Site Update: Final Thoughts
by Eric Deetz
As Time Team got started in our search for the schoolhouse at New Philadelphia, we were hopeful that we had some good leads, based on two sources of evidence. The documentary record suggested a possible location for the school in Block 8 Lots 1 and 2, where there was land put aside in 1858 for a schoolhouse. The documents helped us narrow down the survey area for Meg and Bryan, who surveyed the area with a number of different geophysics techniques. They located a few weak anomalies which the excavation team investigated with five different test trenches. Although we found a few artifacts, there was nothing in this area that suggested the location of the schoolhouse. Frustrating as it was for the Time Team crew, there could be a number of reasons why we found no evidence of the school.
The archaeological footprint of a schoolhouse would be much simpler than other buildings and could have been destroyed by later farming of the lots. Unlike home sites, they would be lacking substantial features like cellars and large chimneys that would be needed for the storage and preparation of food.
You would also expect to find fewer artifacts around a schoolhouse. You would expect to find items such as writing slates and pencils in the area even if the site had been farmed at a later time. In the end we found only a few tiny fragments of slate during our excavation.
The schoolhouse was located in different spots later in time so the school in Block 8 may have been short-lived and therefore left little evidence behind. Or it is possible that the school was never at this location even though the land had been set aside for it.
These are the types of questions and riddles archaeologists are often left with. One thing is certain, Time Team contributed to an important research project at New Philadelphia. Between the archaeological testing and the geophysical survey, we helped ruled out the probability of there being significant remains of the schoolhouse at that location. Even something as unsatisfying as finding nothing helps to advance the study of New Philadelphia. The archaeologists are studying the town in its entirety and any area tested helps to understand the way the town was laid out and how the different areas were used. This new information will help researchers decide how best to use their resources and focus their research in the future.