If you travel on the North-South Arterial Highway, you may have noticed some construction off the side of the road.
Well its actually an archaeological dig! And there are 6 sites in our area. When federal money is involved, as it is with the upcoming North-South Arterial project, historic preservation must be factored into the planning and decision making process. Eyewitness News visits with a team of New York State archaeologists on site this morning, and they say they’ve already uncovered some artifacts dating back to the mid 1800s.
“Before there was formal sanitation pick up, people used to just dump garbage and household waste,” says Rebecca Miller, Department of Transportation culture resource coordinator.
“It’s stuff that people typically threw away so it’s broken,” says Barry Dale, New York State archaeologist.
But one man’s trash is another man’s treasure…
“It’s been the top pottery facility in the country at the time and it was based here in Utica and growing up here, I never knew about that,” says Jim Piccola, Department of Transportation spokesman.
Piccola is referring to the Whites Pottery site uncovered in a previous excavation. Now, they’re preparing for the arterial project demolition.
“It’s our responsibility to preserve the historic past,” says Piccola.
And after hundreds of years left untouched.. the team is digging up whats been buried underneath.
“We’re finding a lot of cut bone, broken bottles, broken glass, things that might relate to what was once a restaurant or an eatery,” says Sean Higgins, New York State archaeologist.
Archeologists on site say these say these areas have potential to yield important artifacts and a story.
“It allows us to add to the information about these small local communities within the larger city and how they relate to then the larger picture of the growing economy in Utica at the time,” says Higgins.
There are 6 sites in the project area and they all point to the former hustle and bustle of Utica.
“What made Utica pop up, why it was here, the major canal system that went through here really played a big role. We can see that by the way people lived, what they were making and how they were interacting with the rest of the community,” says Dale.
The archeologists say they’ll be on site for another 2 weeks. And the DOT hopes the Arterial project construction will begin in March.
If you’d like to see some of the uncovered artifacts:
Contact: Oneida County Historical Society
1608 Genesee Street
Utica, NY 13502