In response to the recent announcement by the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) that it will conduct an archeological survey of the site where it plans to build single family dwellings and townhouses for members of its faculty, the Princeton Battlefield Society (PBS) issued a press release Monday, July 14, challenging the survey, the Institute’s integrity, and questioning the qualifications of the firm hired by the IAS to conduct the work.
According to the PBS release, “Having the Institute for Advanced Study perform an archeological investigation on property they want to develop is like having the tobacco industry study the health effects of smoking on lung cancer.”
Institute spokesperson Christine Ferrara said that the Institute had agreed to conduct the archeological survey of the project area prior to construction at the request of the Princeton Planning Board, which made it a condition of its approval of the IAS faculty housing plans in 2012.
The survey got under way Monday, July 14, and will continue over the summer. The Princeton Planning Board is due to review the Institute’s amended housing plan on September 18.
The Ottery Group (www.otterygroup.com) has been hired to undertake the necessary field work of collecting data and any artifacts from the site. It plans to conduct a comprehensive survey of the seven-acre site by means of magnetometry, more than 300 shovel test pits, and metal detection.
“The Ottery Group will record and process the resulting data and any artifacts recovered, after which the archeological data will be made public,” said Ms. Ferrara.
The IAS has agreed that all artifacts and findings will be permanently transferred to the New Jersey State Museum.
The Battlefield Society is challenging the Institute to complete its archaeology survey under the watchful eye of an independent body of experienced battlefield archaeologists. “We are responding particularly to repeated statements by the IAS that they don’t expect any military artifacts to be found,” said Society president Jerry Hurwitz. “To the contrary, we definitely expect many additional artifacts to be found.”
Describing any product of the IAS sponsored survey as “tainted and suspect, given their conduct on prior cultural resource studies and their continual denial that the battle was fought on that field,” the PBS questions “the integrity that will be brought to another archaeological survey after their attempt to silence those that conducted the original study, and their hire of a firm not connected with the original study to write conclusions in a way so as to minimize the importance of the artifacts and to suggest that there is nothing more to be found,” said Mr. Hurwitz.
Citing a study of the rate of artifact discovery at Monmouth Battlefield, Mr. Hurwitz said that “artifacts are continually being found for the first time, pushed toward the surface over time or metal detected at new angles, and found for the first time. It may take many years to recover artifacts that have been in the ground for almost 250 years.”
The Battlefield Society is questioning not only the scope of the Institute survey but the credentials of the Ottery Group. “We would like the IAS to make the credentials of the firm they chose available to demonstrate the firm’s experience and the experience of the individual team members with military conflict sites, particularly American Revolution battlefield sites,” said PBS attorney Bruce Afran.
“This site is not just important because of the artifacts that lie within it,” said PBS Vice President Kip Cherry. “It is a critical historic resource of national importance that should be experienced and interpreted.”
Ms. Cherry also questions the need for the Institute to build on this particular site. As an alternative, she suggests, the IAS could construct elsewhere on its campus or “create a mortgage subsidy program similar to that of Princeton University’s that would allow IAS faculty to locate wherever they want within an easy commute, while meeting their lifestyle goals and gaining equity toward their retirement.” Ms. Cherry points out that the faculty members of other institutions such as Princeton University, Rider/Westminster, and Seminary faculty find suitable housing in Princeton.
Meanwhile litigation intended to overturn the Planning Board’s original approval of the Institute’s building plans is pending in the Appellate Court of New Jersey.
The Institute’s long-standing plans for faculty housing are described on its website (www.ias.edu). For more on the Princeton Battlefield Sociey, visit: theprincetonbattlefieldsociety.com.