History & Archaeology

  • Contee Ruins

    Ruins of the Contee Mansion

    Ruins of the Contee Mansion at dawn by Kristen Minogue

  • Contee mansion, black and white and in tact

    The Contee Mansion in 1950

    The Contee Mansion in 1950.

  • Java Farm, black and white

    The Java Farm in 1935

    The Java Farm in 1935.

Nowhere on the planet has escaped the influence of people. This is as true on the SERC property as everywhere else. As environmental scientists, our mission goes beyond understanding the present and anticipating the future. We also seek to learn from the past, by discovering how our predecessors used coastal land and waters before us.

At SERC, we can trace our human history back 3,000 years, to the time Native Americans used it as seasonal fishing and hunting grounds. At the end of pre-Columbian times, the land’s primary occupants likely were Nanticoke. That quickly changed with the arrival of the first European settlers. By the 1660s, the main SERC campus consisted of two tobacco plantations. Later, after the Civil War, it divided further, as tenant farmers and dairy farmers took their turns working the land.

Our ancestors left many clues for archaeologists and ecologists to examine today. SERC scientists recover ancient oyster shells, ceramic shards, bits of bone and burnt seeds, extracting from centuries-old garbage information on how people lived on—and altered—the land. Click on the topics below to learn more about archaeological research at SERC. To join one of our archaeological digs, visit our citizen science page.