Archaeologist needs help for Hallockville dig

VERA CHINESE PHOTO | Hunter College graduate student Corey Hennessy trowels through the soil at the Hallockville Museum Farm in Northville during an archaeological dig. Ms. Hennessy is seeking volunteers for the project, which she hopes to turn into her master's thesis.

Corey Hennessey is quite literally digging up history at Hallockville Museum Farm.

A graduate student studying archaeology at Hunter College, Ms. Hennessey is seeking volunteers to help with the months-long excavation of the historic site.

Ms. Hennessey, who hopes to turn the project into her master’s thesis, is seeking artifacts from the colonial era and evidence of where the original structures stood on the property. Several two-yard-by-two-yard wide holes now dot the 28-acre property where Ms. Hennessey, a Yaphank resident who works part-time at the Southold Indian Museum, can be seen sitting most days with trowel in hand.

“I’ll take anybody who is willing to do basic sifting, lifting and digging,” she said of her effort to recruit volunteers. “You don’t really need any special training.” The only requirement is that the volunteer must be able to lift 50 pounds.

The digging began in early June and Ms. Hennessey, who was a member of the Riverhead High School class of 2001 until moving to Pennsylvania her junior year, said she plans to continue through September. She said she needs volunteers Wednesday through Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday 9 a.m. until 1:30 p.m.

To date, the only significant find she has uncovered was a cube of soil that was imported for farming. However, she expects to find cultural artifacts while excavating near the Hallockville homestead, the oldest portion of which was built in 1765.
Historical archaeologist Lisa Cordani-Stevenson, who is supervising the project, said volunteers can expect to find farming artifacts, as well as pottery sherds (that’s not a typo), brass buttons and other metal objects.

“This land was pretty much consistently used for farming for 10,000 years,” said Ms. Cordani-Stevenson, an instructor at Suffolk Community College and Dowling College who has enlisted the help of some of her students during the dig.

The excavation could lead to new information about how the land was used.

“We’re always interested in learning more history about the site,” said Hallockville executive director Herb Strobel. “And we don’t have any staff that have the expertise Lisa and Corey have. We reap the benefits of their expertise.”

The findings will be displayed at the farm — which is on the National Register of Historic Places and is a Riverhead Town landmark — if they are in strong enough condition, Mr. Strobel said.

Ms. Hennessey said that, of course, many days digging does not lead to finding anything of note. But when an artifact is uncovered, it is a great feeling.

“It’s a matter of sticking it out long enough,” she said. “The payoff is worth the grunt labor.”

Those interested in volunteering are asked to call Ms. Hennessey at 879-8545.

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