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Archaeological Dig in Davidson's Own Backyard

Ben Stewart-Bates '15 stands on the still-buried metal border of the old golf course's putting green, which extends behind him.
Ben Stewart-Bates '15 stands on the still-buried metal border of the old golf course's putting green, which extends behind him.

If you know where to look in the woods of Davidson College's back campus, history will jump right out of the earth at you.

Just don't trip on a metal runner.

Environmental studies major Sarah Roberts '15 was working on her capstone project with Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Brad Johnson. The project, a digitally mapped environmental history of Davidson's campus, led her to discover a century-old golf course and practice putting green, abandoned to nature by the mid-20th century.

Enter classics major Ben Stewart-Bates '15, who was looking for a hands-on focus for an independent study in archaeology, under the direction of Assistant Professor of Classics Darien Totten. So, what Roberts had discovered, he uncovered—literally.

"I spent one-and-a-half hours a day five days a week," Stewart said of his mission to unearth the old putting green from beneath 75 years of woody detritus.

Finally, he hit pay dirt; very oily pay dirt, in the case of sand traps that had been sprayed with used motor oil in the custom of the times.

"Dr. William Joseph Martin served as president from 1912 to 1929. During his presidency he saw the construction of Jackson Court, the expansion of athletic facilities, and the construction of numerous faculty houses, which were necessary as the curriculum and student enrollment was expanding. One of the lesser-know features on Davidson's Campus, a nine-hole golf course was created and used during this time," Roberts notes in her examination of Davidson College history.

Explore Roberts' project, Two Davidsons, complete with line-drawing maps of campus in five distinct periods of the college's history since 1837.