Into the woods behind the Dells


by Amanda Michaels, Contributing Writer

Behind the Dells sits a historic farmhouse that has been abandoned and left to crumble. Sociology and Anthropology  (SOA) professor Brian Broadrose has begun to bring the registered historical structure back to life. After cleaning up the area, he will be focusing on archaeology at the site.

In the late 1970’s and early 80’s, the woods around Cedar Dell Pond were excavated by students and archaeologists. Though they found many artifacts including projectile points and red ochre (a substance used throughout the world for ritual ceremonies), Broadrose said that “the approach was really limited. It was basically a judgement sample to say ‘this is a good spot.’”

The archeologists found it to be a good spot, but they only focused on a small area that had been dug up by construction. Since there were no active archaeologists on campus, nothing else had been done with the site. Instead, the area has remained neglected.

“It’s a historic structure that’s listed on the state registry,” Broadrose said of the building. “We’re trying to refurbish it, remodel it, and get it working as a headquarters where we can temporarily store our artifacts.”

The road to working on refurbishing it was not an easy one, as the heads of facilities and maintenance were using the area as a dumping ground for metal and concrete.

At first, when Broadrose tried to get them to stop throwing debris in the woods, his title as an assistant professor was not enough to get their attention. Then, Broadrose made a fascinating discovery.

“I realized that our interim chancellor (Peyton R. Helm) studied archaeology,” he said. “So I sent him an email emphasizing our shared interest in archaeology, explaining that I was not getting anywhere trying to get this project moving, and within a couple of hours, he emailed me back. Within twenty minutes of his email, then the big wigs started responding to my previous inquiries. So it got things moving.”

The Department of Sustainability, along with Broadrose, have been actively working on the site since then.

Jamie Jacquart of that department said that it is important to save the farmhouse because, “The building is the last remaining legacy of when this property was being farmed. As a historian, it’s important to maintain it.” He projects that the easy fixes of the project will be completed by the middle of spring 2017.

“Restoring it back to being as it was will be a bigger project needing grants,” he said.

In addition, it could take as long as three years to completely bring it back to how it once was. The goal is to finish it somewhat quickly to have a spot for the archaeological field school to work.

Broadrose has been in touch with the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe to make sure he has them to help out with the archaeological aspects.

“I proposed to the Mashpee Wampanoag that we could set up a display right here on the bottom floor of the Liberal Arts building. There’s space there and glass displays. But I would need to have their involvement of narrating their history.”

Having excavated sites in the north coast of Peru, the Atacama Desert, Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming, Arizona, and upstate New York, Broadrose has formed a strong stance on how archaeological sites should be handled.

He mentioned that a problem with archaeology is that “archaeologists often feel a sense of entitlement to bones, graves, stories, languages, bodies, everything,” and he is clear that his mission to search for more artifacts in the Cedar Dell Pond area will not happen unless the Tribe is involved in every aspect of the project.

In the case of the on-campus site, “We’re looking at collaborative here. If it doesn’t go that way, then I won’t do it.”

So far, he has been in communication with the conservation officer of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe about getting Native students and volunteers to work with him at the site.

In September, Broadrose took his archaeology class to the site right on the edge of the pond to observe the area.

Benjamin Perez, an SOA student in archaeology who works for the Sustainability Department, is optimistic about the future of the site after touring it.

“It represented an untapped territory,” Perez said of the areas yet to be excavated. “It’s a rich surface, and a part of our campus that needs to be explored. It’s a place of adventure.”

That adventure is something that has started to take place. Clean up efforts are in progress, and talks of a field school are happening. After that has been completed, if the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe is okay with it, there may be an exhibit in LARTS of artifacts found right here on the UMass Dartmouth campus.

Photo Courtesy:


Leave a Reply