As an anthropology student, I have been lucky enough to learn about many of the world’s cultures and about some of the ways anthropologists and archaeologists study them. I have greatly enjoyed learning about Mesoamerican archaeology, phenomenology, and the development of ancient cities (to name a few topics), but I have found it equally rewarding to study local Saratoga Springs culture. The town has a rich history, though it only spans a few centuries, and the local history community here is vibrant and thorough. Because of the efforts of local historians, we do know a lot about the people that have lived here over the years—we can read about their efforts and triumphs, infer details about their value systems, and reconstruct the built environment with which they interacted. However, because wealth and tourism were major factors of the town’s development, much of the historical record is dominated by those who were wealthy, played a role in tourism, or simply happened to get their name in the paper.
The next year, in 2012, another student excavation team returned to the site and excavated similar artifacts--colorful tiles and spacers, more pane glass, and bottle fragments among them; these finds further fleshed out our picture of what life might have been like at the site (hint: swankier than you might expect!). This past semester, another student sorted through artifacts collected during a 1970’s excavation of the same area; in this collection, she found several artifacts—a brooch and a bottle for a popular ‘women’s tonic’ – that imply women may also have been living at or visiting the site. By continuing excavation, we can further expand on lost details like these. While we have yet to uncover ‘the whole story’ (and probably never will), work at the site in years to come will certainly progress these efforts.
As I’ve learned at Skidmore, anthropology and archaeology provide an arsenal of tools, from oral history to excavation, which can help reveal some of the lives that are not represented in the historical record. For me, using these tools to reintroduce a few more lives to the historical record and the public of Saratoga Springs has been the most rewarding part of my anthropology work at Skidmore. Working with the Grotto Stables has given me the opportunities to collaborate not only with other students and academic departments, but also with community members and organizations. It is clear now that such collaboration is one way that we might enrich archaeological research at Skidmore, but also give something back to the town that offers each of us so much during the four years we spend here.
*Photograph from the Saratoga Room, Woodlawn Park File.