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Sandwich archaeology: Family has found 10,000 artifacts in their backyard

Tom Melissa Keyes

Postcard courtesy of Sandwich Town Archives


In 2010, Tom and Melissa Keyes embarked on a new project in Sandwich, with their purchase of the “Old Lincoln House,” as some of the neighbors called it. The Keyes believed they were taking on a fairly common endeavor: a quest to restore the 1817 colonial-style home to its proper antique glory.

Instead, what the couple discovered has transformed not only their relationship with the structure, but their entire lives—for the Old Lincoln House has provided a portal to more distant pasts than they could have imagined. In fact, it has transported them back to the earliest days of Sandwich, circa 1650, and even earlier-—before the Pilgrims’ arrival. No, the home is not a magic tree house or any discovery of science fiction; rather, the Old Lincoln House has provided clues that have led to significant and ongoing archaeological excavation.

Since 2011, archaeologists have unearthed roughly 10,000 artifacts from a hill in the Keyes’ back yard, and Tom Keyes has created the North Atlantic Archaeological Collaborative Inc., a non-profit organization with a mission to promote and preserve the findings and to inspire and educate others on the science of discovery. Today, the group collaborates with organizations from Nova Scotia to Virginia, including members of the staff at Mount Vernon. “It’s an amazing find,” Keyes says of the collection of artifacts. “We have discovered a national treasure.”

To understand the Keyes’ property, perhaps it’s best to journey backwards in time, since the layers of history in the venerable wooden beams of the Old Lincoln House are, according to Tom Keyes, “telling all kinds of tales.”

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