Students work side-by-side with archaeologists

Cambridge South Dorchester High School students had the opportunity Thursday to work side-by-side with archaeologists during an immersion experience at the historic Bayly site in Cambridge.

The ninth graders rotated through four stations that included historian Herschel Johnson, who spoke to them about local African-American history; homeowner Catherine Morrison, who shared stories about the house and previous owners; a digging area, where the students dug and sifted through dirt to find artifacts both inside and outside the cabin; and a lab station where they helped clean ceramics, glassware and other artifacts that had been unearthed at the site.

The experience was especially appropriate because the students have been studying the Civil War and Emancipation. The students also had the opportunity on Thursday to observe a press conference that included elected officials, local leaders and local media.

The field trip was coordinated by Monique Ward, Supervisor of Social Studies and World Language at Dorchester County Schools, and Julie Gilberto-Brady, Manager of the Heart of Chesapeake Country Heritage Area (HCCHA), in conjunction with Dr. Julie Schablitsky, chief archaeologist for the Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration (MDOT SHA).

“This was an amazing opportunity for our students to engage in a hands-on archaeological dig with the archaeological team right here in our own backyard,” Ms. Ward said. “It is not often that students can experience first-hand what they are learning in the classroom. Students not only participated in the dig, but also were enlightened with a local history lesson by Mr. Herschel Johnson.  There is so much rich history in Dorchester County, and we appreciate this opportunity extended to our students in Dorchester County Public Schools.”

The archaeologists from MDOT SHA are partnering with HCCHA to help determine whether the 19th-century cabin on the property could have been used as housing for enslaved African-Americans or others in servitude in the 1800s. They began their work last week and will continue through Friday, Sept. 21.

Because SHA archaeologists specialize in African American archaeology and because the site is along the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway, it is a natural partnership for them.

For more information, visit the Bayly web page.

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