Ground-penetrating radar at Phillips House

Historic New England plans to restore the Phillips House landscape to the late 1910s / early 1920s. Last year, the firm Mohr & Seredin reviewed family photographs, home movies, and insurance maps to get a sense of how this urban landscape has evolved over time (see a pdf of their circa 1912 period plan). The photographs and movies shed some interesting light on the use of the yard as a domestic work area complete with drying laundry, a shed, and possibly even a chicken coop.

The investigation has shifted outdoors to look for physical clues left in the yard. Of course, most of these clues are not visible to the human eye so students at Salem State College are introducing some twenty-first century technology to the mix. On Monday, John Strom and Kevin Phipps began work under the direction of Peter Sablock, PhD (Professor and Chair of Geological Sciences), using ground-penetrating radar. This non-invasive approach provides scans of the ground and can yield images of various soil layers and disturbances. Once these scans have been analyzed in the lab, decisions can be made about where to locate archeological “test pits” for deeper study of what lies beneath the current surface of the yard.

Stay tuned as the secrets of the not so distant past are uncovered over the summer and fall.