Plymouth: Archaeological dig looks for where, exactly, the Pilgrims set up shop

It’s a sort of treasure hunt happening on Burial Hill in downtown Plymouth…

“We’re using historic maps and old documents to help give us an idea about what might be in an area,” said Christa Beranek, with the Fiske Archeological Center at UMass Boston.

“Everybody in Plymouth knows their local history inside-out and backwards and they know their ancestors on a first-name basis,” Beranek said. “And yet for all that really detailed documentary knowledge, we don’t have a really specific location for where any of the first houses were.”

It’s a long process, starting with what’s called “ground-penetrating radar.”

“Where we send radar energy into the ground and it bounces back from different kinds of reflectors, and that can help tell us what might be buried in the ground,” Beranek said. “And because we’re on the edge of a historic burial ground, it just helps us make sure we’re avoiding anything like unmarked burials.”

That phase ended at the end of June, and Beranek says it mainly gave them an idea of the 19th-century buildings on the Burial Ground. They’ll move on to excavation and hopefully have a definitive answer by 2020, the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrims’ arrival.

UMass Boston students work on the dig on Burial Hill in Plymouth Photo courtesy Christa Beranek/Fiske Center for Archaeological Research, University of Massachusetts Boston

UMass Boston students work on the dig on Burial Hill in Plymouth
Photo courtesy Christa Beranek/Fiske Center for Archaeological Research,
University of Massachusetts Boston

About Steve Burns

Steve comes to the South Shore by way of the Jersey Shore. Upon arriving at Emerson College in Boston back in 2010, and eventual graduation in 2014, Steve was immediately attracted to radio as an outlet for his reporting. Previous stops before the South Shore include WOBM on the Jersey Shore, WCCM in the Merrimack Valley, an internship at CBS Radio News' flagship station, WCBS 880 in New York City, and a few formative years at Emerson's WERS.