Skip to content

COVID-19 Update

We have amended our publication schedule including combining the Cod LIFE May issue with our 2020 Cape Cod HOME Early Summer issue and combining our 2020 Cape Cod LIFE July and August issues into one expanded issue. If you have questions about how these changes will impact your subscription, please email us.

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

Finding history near Shawme Lake, Cape Cod Life, April 2017 |

Homeowner Tom Keyes, at left, and archaeologist David Wheelock spend time in the dig site on Keyes’ property, which overlooks Sandwich’s Shawme Lake. Photograph by Charles Sternaimolo

If the home had been moved, the next mystery was to find its original location. Enter archaeologist David Wheelock, who began investigating the property in 2011. Wheelock, a Sandwich resident and a longtime archaeologist, quickly realized the magnitude of their discovery. “You know what history this house has seen?” he joked to Keyes. “All of it.”

When the Keyes purchased the Old Lincoln House, they also bought the adjoining lot to the northwest, where a grassy knoll rises above surrounding fields in close proximity to Shawme Lake (a.k.a. Shawme Pond). Wheelock saw that this hill would have been ideal for the original settlers of Sandwich to build upon. In the mid-1600s, waterways were the chief avenues for transportation, so settlers would build along navigable bodies of water such as Shawme Lake. Positioning one’s home atop a hill protected against flooding and provided the inhabitants with clear views of their surroundings. Wheelock’s team got to work in the area, beginning by digging four small pits, each measuring 50 square centimeters. They soon discovered the “estimated south wall of the house,” according to Chartier’s 2012 report, proving that the original builders had “followed typical 17th-century practices in choosing this site.” Could the knoll site be the original location of the oldest part of the Old Lincoln House? Both Chartier and the archaeology team believe so. The dating of artifacts has helped solidify this position. Keyes explains: “The fact that human activity stops at the dig site at the same time it starts here at our current location does support this.”

In 2011, Wheelock’s excavation expanded, and the team recovered a wide range of artifacts including architectural items such as brick, nails, and hinges; a variety of ceramics including redware, slipware, and tobacco pipe bowls; wine bottle fragments, glass slag, and other vessel glass; faunal remains—bones and hair of swine, and shells of quahogs and oysters; and prehistoric rhyolite flake (carved rock). Chartier’s report concludes that these finds are more than just interesting pieces from the past; the discoveries have illuminated such historical detail as “what settlers ate, what sorts of material furnishings they surrounded themselves with, and even how they dressed.”

You might also like:

Latest Editions

  • Stay Connected

    Sign up for our newsletter
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.