UB Archaeologists to Dig Wider, Deeper, Longer for Erie Canal Artifacts

Buffalo’s Erie Canal neighborhood has lived many lives over the past 200 years, and now is giving up some of its secrets.

For the second year in a row, the University at Buffalo’s Demonstration Archaeological Excavation is now open in downtown Buffalo’s old Erie Canal neighborhood, and archaeologists will be digging away through the entire summer.

The site is directly across Main Street from the “Webster block,” bounded by Main and Hanover streets east of the Skyway. (See map) The site will be marked with large banners that feature historical photos, descriptions of the area during the last century and of the dig itself.

The public is invited to visit the site, observe its operation and talk with archaeologists and historians working there about the process of archaeology, what they’ve found and what it tells us about life along the canal from the early 1800s onward. Artifacts from the excavation and prior excavations will be displayed and discussed in terms of their significance to our understanding of the City of Buffalo from its earliest days.

The Canalside excavation is funded by the UB Department of Anthropology, which houses the Archaeological Survey directing the dig, and the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation as part of the corporation’s Canalside Visitor Experience Program. The project also has received assistance from the City of Buffalo and Buffalo Place Inc.

Excavation director Nathan Montague, senior research support specialist in the UB Department of Anthropology, says he expects the project to produce new artifacts and present new information about the site itself. Visitors are encouraged to return often to check on the excavation’s progress

“The mission of this effort is not only to excavate the area but to educate the public about the canal and canal life, generate interest in the canal excavation and restoration work, and help people understand the work of archaeologists in general,” Montague says.

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