Sunday, June 25, 2017

DIGGING UP EVIDENCE OF NEW HAMPSHIRE'S EARLIEST INHABITANTS

This summer, the State Conservation and Rescue Archaeology Program—or SCRAP—will host a field school, in which volunteers can take up shovels and brushes to help uncover artifacts at two different dig sites. New Hampshire State Archaeologist Richard Boisvert will be directing field work this summer, and he spoke with NHPR's Peter Biello about SCRAP.

Describe for us these two archaeological sites that you’ll be digging into.

They’re quite different. The one in Jefferson, in the North Country, is a 12,000-year-old campsite that was used by people hunting caribou. What they left behind was small bits of stone, some arrangements of rocks for a fireplace or something like that, and it’s a rather subtle presence. It’s in the backyard of a bed and breakfast, and if you didn’t know the site was there, you wouldn’t have a clue.

The other project is in Livermore Falls, a state-owned forest. It’s located in the towns of Plymouth, Holderness, and Campton. This was an active place for industrial purposes for almost two hundred years. Because of the waterfalls there, it was used as a source of energy. One after another, mills would come in, they would thrive, they would go out of business in one way or another—some of them burned, some of the mills failed because of the economy and so forth—and eventually it went back to a near-natural state.

You can still see foundations of the mills and houses out there. It’s a history that we know in part, but there’s a lot that we don’t know.

In that first site, what kinds of things might you expect to find there?

We always hope to find the tools, particularly the spear points and the scrapers and so forth. We do routinely find them, but not in huge numbers.

This would be 12,000 years ago. They were ancestral to the Native Americans of the Northeast, including the Abenaki and all the other tribes. Because of the passage of time and groups moving in and out, they weren’t the sole ancestors of the Abenaki, but they were the first people to live on the landscape after the glacier left.

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