Released: Nov. 18, 1999
Centre students dig up the lawn, delve into archaeology
DANVILLE, KY -- A group of Centre College students has been digging holes in the college lawn this fall, and they intend to get academic credit for it. As part of a new course taught by historian Elizabeth Perkins and archaeologist Kim McBride, the students are exploring the site of an old spring on the campus in hopes of learning more about local history, archaeology and the environment.
According to Perkins, the Sinking Spring at the heart of the Centre campus is often cited in tales of local history and anecdotes about the college's past. The spring is sometimes credited as a significant factor in determining the location of the college, and the site of the spring was used as a reference point for property boundaries in Danville's earliest days. After Centre acquired the property, a home for the college president stood for a while on a bluff above the spring.
Before the current class began digging in the area, a Centre student intern -- Katy Roe of Cookeville, Tenn. -- did extensive research on the spring. She learned about the presidential pony that wandered there, the pet of a young girl whose father was the Centre president. There was a pet monkey, too, owned by a Danville family and occasionally taken to the spring by fascinated Centre students.
Perkins and McBride's students now are digging test holes in spots scattered on the bluff above the spring. Although they joke about hoping to find a horseshoe from the presidential pony, most of their finds have been small: fragments of porcelain, chipped pieces of flint and a section of a cedar fencepost. With McBride's help, they've learned how to read history from such fragments: the porcelain came from a type of china used in the early 1800s, while the flint may have come from the tools of early Native Americans.
The Centre course has been enriched by the fact that the students are upperclassmen who come from many different majors. Perkins says the course is part of Centre's integrative studies program, which encourages upperclassmen to study some problem or idea from the perspective of more than one discipline.
This particular class has pulled together students from computer science, art, drama, anthropology, mathematics, history, English and other fields. They have pooled their talents and knowledge for a variety of tasks including diagrams and maps of the site, data analysis and a proposed website.
Perkins has one rather lofty goal for the course: the development of a landscape restoration plan for the Sinking Spring area with an emphasis on ecology. To agree on such a plan, the students must answer some potentially thorny questions. Should a college campus be beautiful or educational, or can it be both? Is it important to preserve traces of former human use, such as the spring house foundation, or should the college turn the site over to endangered native plants? Can preservation and use coexist?
As Perkins explains, "As the students to balance and weigh the various ways of 'knowing' Sinking Spring, I hope they can develop an integrated landscape plan that will serve as a prototype for a 'greener' Centre campus."
According to student research for the project, the Sinking Spring property was owned by John Crow, one of the first settlers in the area in 1774. Apparently, the land later became the subject of a series of legal disputes until it was deeded to Centre around the time of the college's founding in 1819. The spring now is near the heart of the campus, part of the main campus lawn in front of the Old Centre administration building.
- end -
600 W. Walnut Street
Danville, KY 40422
Coordinator of public information: Patsi Barnes Trollinger
Telephone 606-238-5719 - firstname.lastname@example.org