Archaeology Field School

student seated next to a transect

2020 Season Update

May 6, 2020

Coastal Rivers has been attentive to communications from federal and state authorities, the American Camp Association, the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other sources about the spread of COVID-19. With the information we have, after careful consideration, we have determined that conducting field school activities this summer would place our communities at risk.

And so, to do our part to help keep our communities healthy to the fullest extent possible in this challenging time, we have made the decision to cancel Archaeology Field School this summer.

If you have already registered for one or more sessions, you will receive a full refund in the coming weeks.

Back in 2021: Hands-on original research & learning

Archaeology Field School provides a unique opportunity for laypeople and students to make an important contribution through participation in a professional dig. Students will attain the fundamental principles and rigors of archaeological fieldwork. College participants in past years have made arrangements with their professors or advisors to obtain college credit.The program also benefits teachers who require recertification credits.

Next year’s archaeology team will be excavating at the Elisha Hatch (1769-1803) Homestead site located off River Road in Newcastle. See below for details about the site and plans for excavation.

Join the fun, help contribute to an important chapter in the maritime history of the Damariscotta-Pemaquid region, and learn the rigors and fundamental principles of archaeology in midcoast Maine!

Quick Links:

2021 Schedule and Rates

Session I: TBD (typically the second week in July)
Session II: TBD (typically the third week in July)
Session III: TBD (typically the fourth week in July)

Sign up for more than one session and receive discounted rates.
One session: $400 / $375 for Coastal Rivers members
Two sessions: $640 / $590 for Coastal Rivers members
Three sessions: $840 / $765 for Coastal Rivers members

Participants are encouraged to sign up early, as there is a maximum of twelve participants per session.

The minimum age to attend is 14. Past field school sessions have included a mix of high school age students, college students, and retirees who have always wanted to participate in a professional archaeological dig. Experience among participants in past years has ranged from first timers, to seasoned excavators, to up and coming archaeologists.


Two partial scholarships are available to qualifying teachers and students through the Helen Gurland Scholarship Fund. Additionally, one full scholarship is available for a high school student, with preference given to a student at Lincoln Academy. Call Coastal Rivers at 207-563-1393 or email for additional information.


Registration is done online through this page and will open in February 2021.

About the 2021 excavation plans and the Elisha Hatch Homestead site

The 2021 Archaeology Field School is returning to the Elisha Hatch Homestead site (1769-1803) located off River Road in Newcastle. The site marks the third and final leg of historical archaeologist Tim Dinsmore’s investigation into the 18th-century Barstow-Bryant shipbuilding complex, which began in 1980. Dinsmore is directing field school participants in the partial excavation of the Hatch Homestead site with the aim of continuing to define the structural layout of the site.

Hatch carried out the smithy work for shipwright George Barstow (Hale site), and presumably for contemporary shipwright Nathaniel Bryant (Bryant-Barker Tavern site) during the mid-1760s to 1772. Soon after, the Hatch homestead and property was acquired by yeoman James Givens – kin to David Givens of Sheepscot and Robert Givens of Pemaquid Falls – and by 1790 was occupied by Nathaniel Bryant’s son, Nathaniel.

Nathaniel Bryant II resumed building wooden sailing vessels at his father’s yard prior to relocating his operations to the Damariscotta Mills in 1803. Thus the Hatch site was occupied by a blacksmith, yeoman and shipwright during its relatively brief existence. What became of the homestead shortly thereafter is unclear though archaeological evidence indicates that that its demise soon followed.

The Hatch site, located atop the riverbank on the Damariscotta River and overlooking what would have been the shipyard, has remained untouched since last occupied in 1803. As such it represents a time capsule for which to study the early maritime history of the Damariscotta region. Archaeological priorities at the Hatch site include determining the layout and orientation of the homestead as well as locating blacksmithing activities including Hatch’s blacksmith shop.

Other Activities during the week

In addition to the archaeological fieldwork, we study a primary document concerning the shipbuilding complex. This document has to do with the division of Nathaniel Bryant’s estate in 1787, in which Bryant’s widow and his three children were given certain rooms or portions thereof within the house. The goal of the exercise is for participants to try to determine the layout of the house — the configuration of rooms as well as the general size and orientation of the house. As a follow-up to this exercise, we take a field trip to the Chapman-Hall House in Damariscotta (c 1757) to see an actual layout of a typical 18th-century house.

We also plan on an early evening field trip to the Native American Whaleback Shell Mound in Damariscotta. This extensive deposit of oyster shells dates from the Ceramic Period (Woodland Period) and is a fine example of a prehistoric archaeological site.

Finally, while not part of the official Field School, it has been a tradition for field school participants to gather in the evening for dinner overlooking the Damariscotta River at Schooner Landing Restaurant. This optional outing is an opportunity for us to celebrate what we accomplished during the week and just relax. The cost is not included in field school tuition.

There are a number of other historic sites of interest in the mid-coast area and the capital city of Augusta that are worth a visit. These include:

Photo Gallery: Excavating at the Hatch Homestead site

Click on any image for a larger view.


Here’s what past field school participants have said about the Coastal Rivers Archaeology Field School:

Hildy Johnson, a teacher at Boothbay Region Elementary School, shares:

“I had a fabulous week. I learned a lot and was able to do some hands on things that I teach the kids during a small archaeology unit I do.

Tim does a great job explaining the 5 W’s of the site, the tools and techniques being used, and the importance of what we found… or didn’t find.

It’s exhausting work, but rewarding. Hoping to return next year.”

Shawn Joy, 32, of Worcester, Massachusetts, who is pursuing graduate work in nautical archaeology writes:

“As an older college student, seeking a future in this type of work, it was essential to me to be able to get this kind of fieldwork under my belt. This particular dig project is important as it holds the homestead sites of two of the first shipwrights to the Damariscotta region.”

Dr. Jane Coryell, 73, of Augusta, has participated in the field school sessions for 16 years. She writes:

“This work is interesting and fun. Tim is very knowledgeable, and I get to know lots of interesting people.”

Coryell also enjoys helping Tim put all of the pieces together, processing found artifacts off-season.

Mona Whittaker, 53, a medical transcriber from Nobleboro, Maine has participated since 1997.

“Archaeology has always been fascinating to me. You are finding artifacts that link you to the past and bring things that happened 200+ years ago to life.”

About Archaeologist Tim Dinsmore

Historical Archaeologist and Project Director Tim DinsmoreHistorical Archaeologist Tim Dinsmore received a B.A. in anthropology from the University of Maine at Orono, with a specialization in archaeology, and attended the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia for graduate work. Tim has thirty years of experience in archaeological research and cultural research management (CRM). He is a level 1 Certified Professional Historical Archaeologist with the Maine Historic Preservation Commission (MHPC). He has conducted all levels of archaeological research in Maine and also has experience working in Jamaica, West Indies.

Tim’s primary research focus has been the Barstow & Bryant Shipbuilding Complex along the upper Damariscotta River in Newcastle, consisting of the Barstow Homestead site (a.k.a. Hale site), Bryant Homestead site (a.k.a. Bryant-Barker Tavern site), and Hatch Homestead site (a.k.a. Hatch site), respectively. This shipbuilding complex marks the birthplace of the shipbuilding industry along the upper Damariscotta River in midcoast Maine. Tim’s research is focused on determining the relative success of these shipwrights and blacksmith and whether their success can be determined based upon the material culture (artifacts) found in the archaeological record. Tim argues in his research that while shipbuilders could attain a comfortable livelihood they relied on secondary occupations or trades to ensure financial stability.