Richmond Aqueduct

Richmond Aqueduct
Second Largest Aqueduct Built on the Enlarged Erie Canal (1856-1917)

Friday, July 3, 2009

Summary of the 2009 Program of Investigations

Side Wall of Larger Stone Foundation, Lightening Operations Area, 22 June 2009

The following is a summary of the 2009 program of investigations. It will be limited to exploring deposits associated with the larger of the two stone building foundations, at present understood to be a house or stable associated with the 1825 to 1850 lightening operation as discussed in the previous post.  These excavations will be conducted under the direct, on-site supervision of a professional archaeologist, David W. Babson, now a PhD candidate in archaeology, in the Department of Anthropology at Syracuse University.  Excavations will be conducted by means of no more than three 1X1-meter test units, judgmentally placed to explore the front, rear and side yards of the larger stone foundation, with “front,” “rear,” etc. defined by the orientation of this foundation to the 1825 canal prism; “front” is the side of the building that faced the canal.  The number of 1X1-meter test units excavated will depend upon the number of participating  volunteers we have for the event, with a two-person crew to be assigned to each test unit.

Excavations will be conducted by natural stratigraphic levels, defined by soil color and texture under the supervision of Mr. Babson.  All material excavated will be sifted through ¼-inch mesh wire screen.  Excavation will be concluded in each test unit when the base of the 19th-century occupation is reached, defined as being 5.0 cm. of soil without 19th-century artifacts.  Archaeological features occurring in the test unit will be identified and documented, but not excavated.  Test units will be recorded by soil profiles and planviews, done as drawings and digital photographs.  All artifacts encountered during the excavation will be collected, including (but not necessarily limited to) ceramics, glass, iron and other metals, worked stone, brick, mortar, wood, coal, coal slag and clinker.  

The site will be mapped, to scale, with test unit locations drawn in relation to the stone foundation, the canal ditch, ground surface contours and other surface features.  This map will become part of the permanent record of this site.

Artifacts will be cleaned and identified by volunteers from the Montezuma Historical Society (MHS), under the supervision of Mr. Babson. All ceramics and glass will be washed in plain water with toothbrushes, and all metal will be dry-brushed.  Artifacts will be identified and described in a detailed catalog, organized by recovery provenience.  All artifacts recovered will be placed into archival (acid-free) curation materials (plastic bags and cardboard tags), and permanently curated by the MHS.  While artifacts will not be physically marked, all provenience information pertaining to each artifact collection will be attached to that collection, and maintained in perpetuity.  Photographs of artifacts will be used in reports, lectures, on this blog created and individual artifacts will be displayed in the MHS museum.

A project report will be prepared by the archaeologist, within one year of the excavations.  Copies of the project report will be kept on file by the MHS.  All artifacts, photographs, field notes, maps and drawings will be curated in perpetuity.  Copies of the report will be made available to the public, upon request and in return for payment of copying costs and postage or other distribution costs.  Copies of other project documents (maps, drawings, photos, field notes) will be made available to qualified researchers upon application to MHS, again in return for payment of copying costs and postage or other distribution costs.


Discover the Excitement of Erie Canal History and Archaeology

Who worked on the Erie Canal? Where did they live? What do we know about them?  

Plans are underway for unearthing some of these questions. Tucked away in the woods near the Seneca River, hidden from immediate view are the remains of the original Erie Canal within the small town of Montezuma in the heart of Upstate New York. At a site, which is one of the last locks remaining from the Clinton Ditch era, we will uncover objects left behind from this bygone era in archaeological test plots. We will learn from a canal historian about the remains of Lock 62, and the how men worked there 24 hours a day to raise and lower boats traveling across the Seneca River.


This was one of the most difficult natural water crossings on the Erie Canal using what is known as slack water navigation. The river was shallow and the land surrounding it was relatively flat marshland. A dam was built in the river that backed up a certain depth of water. The state also had to employ a team of workers here called lighteners to unload part of the cargo, place it on another boat, pull it across the river and then reload the first boat.

The Montezuma Historical Society is sponsoring this dig to be held during the annual Community Days Event. We look forward to sharing our adventures on this blog.