What’s buried in your backyard?
In 1973, a group of archaeology students from local universities dug up the rear garden of an interesting property on Essex Street.
Known today as the “Narbonne House,” this home was originally built for a butcher and his family back in 1675. Over the next 288 years, prior to its purchase by the National Park Service, it would be owned by a clothier, a sea captain, a wealthy widow, and a centenarian named Sarah Narbonne.
Each successive generation buried their trash in the backyard (no municipal garbage collection back then), and this has created layers upon layers of discarded pottery that reads like a timeline of middle class household goods. If you take a tour of the Narbonne House (just five bucks, and they throw in a complementary tour of the replica 1797 tall ship, the Friendship), you can see the items that were recovered in the dig.
We found ourselves wondering if the Narbonne House was unique, or if every plot of land in Salem’s historic district contains a similar stash of goods in the soil. It would not be surprising if, in a town with as rich a history as ours, each time we cross a tiny patch of grass we traverse several centuries worth of artifacts and treasures.
For an excellent piece on the artifacts found at the Narbonne House, check this out from the NMSC Archaeology Blog.
To plan a visit, see the National Park Service website.
To read about why Marta probably won’t be digging up her backyard any time soon, read this.
–Marta and Madelene