How archaeologists and developers can work together
Boston — To a commercial developer, an excavated site holds the promise of large buildings that will soon bring customers and profits. To an archaeologist, the same hole in the ground hints of hidden artifacts that will unfold secrets of the past.
In fact, the two rarely see eye to eye. While one wants to build as fast as possible, the other holds out for more time to explore.
So when archaeologist James Bradley approached developer Arthur Winn about a possible dig on the site of the recently opened Bostonian Hotel, Mr. Winn was doubtful.
Mr. Bradley, who is survey director of the Massachusetts Historical Commission, had used lunch hours to study the foundation site in the heart of the city's historic Quincy Market area. From the first glance, he says, he knew there were artifacts ''all over the place.''
The commission can review projects that involve state or federal money and are on a historic site to assess the building's impact. Since the Bostonian was funded privately, however, Bradley submitted a proposal to Winn and hoped for the best. Basically, the proposal requested money and access to the area in return for information about the site and a display of items found in the dig.
''It didn't sound like a great idea to me at first,'' Winn recalls.
''I was worried it would slow down the development process, which is besieged on all sides, anyway. But I found our areas of incompatibility weren't as great as I had feared.''
Eager to be perceived as sensitive to and part of the market area, and fascinated at being party to an archaeological dig, Winn put up $5,000 for the effort.
Bradley and the one other person who worked with him then adjusted their daily schedules to explore the site while the construction crew ate lunch or after it finished work.
The results, though limited, include such things as ceramics, leather shoes, and architectural remains, and are on display in cases in the Bostonian's lobby.
This cooperation was one of the first of its kind in Massachusetts.
''It's ironic and sad,'' he commented. ''Boston has one of the most important archaeological heritages in the East, and it has done nothing to exploit this in a healthy way.''
Bradley says that while they were able to get only a fraction of what lay under the site, the dig at least informed them that sites such as these have survived in Boston. It's important, he says, to get active early in the projects , before running the risk of holding up construction, which may cost $100,000 a day.
The aim is not to obstruct the building, but to work with contractors for mutual benefit.
In another project, Market Place Associates agreed to put up $15,000 for excavating a site in the Long Wharf area of Boston before construction of a $60 million office building.
Massachusetts trails other states in the coordination of archaeological and development efforts, Bradley says.
In Europe, he says wistfully, ''good archaeological programs and cooperation are taken for granted.'' However, he concedes, ''every time you work together, it gets easier. We just have to educate people as to how important archaeological exploration can be.''