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Archaeological program announces survey on Boston Common

City Archaeologist Joe Bagley, who requested the archaeological survey, will be present throughout the duration of the work.


BOSTON – Monday, October 19, 2015 – The City of Boston’s archaeological program within the Environment, Energy, and Open Space Cabinet will oversee an archaeological survey on Boston Common Monday, October 19th and Tuesday, October 20th, creating a unique opportunity for important archaeological findings. City Archaeologist Joe Bagley, who requested the archaeological survey, will be present throughout the duration of the work.

“This is an amazing opportunity for Boston history fans,” said Bagley. “We not only have the chance to find new information about Boston’s native past and the lives of Boston’s native people, but this is also where one of the best preserved Revolutionary War sites in Boston exists.”

Previous archaeological surveys in the area have identified a Revolutionary War-era British troop encampment dating between 1768 and 1776 found directly over a Native American site that is between 400 and 1000 years old.

The survey will be conducted by Pawtucket, RI-based Public Archaeology Laboratory ahead of a proposed critical Eversource project. The utility project is close in proximity to a small portion of the previously identified archaeological sites, which accelerated the request for archaeological documentation and data collection within the area. 

Boston Common received landmark status by the Boston Landmarks Commission (BLC) in 1977. As a landmark, the BLC and its staff, including the City Archaeologist, review most projects in the Boston Common. Boston’s Parks and Recreation Department also reviews all work done in City parks.

“The Boston Landmarks Commission, Parks and Recreation Department, and Eversource have worked extremely well together to make this project proceed smoothly,” said Austin Blackmon, the City’s Chief of Environment, Energy, and Open Space. “I look forward to seeing the results of the dig.”

Boston Common has remained relatively undeveloped since 1630 and contains rich archaeological resources first encountered during excavations for the large underground parking garage on the lower end near Charles Street. More extensive surveys conducted by private archaeology firms and the City’s archaeologist program in the 1980s identified several intact archaeological sites including two Native American habitation areas, the 1706 powder house located near the Soldiers and Sailors monument today, and a Revolutionary War encampment among other site.

October is Archaeology Month in Massachusetts and the BLC will celebrate with an event at the Tap Trailhouse, featuring food and drink from the time era. Also in celebration of Archaeology month, the BLC earlier this month held two historic walking tours. 

“I had no idea when we were planning for the month’s celebrations that we’d have an active dig taking place on the Common at the same time,” said Bagley. “It is an excellent coincidence, and I’m excited that we will be having Native and Revolutionary history actively being revealed during Archaeology Month.”

Bagley will be on-site throughout the project where visitors are welcome. The project is located in an open area between the Parkman Bandstand and the Boylston MBTA station in the southeast corner of Boston Common. 

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