Bruce Street School Archaeology Day: Digging Through History

More than 50 people attended the first-of-its-kind Arabia Alliance Community Archaeology Day, including Bruce Street School alums and nearby residents.

The afternoon of Sunday, May 28 was a busy one on Lithonia’s Bruce Street. The Arabia Mountain Heritage Area Alliance partnered with Martin Rickles Studio (MRS) and New South Associates to host the Bruce Street School Archaeology Day, an event for community members to get together at the Bruce Street School ruins to unearth artifacts from the school grounds. The event was a hit, as over 50 members of the public attended, including Bruce Street School alum, local community members and folks from the greater Atlanta metro area. The participants enjoyed free food and refreshments as well as a plethora of fresh fruit and vegetables.

Hidden Just Below The Surface 

The digging holes were excavated and objects were extracted with the help of various tools available at each station.

In preparation for the event, New South Associates excavated 5 square holes measuring one-meter by one-meter. These “units” were dug into further to look for objects that may have been hidden beneath the dirt.

At the event, NSA set up four stations, three around the excavation units and one with a map of the ground penetrating radar and an archaeologist to explain the reasoning behind the dig locations. All the sites had an archaeologist available to explain the process and answer questions. Participants could interact with the station inside the ruins via the viewing platform where there was a table of artifacts discovered in the dig such as a school bell, door hinges, and an old nickel.

A table of previously discovered school objects was on display inside of the ruins.

Memories Of Bruce Street

Former Bruce Street School student Vanneriah “Vann” Wynn reminisced how lunch at the school cost just 15 cents after seeing an unearthed nickel. “Somebody at some point lost that 5 cents and couldn’t get lunch that day,” she said. “And sometimes when you didn’t have quite enough, they’d still give you lunch.”

When one of the archaeologists held what was left of a pencil, the metal band around the eraser, she asked, “Ms. Wynn, can you imagine how this got here?”

Ms. Wynn replied, “Oh yes. We came flying out of that school when the bell rang with pencils in our pockets, and they probably just fell out.”

This interaction perfectly illustrated the closeness of this school, and of the objects unearthed, to the former students that attended the event, and how many of the objects were used by them and other students every day.

Ends of pencils and their erasers were discovered at the site.

History Brings Everyone Together

The Bruce Street School Archaeology Day saw attendees from all over the area, including some current residents of Bruce Street. A mother and her children, who lived across the street, came over to experience the digs. The mother said it was exactly the kind of work her autistic son would love, telling him, “You could do this. You could be an archaeologist.” All the children that attended the event were excited by the learning opportunities presented to them and possibly had an even better time than the adults. Generations of community members were able to absorb the experience and take advantage of it in different ways that were personal to them.

Attendees were able to read about Bruce Street School history thanks to interpretative materials on display around the site.

Who Are We Without Our Community?

The archaeology event was enhanced by the presence of numerous partners and helpers, which made attendance even more worthwhile. What is a community event without great food? A delicious meal was prepared by local Chef Mike and provided by Heidelberg Materials, one of the world’s largest building materials companies with offices in Stonecrest. On the menu was grilled chicken breast, turkey meatloaf with gravy, mashed potatoes, cornbread, and mixed veggies. Arabia Alliance’s Executive Director Revonda Cosby provided fresh farmstand fruits and vegetables for attendees to bag and take home including tomatoes, peaches and watermelons.

The fruit stand was very popular among the attendees.

So far, the Bruce Street School Revitalization Project has received over $5000 in donations from the community. The event and the continued success of the Bruce Street School revitalization effort would not have been possible without our wonderful partners and community members.

To make a donation towards the effort, please click here.