Volunteers dig up pieces of history at mansion

Archaeological dig on South Bend mansion grounds aims to learn from objects left in the past
Posted on Aug. 15, 2014 at 12:00 a.m. | Updated on Aug. 15, 2014 at 10:33 a.m.

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — Volunteers in South Bend are digging into the past of a local mansion, hoping to learn from objects unearthed from the soil.

The archaeological investigation at the Copshaholm mansion that belonged to 19th century industrialist J.D. Oliver and his family aims to dig to what would have been the surface during that period. Mansion curator Kristie Erickson told the South Bend Tribune (http://bit.ly/1t6rCBl ) that the goal is to learn about the people who once lived and worked on the property.

“It’s not what you find, but what you find out,” Erickson said.

The project is being led by Erickson and Deb Rotman, an anthropology professor at the University of Notre Dame. So far, volunteers who’ve joined the effort have found bits of field stone, broken pieces of red clay roof tile, shards of glass and other material suggesting that the area might have been a dump site for debris during the mansion’s construction in 1897.

Other finds include an animal bone and several small pieces of metal that appear to be parts of a music box.

The team members are using toothbrushes, cotton swabs and water to carefully clean each item found during the dig. The items will be stored in bags marked with information on where they were found and will be studied later.

The weeklong project was to wrap up Friday, but Erickson said she hopes the work can continue next summer.

The 38-room mansion was designed by New York architect Charles Alonzo Rich and is part of South Bend’s Center on History. It includes original furnishings from the 72 years the Oliver family lived there and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Information from: South Bend Tribune, http://www.southbendtribune.com

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