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Dig Yields Wealth of 1600's Artifacts

But Archaeological Group Still Plans to Shut Down


The Institute of Conservation Archaeology (ICA), a division of the Peabody Museum, has made significant discoveries of artifacts from colonial Massachusetts life near the Charleston Naval Yard.

The institute, which specializes in environmental impact analyses of construction sites, is in the midst of its last major excavation projects before its scheduled disbandment later this year for financial reasons.

The Charleston dig, on the site of a future highway, has yielded valuable new evidence about 17th century living, experts said yesterday.

"The find is incredible," said Ian Brown, lecturer on Anthropology. "There aren't too many around in this area and in such large quantity. In terms of quantity and quality, it equals all the finds in Plymouth in the last 10 to 15 years. That's how incredible this discovery is."

Gregory T. Laden, who oversees project archeology for the ICA, says the organization hopes to exhibit the artifacts after they are analyzed in the ICA's Francis Ave. laboratory. The artifacts will reside permanently at the Peabody Museum.

The Museum will enable the ICA to continue analyses and report writeups of its excavations until July 1984, a year after the institute officially closes its books.

Before then, the ICA will also work on excavations concerned with the Third Harbor tunnel, to be built between Boston Harbor and downtown Boston, several small road projects, and a commercial development study in Salem, Mass.

Although the Charleston excavation has proved especially fruitful, officials yesterday said the major rationale for closing the institute--uncertainly about the future demand for environmental studies--still remains.

Russell Barber, director of the ICA, said he will leave Harvard this year to pursue a teaching career. He added, "It's better to cut the risk in the short run rather than to see what happens in the long run."

Barber added that his planned departure created other administrative problems for the ICA, another factor in the decision to end its work.

But Laden expressed doubt that economic uncertainty or administrative re-shuffling necessitated closing the institute. "There's no good reason, other than lack of interest from Harvard," he said. Laden added that many ICA staff have started searching for work since the Charleston dig's completion.

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