Tuesday, July 28, 2009


Some young men were walking along a wooded bike path near the Quinebaug River when they found a black spearhead laying in the soil. It looked like part of an American Indian weapon. So they asked Richard Rogers, who owns the land, if they could dig for more. In two weekends, they found 80 spearheads in an area about the size of a small bedroom.

Rogers decided to see for himself. He and his son, now 22, walked through the woods, and brought a bucket of water to clean their discoveries. Near a stump by the river, Rogers picked up an oval stone a little larger than a silver dollar.Something was carved in it, and he handed it to his son. "He cleaned it up and said, This is a face, Dad."'

The stone was a rare pendant. They had stumbled upon an ancient American Indian encampment and part of a burial ground dated more than 3,000 years ago.

The state Office of Archaeology has excavated portions of the property and found hundreds of artifacts, from stone tools to evidence of a pit where cremated bodies were buried. Radiocarbon dating a method used to estimate the age of remains in an archaeological site places the time of two areas containing charcoal at 3,400 and 4,000 years ago.

Representatives of the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequots tribes and the Native American Heritage Advisory Council have visited the site. The Archaeological Conservancy, a private, nonprofit organization that acquires and permanently preserves important archaeological sites across the United States, has looked at it. The conservancy publishes the quarterly magazine American Archaeology.

State Archaeologist Nicholas Bellantoni said the state has found many American Indian campsites, but few this large. The boundaries are unknown. "We don't have many that are intact," he said. "Many have been disturbed by plowing. Many have had subdivisions been built on them, highways. Here is a parcel that has been untouched, and so the integrity of the place is really intact."

The specific location of the dig is not being publicized because of potential unauthorized digging.

Bellantoni said it took a while to get a team to the property, but ultimately, he found about a dozen volunteers and students from UConn to work on the dig. The university offered an archaeological field school there in July 2007, organized by the Connecticut Museum of Natural History and Connecticut Archaeology Center.

"It's a very slow and deliberate process that allows us to record and map every level that (every artifact) comes from," Bellantoni said. "But that is the only way we can interpret the site."

"They go in there with trowels and paint brushes and just scrape the surface," Rogers said. "Every time they find something, they record how deep it was, where it was headed, where on the grid it was, which grid it was on. With these grids they can lay out exactly how big this village was and what was where. Everything is documented to a tee."

During the dig, archaeologists found a black stain in the soil. They thought it was a hearth or small fireplace at first, but it grew larger as they dug deeper. They realized they had found a small deposit for cremated remains. The burial is dated to more than 3,000 years ago, and was used as a ceremonial place by American Indians who cremated their dead. .

Archaeologists have found one secondary pit on Rogers' land and believe there are more, along with at least one large crematory. Bellantoni removed the burial feature found on the property and has left the rest relatively undisturbed.

As time goes on, Stout said archaeological sites are vulnerable to everything, from the natural environment to looting. He said the Rogers family is keeping a careful watch on it.

Bellantoni said archaeologists are a long way from publishing findings about the site, and have not finished lab work yet. They've stopped digging in the main part of the fishing encampment, and have gone through perhaps an acre on the grid, he said."I think what we've found is enough to tell us that, yes, the site was as important as we thought it was," he said.

"Each archaeological site is unique in and of itself, and contributes to a body of data. It provides us with a body of information about what happened here thousands of years ago. And, as a result, every one is important. And every one is like an endangered species."


Blogger M Is For Martha said...

This is great information. Thanks for sharing it.
Martha in CT

5:45 PM  

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