Archeologist takes students on tour of Shamong history

Outdoor trip included exploring Lenape Brotherton Reservation

Second, third and fourth grade Gifted and Talented (IMAGE) students from Indian Mills Elementary School participate in an archaeological dig led by New Jersey Pinelands Commission archaeologist Tony McNichol at the Brotherton Reservation in Shamong last month.

Indian Mills Elementary School students in Shamong traveled outside the classroom on April 27 to discover history in their hometown.

The trip resulted from a collaboration between the New Jersey Pinelands Commission and the school. According to K-4 Gifted and Talented (IMAGE) Program teacher Lisa Abramovitz, her predecessor Karen Clementi wrote an archaeology grant for the outing several years ago through the Shamong Foundation for Educational Excellence.

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Part of the foundation’s mission is to generate and distribute financial and other resources for the benefit of the students in the school district through innovative programs and projects.  The archaeology grant was meant for students to learn more about the Brotherton Reservation and participate in an archeological dig.

Abramovitz noted that before the pandemic, New Jersey Pinelands Commission Archaeologist and Culture Resource Planner Tony McNichol visited students to show them   artifacts from previous digs like pottery and jewelry. Before they visited the Brotherton Reservation with McNichol, the youths learned in class about artifacts and even did pottery archeological activities.

“We kinda dove into that field of archeology,’’ said Abramovitz. “We learned about the job of an archaeologist. We did some activities with artifacts; kids brought in artifacts from home and had to think about if an archaeologist were to dig up their artifact 100 years from now, what types of things could they learn from those artifacts?” 

The students also read historical diary entries in the classroom and learned about the difference between artifacts, an object made by a human and ecofacts, which are environmental remains.

All 21 of Abramovitz’s second, third and fourth grade gifted and talented students took the field trip to Brotherton, a Lenape reservation established somewhere between 1758 and 1760. According to the Pinelands Commission, it was the first reservation in North America. 

While there, the students participated in an archaeological dig led by McNichol, who showed them dug trenches and explained changes of color in the soil that marked when items were discovered years ago. A drone was also on site.

“It’s neat for them to learn about the history of their own town,” Abramovitz noted. “The land out here is really unique.”

The reservation was abandoned in 1802 when Lenape members went north to live with another tribe in New York. The field is now owned by Shamong Township and leased by a local farmer. 

For more information about the Brotherton Reservation and the New Jersey Pinelands Commission, visit


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