Radar used as window into past as searchers look for 17th century foundation in Mystic
Mystic - A team of archaeologists and soil scientists gathered at the Nature and Heritage Center at Coogan Farm Wednesday to use ground penetrating radar to find signs of what is thought to be the home of the first European settler in Mystic.
The group, which included recently retired state archaeologist Nicholas Bellantoni, his successor Brian Jones, and U.S. Department of Agriculture soil scientist Debbie Surabian, rolled the unit in a grid pattern at several locations on the property as they searched for potential areas to dig for artifacts, foundation and other evidence.
Surabian explained that the radar penetrates 2½ feet into the ground and that different materials conduct radar in specific ways, allowing the scientists to identify those materials. This gives the researchers clues about what locations to further explore.
The search comes as the Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center gets ready to celebrate the grand opening of the center from Sept. 4 to Sept. 6.
As the group conducted its search Wednesday morning, Coogan Farm archaeologist and University of Connecticut at Avery Point instructor Sarah Holmes said the circa 1650 home belonged to Capt. John Gallup, who was given about 500 acres of land for his role in the Pequot War. He died in 1675 in the Great Swamp Fight in Narragansett. He is buried in Wickford, R.I., though there is a memorial to him at the Whitehall Graveyard off Route 27.
Gallup was born in 1620 or 1621 in England and came here with his family in 1633. He later represented the town of Stonington in the General Court and was an Indian interpreter.
While Gallup did not have a will that mentioned the home, Holmes said probate records for his son indicate it had a substantial basement and faced south.
"We know he lived here," said Holmes.
Over the past few centuries, Holmes said a number of prominent families such as the Greenmans, Cottrells and Miners have owned the property, resulting in layers of material and artifacts.
She said the researchers also look at the topography of the site to see where a home would likely be located. She added homes were also built into the sides of hills or near wells.
After the team searched a rectangular area inside an existing stone foundation Wednesday morning, they huddled around Surabian as she explained the multicolored mapping on the radar screen. They then discussed which areas needed further examination.
Holmes said the team is expected to come back another day to continue its investigation.
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