day Supervisor:? at the ripe old age of 21, she knows better than to work in the rain, unlike some crazy human archaeologists.



Photo Tour
Day 2: Rain.
Tuesday, Oct 17, 2006

Reality sets in, in the form of rain. We wake to gray skies and we work in the rain. This is what archaeologists do. But most do it without the cover of Jan Slee?s tent. Jan Slee was right.



Photo Tour
Groundbreaking!
Monday, Oct 16, 2006

The day dawns bright and cheerful, and my nervousness disappears. We dress in our good clothes but take working clothes with us, and head for the park with all our paraphernalia. The crew appears: Ray Pasquariello, archaeologist and principal investigator; Ray is regional manager of the northeast U.S. and Caribbean for Gray & Pape Inc. of Wakefield and Cincinnati - and one of the most unflappable people we?ve ever met. None of the many controversies about the Tower bothers him a bit; Dan Lynch is field supervisor now - he wears a different pair of boots for this job. Also on hand is Joyce Clements of Gray & Pape, the only person we?ve met who knows and loves ?Oliver?s Travels? as much as we do; Joyce is a longtime archaeologist of the Ph.D. level and as meticulous at this work as Dan. Kate Johnson, also of Gray & Pape, is part of the team. Our first volunteer, Steve Voluckas, has been interested in the project for months. Steve has done a lot of work in Nova Scotia, tracking the voyages of Leif Erickson and Thorstein Karlsefni in the first decades of the 1000s. His day job, from which he?s taken a vacation just for us, is as a pilot for the airline that flies between Hyannis MA and Nantucket.
The first order of business is to open a 1x1 meter hole to provide soil that we?ll use for the actual groundbreaking ceremony with the Newport City Council. Dan and the team lay down a carefully measured line to form a perfect square in the area the GPR scan seems to say is important to our understanding of the Tower. Suddenly, a shovel is thrust into my hand - I?m supposed to stick the shovel in the ground first! I?ve never done a groundbreaking ceremony in my life! But I?ve done my share of digging, in my various gardens in Arizona, so gee, a shovel is a shovel is a shovel - and the damp soil of Touro Park is much easier to get a shovel into than the rock-hard soil of Arizona. I do what I always do at home - I push the shovel in with one foot - then jump on the thing with both feet. My photographer-husband had set this up and is ready with his camera.
Members of the City Council arrive. Here comes His Honor Mayor John Trifero, looking cheerful as he always does. Next comes Councilman Steve Coyne, and then Mary Connolly, enthusiastic about the project and as bubbly as always. Around them surge about 50 or 60 people come to see the fun.
We start the festivities as close to noon as we can, holding off just a little so that newsmen John Pierce from ABC Providence (Channel 6) and Tim O?Donnell of NBC Providence (Channel 10) can set up their cameras and microphones. I see Sean Flynn and Jacqueline Marque from Newport Daily News, and Rich Salit of Providence Journal with photojournalist Bob Breidenbach. I jump up on a park bench and blow my survival whistle to get everyone?s attention.
It?s easy to tell the audience why we?re here: for the first time in nearly 60 years, the Newport City Council has allowed an archaeological excavation in Touro Park. Giving the Chronognostic Research Foundation and its team of experts, an opportunity to identify, at long last, the builder of the Newport Tower, the time period in which it was built, and perhaps even the purpose for which it was meant. I introduce Ray Pasquariello, who tells how we plan to accomplish this.
Then the real fun begins. I invite the members of the Newport City Council to be the first to process and analyze several shovels of soil from the meter-square hole we dug earlier. Council members Mary Connolly and Steve Coyne gather on one side of the soil screen; with Mayor Trifero at the handles, shaking the soil through the screen, the three use their legendary Marshalltown archaeological trowels (provided and personalized for each of them for the occasion) to sort through the remaining larger pieces of soil on the screen. They find an artifact! A piece of styrofoam. Ah, well. Another artifact! Part of a filter from a cigarette. ?Twentieth century!? someone exclaims. We try to remind ourselves that, after all, this is the upper layer and, indeed, part of our present. The past will show up the farther down the crew digs in that first hole and the 24 others to follow. Our project, ?Discovery under Touro Park,? has now officially begun.
The members of the Council go back to work, the reporters and camera people go off to write their stories, and members of the public drift away. For the rest of the day, the crew lays out the boundaries of other holes and digs deeper in the first.
Jan Slee, who lives across Mill Street, arrives later in the afternoon toting a 10 x 15 foot tent. ?You?ll need this tomorrow,? he says. When someone answers, ?Oh, we always work in the rain,? he just laughs and starts setting up the tent. Everyone pitches in but most doubt that rain will be a problem. What we concentrate on is: What will we find? On the first day of the project, a lovely Indian-summer day in Newport, that?s anybody?s guess.



Photo Tour
Day minus one
Sunday, Oct 15, 2006

Groundbreaking is tomorrow. We?ve had Dan?s GPR work put on a poster, and Ron?s large map of the park, based on one kindly supplied by Newport?s Engineering Department, will be used. Ron also created a big poster-nameplate, which he?ll attach to the fence around the Tower. We?re excited that we?re actually here, doing this project, with the approval of the Newport City Council. There?s been a lot of interest in the project, and it appears that at least some of the press will be there. I?ve sent news releases to local news outlets but don?t know who will show up. I get nervous this evening, moaning about how it won?t come off well etc. etc. Ron just laughs and gives me a hug and another glass of wine.




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