By Jim Eaton
When Barry Dale, lecturer in modern languages and classics, enters his classroom it isn’t unusual to see him dressed in a pair of old blue jeans and a shirt that is lightly soiled. Chances are, he’s coming straight from the field sites where he serves as a project leader for excavations.
Dale, who is also a principal investigator of archaeology at the New York State Museum in Albany, recently led a team in Lake George, N.Y. that unearthed 10,000-year-old Native American artifacts as well as items from the French and Indian War.
“It was pretty exciting because we don’t find large prehistoric sites like this very often,” Dale said. He believes that this area of Lake George served as a common ground which indigenous people frequented to obtain resources.
“We found a lot of flakes in this area which are remnants from making stone tools,” Dale said. The Lake George excavation began like many others for Dale. If a project has state or federal funding, Dale’s office is contacted to do a small shovel test prior to the start of any construction.
“We are brought in to determine if a site is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places,” Dale said. “If there are archaeological remains, our goal is to make recommendations so that the site can be left undisturbed. If the site can’t be avoided, we gather as much information as possible about the site before it is impacted by construction.”
Since the state is replacing a parking lot and roadway in Lake George, Dale returned in December to continue his work.
“It is the academic piece of my job that I enjoy the most,” he said. Unlike other historic items that may have intrinsic value, the insight gained from an excavation is what matters most to an archaeologist like Dale. It opens a window to how people lived in the past.
“The beautiful thing about history is it impacts all of us and this is something I try to share with my students,” Dale said. “Every major in college has a historical aspect to it and we should use this knowledge gained from our past to help us move forward.”
When finals began for his students, Dale entered the final stage of his dig and most likely showed up for the exam in clothes covered with a little history.