Kids help unearth the past at The Castle

MARIETTA – As if Marietta did not already have enough rich history above ground, children are spending the week outdoors at The Castle digging up more history at the museum’s summer Archaeology Camp.

The annual camp brought in 12 students in grades six through nine for a week spent digging, screening, cleaning and learning about the process of archaeological excavation.

With the Clark Pottery Site on the grounds of The Castle, 418 Fourth St., used to excavate pottery and other materials dating back to the beginning of the 19th century, camp leader and archaeologist Wes Clarke said the whole camp is both a learning process and a way to dig up local history.

“There really seems to be a lot of interest in this kind of thing, and there definitely isn’t too many places kids can do this,” he said.

Not only was there a significant increase in attendance this year, but Clarke said children came from as far away as Cleveland and Pittsburgh.

“This is a real site, too, it’s not just something we have and fill up with items for them to dig up, and it’s important,” Clarke said.

The history of the site has roots dating back to Nathaniel Clark, the potter who inhabited the house on the hill in the 1840s, and throughout the week, students dug up and mapped the area.

“We’ve been finding old pieces of pottery, kiln furniture, which they used to arrange pieces on, and bricks used to build kilns,” Clarke said. “And new this year, we’ve also found some household items, like buttons and whiteware from plates.”

Matthew Libarre, 11, of Marietta participated in the camp for the first time this year.

“I’ve learned tons already, like how to screen and filter the soil, and I’ve already found out a lot about the history and the people that made this stuff,” he said.

Clarke said the camp includes an orientation where students are taught about the methodology and science of archaeology, all with the goal of mapping the site and producing a description of what lies underground.

“It’s not just here for them to dig and find goodies, but rather it’s something that’s very careful and methodical,” Clarke said. “There’s much more to it than just digging a hole.”

Annabelle Jefferson, 12, traveled from Pittsburgh to attend the camp.

“I’ve been learning about what can be found underground and how it is kept preserved,” she said. “It’s fun when you find these big pieces of pottery and bricks because people used them a long time ago.”

Clarke said students had uncovered several concentrated areas where a lot of material was found, and he would go on and map the areas to try to determine why the items might be distributed on the grounds that way.

Prithvi Govindaiah, 11, of Parkersburg said it is exciting to find things so rare.

“This stuff has been here for tons of years, and we’ve already found a lot,” she said. “And we’ve been learning a lot about how they made the pottery, too.”

Clarke said everything found throughout the week will be saved and preserved, even the tiniest pieces.

“I’ve always been really fascinated by this kind of stuff, so when I heard about camp I really wanted to do it,” said Natalie Tomasch, 12, of Marietta. “I love the digging, but I’ve also learned how to map out the sites and then identify what we’re finding.”

Beginning Aug. 4, adults will have their chance to try their hands at the dig, as The Castle will host evening archaeology field classes from 6 to 8 p.m. at a cost of $50.