Tuesday, December 17, 2019


In January, once excavation was underway, crews discovered evidence of what scientists have called southern New England’s earliest inhabitants. The site, located near Old Farms Road, is estimated to be about 12,500 years old, dating back to a time known as the Paleoindian Period. It has been named in honor of Brian D. Jones, the state archaeologist who died in July. The Paleoindian site is the crowning discovery after years of archaeological digs in that part of Avon, according to Catherine Labadia, a staff archaeologist with the State Historic Preservation Office.

Archaeologists found about 15,000 artifacts at the Avon site. The tools were all lithic — made of stone — because pottery had not yet been invented in the Paleoindian Period. The DOT hired a Storrs-based firm, Archaeological & Historical Services Inc., to conduct the dig itself. The principal investigator on the dig, Senior Archaeologist David Leslie, said excavation turned up about 15,000 artifacts and 27 features.

In general, features are remnants of human activity, including holes and walls — what Leslie described as “traces of behavior” that have been recorded in the earth. At the Avon site, Leslie said, archaeologists found an open fire pit, or hearth, and a number of posts from temporary houses. Only a handful of Paleoindian features have ever been discovered in this part of the country, Leslie said, and the Avon site revealed more than two dozen. The site shows evidence of the earliest known population in Connecticut, he said.

The Avon site was discovered as the DOT prepped to reconstruct the Farmington River bridge at Old Farms Road, near Route 10. The project cost about $14.7 million, the Courant previously reported.

In the case of the Avon site, the DOT project required deep excavation for the construction of bridge abutments. Labadia said that such a deep dive — the artifacts and features were lodged about six feet under the surface — would likely have been cost prohibitive to archaeologists working on thei

The Avon site and all of its artifacts may have been left undiscovered if not for the work of Brian Jones, an archaeologist who worked at Archaeological & Historical Services and later became the state archaeologist. Jones, who died over the summer after a battle with cancer, had a “knack” for finding Paleoindian sites, Leslie said. In 2018, when Jones was the state archaeologist, his former firm was once again contracted for work at the site. This time, the crews dug about five feet down, Leslie said. Within a week or two, with artifacts and features already popping up, they realized they’d found a Paleoindian site.



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