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Wrong Stephen Brighton?

Stephen A. Brighton

Anthropology Professor

University of Maryland

HQ Phone:  (410) 369-5200

Direct Phone: (301) ***-****direct phone

Email: s***@***.edu


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University of Maryland

800 West Baltimore Street

Baltimore, Maryland,21201

United States

Company Description

About The University of Maryland: The highly regarded public University of Maryland was founded in 1856 and has the distinction of being the flagship institution of the University System of Maryland. With nearly 38,000 students, it is the largest university in... more

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Background Information

Employment History

Associate Professor

University of Maryland at College Park

Web References(19 Total References)

Archeologists Disappointed as Afton Structures Remain Unexplained | Crozet Gazette [cached]

A team of student archeologists led by University of Maryland anthropology professor Stephen Brighton spent June carefully excavating around stone platform structures above the old track bed leading to the original Blue Ridge Tunnel but found nothing that would tie them to the shanties Irish tunnel builders are known to have built in the vicinity.
"Basically, there's no cultural material here," said Brighton, a specialist in archeological sites related to the Irish diaspora after the potato famine of the late 1840s. Some 1,500 immigrant Irishmen, many with families, worked on the tunnel from 1850 to its opening in 1858. Slave laborers hired from area farms were also employed. "There's no nails, no ceramics. Nothing," said Brighton. "The only evidence is the stacked stones. It's impossible naturally. Somebody put these here sometime, but I don't know who." Brighton, who last year organized a summer archeological project that investigated a cluster of old stone buildings on what is now Pollak Vineyards in Greenwood-that very likely are the legacy of the tunnel builders-investigated mysterious structures off Stage Coach Road in Afton during the winter. He returned with a six-person team in May to dig around two stone platforms discovered on the mountain slope above the tracks. He conjectured that they might be there to support the shanties that diaries and other documents from the period of the tunnel construction describe as the homes of Irish workers. Brighton said that Augusta County historian Nancy Sorrell was aware of the documents and when she visited the site to examine the platforms, she determined that they are unlike any agricultural structures typical of this area. This raised the possibility, just as was found at Pollak farm site, that the platforms were made with techniques typical of Irish building. Buildings investigated at Pollak showed customary Irish design. But, with the dig over, Brighton discounted that possibility at the new dig. "There's uniform topsoil from the surface down. That tells me that at one point this was all exposed and then filled in later," he said. One platform is about seven feet wide and the other nearby is about 12 feet wide. The carefully dug pits reveal very large slabs of stone that are under a shallow layer of soil about six inches deep. Brighton speculated that the structures may have been built to protect the tracks below-or possibly other structures-from rock slides. He said it's also possible that the shanties simply sat on the platforms and did not anchor in the soil, in which case they could have decayed without leaving traces. "But we should have found something somewhere," he said. They did find one small ceramic piece from the 19th century and another small glass bottle from the same era, but neither is positive evidence of the Irish shacks. "The idea was to locate the shanties," he explained. "They aren't on maps and there are no directions for finding them [in historical documents]. But we know they are between here and the tunnel." There is an existing spring above the platforms and the water supply encouraged Brighton to think that the platforms might relate to the shanties. "So the dig is inconclusive," Brighton said. Brighton he said he's encouraging her to return this winter to scout other sites along the slope that may also relate to the Irish as dissertation research. "These two years have been a profound success," Brighton said. Brighton said the Irish, like other people of the day, were very fit and would not have minded having to cope with the difficulty of walking on the steep mountainside. "It's definitely here," said Brighton, who has the innate optimism of a searcher. But exactly where is still a mystery. Tagged as:Afton, Amanda Johnson, Amanda Morrison, Blue Ridge Tunnel, Crozet, Danielle Buffa, Greenwood, Irish, Nancy Sorrell, Pollak, Samantha Schwartz, Stephen Brighton, archeology

Research [cached]

Steve Brighton: Assistant Professor in Department of Anthropology, University of Maryland.
His interpretations of the material past seek to confront and demythologize issues of immigration to the US such as negative stereotypes and racialization, and other naturalized ideologies sustaining inequality and injustice between (some) immigrant groups and the mainstream native-born public.

Stephen Brighton, an archaeologist at the University of Maryland, College Park, has been examining the massive nineteenth-century Irish migration to the United States.
Between 1845 and 1850, explains Brighton, blighted crops of potatoes left tenant farmers with few options except selling off their livestock to support their families. With no livestock, the farmers ended up destitute and facing a choice between starving in Ireland or migrating to America. Most of the Irish who landed on American shores at that time were desperately poor and uneducated-much like the Mexican migrants of today. "There are a lot of parallels," says Brighton.

Stephen A. Brighton, an archeologist in the department of anthropology at the University of Maryland, has become interested in the research project.

"Behind the closed doors of their modest Baltimore homes, beyond the view of their bosses, these unskilled railroad workers maintained a rich social, religious and family life," says University of Maryland archaeologist Stephen Brighton.

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