Archaeological digging at Lawrence Nature Center

Richard Adamczyk is looking for buried treasure – but it’s not gold doubloons or pieces of eight.

Adamczyk is conducting an archaeological dig at the Lawrence Nature Center, seeking out evidence of the earliest human habitation on the Lawrence Township-owned property. The nature center is located at the end of Drexel Avenue.

Adamczyk is spending the month of May digging small exploratory test pits in the wooded area at the Lawrence Nature Center – all to satisfy the requirements for earning a master’s degree in anthropology (with a certificate in archaeology) from Monmouth University.

The Lawrence Township native chose the 36-acre Drexel Woods site at the Lawrence Nature Center in part because he is familiar with the area. Some Native American Indian artifacts had been found on the property, albeit many years earlier.

Those prehistoric artifacts were found by Ewing Lawrence Sewerage Authority surveyors in the 1950’s during the installation of a sewage pipe through the Drexel Woods – and now, Adamczyk wants to hone his archaeological skills to learn more about the site.

Adamczyk is breaking new ground at the nature center, because no one has conducted an archaeological investigation in that area since those surveyors found the Native American Indian artifacts.

In deciding whether to embark on an archaeological dig, an archaeologist looks at the topography of the site and the environment to determine whether the potential for an archaeological site exists, Adamczyk said.

The Drexel Woods is “fairly sensitive” for an archaeological site that might hold prehistoric objects, he said. It is close to the Shabankunk Creek, which would have provided easy access to water, and it is a flat, upland area that would be an excellent place to camp.

That’s why Adamczyk is optimistic that he will find some evidence of Native American Indian occupation of the site. It would most likely have been a seasonal camp, where they would have hunted animals, he said.

“I hope to find some artifacts so I can analyze them,” Adamczyk said.

Axes would be an indicator of long-term occupation of the site, perhaps as a village or settlement. They would have been used to cut down trees to make shelters, or to dig out the middle of a tree trunk for a canoe, he said.

Arrowheads, on the other hand, would indicate that the site was temporary or used as a seasonal hunting camp.

Adamczyk said he has always been interested in archaeology. History has been his favorite subject, since the days when he was a student at the Lawrence Middle School. He also has a strong interest in science.

Archaeology offers a chance to rediscover things that were lost hundreds of thousands of years ago, he said. It is a chance to discover new pieces of history, because archaeology is digging up a part of the past, he added.

“It is a hands-on approach to history that allows me to look at material evidence of past cultures, and to interpret them,” Adamczyk said. These are objects that were unknown to people today, he said.

“I want to be able to touch things that were last touched by human hands hundreds of years ago. That’s the appeal of archaeology to me,” Adamczyk said.