Christopher N. Matthews, Ph.D.
Dr. Chris Matthews, a new professor of Anthropology at Montclair State, is a historical archaeologist with special interests in race, heritage, inequality, and collaborative community-based research in the mid-Atlantic region. He has led projects in Maryland, New Orleans, and in Long Island, New York, and he plans to develop several new projects in New Jersey in the upcoming years. He is the author of two books, The Archaeology of American Capitalism (2011) and An Archaeology of History and Tradition (2002), as well as a number of articles and books chapters.
Dr. Matthews is currently co-director of the "A Long Time Coming" (ALTC) project. ALTC is an initiative of the Higher Ground Intercultural and Heritage Association, Inc., a nonprofit community-based preservation group based in Setauket, Long Island, NY. The ALTC project is investigating the archaeology and history of Setauket's Native and African American community, especially in the area recently designated as the Bethel-Christian Avenue-Laurel Hill historic district. The aim of ALTC is to collect, preserve, and interpret the history of Setauket's long-term resident minority indigenous community and to provide that community with a historical foundation and cultural presence that will help to resist encroaching suburban development and gentrification that threatens to displace them from the ancestral home.
Based on a principle of approaching the history and culture of the community through unconventional methods of study and research, ALTC excavates sites, records significant places, conducts oral history, genealogical and archaeological workshops, and interprets in fine detail the community's early settlement life and family histories. The project has been enthusiastically received by the community members in Setauket, prompting the idea that there is great strength to be gained from better understanding the diverse culture and history of this place. We hope that this result will allow the project to become a model for the study of other historic Afro-American communities on Long Island.
The current focus of the archaeological research is the Jacob and Hannah Hart home site. The Harts were a well-known family in Setauket around the turn of the 20th century and many of their descendants remain in the area and are involved in the project. During the first season of archaeological excavation, we identified segments of the house foundation as well as a front walkway and other architectural features. We also recovered several hundred artifacts related to the Harts' occupation of the site. Another season of excavation is planned for summer 2013, to be offered to Montclair State University students as a field school through the Department of Anthropology and the Center for Heritage and Archaeological Studies.