Anthony Arnone & Zach Lyman | August 30, 2022

Unearthing Frost Town

Students take part in an archeological dig to uncover the mysteries of an abandoned settlement that dates back to the 1700s.

Not all archeological excavations involve traveling to another continent. Alexander Smith, assistant professor of Anthropology, is working with the Cumming Nature Center to offer students a free archeological field school in Western New York.

A sign explaining Frost Town

Smith received an American Council of Learned Societies Sustaining Public Engagement grant that funded a three-week immersive field school. Students live near the dig site, spending their days excavating artifacts from an abandoned logging village that dates back to the late 1700s known as “Frost Town.” Watch the video to learn more.

“The thing that I hope people get from archeology is how powerful it is to connect to the past and how important it can be to tell stories about people in history who don’t have stories to tell,” Smith said. “Archeology connects people in that capacity and creates this really fascinating interest, compassion, and empathy for people.”

Unearthing the hundreds of artifacts on-site is only the first step to discovering the mysteries of Frost Town. The grant also will fund six students to continue their work throughout the upcoming fall and spring semesters on-campus. These students will take the artifacts from the field school back to the Anthropology Research Lab where they will catalog the objects found during the field school.

Person holding artifacts they excavated at a dig site


Once the artifacts are cataloged, they will begin the curation process, selecting specific objects that showcase the heritage and logging industry that was prevalent in Frost Town prior to the mass abandonment in the early 1900s.

“Frost Town Archaeology field school was a great way to spend the summer and gain hands-on experience. Each artifact we found gave us small insights into a past that was buried and forgotten,” Emily Russell ’22 said. “It was an unforgettable opportunity that I would not hesitate to jump back into.”