And so, between 1998 and 2005, “Dr. Steve” and his interdisciplinary team would spend eight summer field schools excavating the Manor grounds, with subsequent, smaller, excavations conducted in 2006 and 2007. Their results to date have yielded a stunning wealth of artifacts, including wampum production and other evidence of pre and post contact Native American occupation, African pottery blended with European design elements, Dutch building materials, various European coins, English and Dutch pipes, multiple building foundations and more, all of which remain an on-going source of study and analysis. In 2007, a summary of the project’s results was published as a Special Issue of Northeast Journal of Historical Archaeology, Volume 36.
Analysis of the team’s results indicate that during the first 80 years of its establishment, the plantation evolved from a provisioning plantation into a tenant-occupied commercial farm shortly after Nathaniel Sylvester’s death in 1680, and was reinvented for the second time in c. 1737 as a Georgian country estate. The evidence also suggests that the early plantation may have gone through several smaller transitions: Landscape features such as an ornamental paving, believed to date to the 1660’s, may well have been installed when the plantation was granted manorial status by Charles II in 1666. Although the grounds of Sylvester Manor have produced a wealth of evidence linked to the changing landscape of the plantation, the bulk of the cultural material recovered by the team is associated with the provisioning activities, building construction and demolition, and household production and consumption.
Dr. Mrozowski believes that the archaeological record at Sylvester Manor is one of dynamic cultural interaction between Europeans, enslaved Africans and the local Native Manhansett populations through the 17th century, rich in the material culture left behind by those who worked and lived at the Manor. It is a history of cultural change, agricultural innovation, the business of food production, and the complicated, often difficult, social encounters that were to shape the New and Old Worlds alike. With connections to Europe, Africa and the Caribbean, Sylvester Manor was one of a large number of early plantations that would contribute to the pluralistic society we know today. “It is a history of accomplishment and pain, but that is the nature of history, seldom is it a story of fairness” as Dr. Mrozowski said noted. The Manor has its stories that paint a picture of difficult lives and challenges as part of the unfolding of a new economic and social order that would shape the growth of the Modern World.
Notes and photos of the excavation process - from Patricia Shillingburg, SI Historical Society. See Also: June 8, 2001 // June 15, 2001 // June 22, 2001 // June 29, 2001 // Open House for the 2001 Season