Checkers, by the river?

Woolwich dig turns up ‘gaming piece’
Tue, 07/29/2014 - 7:00pm

Hundreds of years ago, a piece for some kind of game found its way to Thwing’s Point in Woolwich. A recent archaeological dig brought it back up to the light of day.

The circular, ceramic, tin-glazed find turned up on Claire and Michael Robinson’s Thwing’s Point Road property along the Kennebec River. The land was the site of three different English settlements in about 1650, 1720 and 1750, retired historic archaeologist Lee Cranmer said.

There were board games like checkers back then, but Cranmer said he had no idea if that was how the piece was used.

The dig that ended July 18 accomplished a goal of finding out more about an apparent pair of cellars at the site. The dig strengthened Cranmer’s suspicion that the circa-1720 settlement reused the cellar from the 1650 one; and that the 1750 settlement had its own.

For Cranmer’s field assistant on the dig, Kathy Bridge of Brunswick, seeing the gaming piece after others found it was one of the highlights of the two-week experience.

“People were very excited,” she said. She’s been on digs over the past decade, since she volunteered for one that Friends of Merrymeeting Bay (FOMB) was doing in 2004. But this was the first one she had been on where a gaming piece turned up. (Cranmer said although he wouldn’t consider it a rare find, they don’t turn up on every dig.)

The piece probably had the most eye-appeal of all the items from the dig, Claire Robinson said.

It appears to have been made from part of a plate or other Delftware, likely produced in England or Holland in the 17th or 18th century, Cranmer said.

Bridge found the reuse aspect especially interesting, since it would fit right in with today’s ecological movement. “They were doing this hundreds of years ago .... For me, that served as an educational experience,” she said.

Items from the Thwing’s Point dig are undergoing cleaning and cataloging. FOMB, the Robinsons and a foundation for the Moody’s bond-rating company Claire Robinson is retired from, sponsored the dig.