UNDERWATER ARTIFACTS

People often ask the members of the University of Massachusetts Connecticut River Dive Team whether we ever find old artifacts in the river; the answer is yes. But all finds are reported to the Massachusetts Board of Archaeological Resources.

In the past, the villages and farms along the river used this water course as a convenient dumping site for refuse of all kinds. Since many of the Connecticut River towns and villages were founded in the mid-1660s, the river bottom in certain places is like a 300-year-old archeological midden.

For example, Hadley, Massachusetts was founded in 1659 by English colonists. The oldest portion of contemporary Hadley is West Street, where the original 17th century stockade stood and where some of the oldest homes in the town still stand. West Street dead ends at a levee running along the Connecticut River. The river bottom in front of the levee is littered with old crockery, clay jugs, wagon wheel rims and hubs, iron work from wagons and farm implements and bottles. Most of the junk is in pieces and dates from the late 1800s (I guess) to the present. Occasionally, intact old bottles erode out of the sediment. The stoneware ale bottle in the photo was found at this site; it is in mint condition. Imagine some long dead Hadley resident finishing his ale, wiping his lips on his sleeve, and flinging the bottle into the river. There it remained until a diver found it.

The levee at West Street was built after the 1936 flood (another guess); it buried the colonial Hadley waterside. There must be a hoard of really old bottles, pottery and other artifacts forever entombed beneath this structure.

Glass bottles from the 1800s (blown in a mold with seams, but with applied lips, i.e. no seam through the lip) and even old guns can be found underwater. The glass bottle and rusty rifle in the photo are from the river. Artifact finds should be reported to the Massachusetts Board of Underwater Archaeological Resources; they will send you an "Application for Exemption for an Isolated Find" form to fill out.

If you happen to find a dive mask with prescription lens while hunting for bottles at the West Street site, contact Sean Werle. He lost the mask there last summer.

If any reader (diver) has collected bottles from the river and would like to share his (or her) experiences, please contact Ed Klekowski. I'll publish your text and photos on this website for others to enjoy.