Today, I went with my material culture class to tour an archaeological dig site; the remains of a farmstead from the early nineteenth century. What was once rolling farmland is now an isolated, densely wooded series of hills rife with red salamanders, stone ruins, rows of green saplings that sway in the wind like bamboo, and rogue crops (strawberries and chard) which, untended, have spread aimlessly across the landscape.
I wish I could have taken some photos today, but it was pouring rain. The soggy spring foliage was like a brilliant green canopy and the mud was so sticky that it almost pulled my boots off. I was soaked and I loved it. It reminded me of the times I used to tromp around in the rain as a kid. (Well, maybe that was just a few years ago.)
The stone building foundations made me think of an abandoned house I saw deep in the woods of western Pennsylvania. There was much more left of that house than there was of today’s farmstead, but the effect was the same. Both were nestled next to a creek, and both had been reclaimed by the nature surrounding them. In Pennsylvania, mountain laurel and butterflies reigned supreme.
I’m no archaeologist. If anything, I strive to be a historian and art historian; but I do love stumbling upon the physical footprints of the past. The farmstead was littered with artifacts like broken elixir bottles, carriage parts, and an old ax head. These are the things that excite me. They raise questions. They outlive their owners. Yet, given the time, they too will sink back into the earth.