Traces of one of Harvard University’s 17th-century buildings found

Published on December 17th, 2009 | by Sevaan Franks


Harvard archaeologists have found evidence that may pinpoint the location of the 1655 Indian College, one of Harvard University’s earliest buildings.

In the final days of the 2009 dig, Peabody Museum archaeologists and Archaeology of Harvard Yard students uncovered a 17th-century trench situated on the parcel of land where the Indian College stood. The trench was filled with stone, clay roof tile, and vast quantities of brick, including a special brick used as an architectural ornament that may have supported a column. The location, size, and structure of the trench, along with the materials found inside, indicate that it was once a wall foundation for a building—either part of the Indian College building or a closely related structure.

The trench included other significant finds related to the Indian College: two pieces of 17th-century printing type, likely from the first printing press in British colonial America and housed in the Indian College, as well as several pieces of 17th-century ceramic. The large quantities of brick in the trench further tie the trench to the Indian College—Harvard’s first brick building. The ornamental brick points to an investment in architectural detail for the building.

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