Collections Inventory of the Roland Robbins Archaeological Collection from the Hancock-Clarke House, Lexington, Massachusetts


The Hancock-Clarke House in Lexington, Massachusetts, was home to the town’s 18th-century ministers and their families. In order to preserve the house, the Lexington Historical Society purchased it and moved it across the street in 1896. In the 1960s, they acquired the house’s original site and arranged for excavations by Roland Robbins prior to moving the house back to its traditional location. Robbins relocated the foundation of the house and also discovered four previously unknown cellar holes, in addition to the two filled cellars associated with the existing building. The collections from all of these cellars were washed by Historical Society volunteers in the 1960s and were cataloged by the Fiske Center for Archaeological Research at the University of Massachusetts, Boston in 2008 and 2009. The collection consists of 33 boxes of material, containing almost 12,000 artifacts.

Three of the newly discovered cellar holes contained rich deposits of artifacts manufactured in the 1720s through the early 1740s, the time that the Hancock family occupied the property. One of these was a primary trash deposit; the other two contained redeposited sheet refuse. Artifacts from these cellar holes account for 63% of the artifacts by count (an additional 31% of the artifacts have no context information, but probably also come from these cellars). Recent architectural analyses have shown that the standing structure was built in 1737-1738. The three filled cellars, therefore, probably represent the foundations of earlier buildings, filled shortly after the move to the new house. The collection contains a full range of domestic material culture, but is particularly noteworthy for its assemblage of personal adornment items, marked smoking pipes, reconstructable redware vessels, tin-glazed wares, and early white slip-dipped stoneware. The other cellars holes were filled in the 19th century.

The collection is significant because it is a large collections with a number of reconstructable vessels and interesting small finds, from a time and place that are not well represented archaeologically (rural, inland Massachusetts in the first half of the 18th century). It is associated with families who were important to local history and with an intact and well-studied dwelling. The dates at which the artifacts were manufactured have allowed us to tentatively reconstruct a depositional history for the cellars, even though Robbins treated each as a single context. For these reasons, the collection has the potential to address research questions with broader significance. As a high-style, relatively elite dwelling in a rural areas, the site and collection can address the spread of practices associated with gentility and refinement into rural Massachusetts and the ways in which elite goods and social practices were or were not adapted and adopted in a minister’s household in a rural setting, as well as questions of domestic economy, personal adornment and self presentation, and other areas.

Cite this Record

Collections Inventory of the Roland Robbins Archaeological Collection from the Hancock-Clarke House, Lexington, Massachusetts. Christa Beranek, Katie L. Kosack. Andrew Fiske Memorial Center for Archaeological Research Cultural Resource Management Study ,34. 2009 ( tDAR id: 369360)

Spatial Coverage

min long: -71.278; min lat: 42.399 ; max long: -71.165; max lat: 42.46 ;

Individual & Institutional Roles

Contact(s): Susan Bennett