Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Tribes In The News: Ancient Indian Village Unearthed In Massachusetts

Feather News


This installment of the Tribes In The Media is an article on an ancient village found in Middleboro, Massachusetts. Note that a "wetu" is a domed hut that was used by some Northeastern tribes, including Mohegans.

Middleboro officials move to protect 10,000-year-old village site
By Alice C. Elwell
Enterprise News
October 14, 2008

MIDDLEBORO — Town officials have joined with a national group to try and save the site of a 12,000-year-old American Indian village slated for a subdivision.

The site is believed to date to 10,000 BC, and is thought to be a spring camp used by the Wampanoags when they gathered along the river for the spring herring migration.

The Planning Board approved a nine-lot subdivision on the site in 2005, with the stipulation an archeological dig would be performed and artifacts salvaged from the ground.

Developer Elliot R. Schneider of AGS Development promised to donate the artifacts to the Robbins Museum of Archaeology on Jackson Street. But now he says the dig has been completed and “nothing of any consequence” was found.

Some are calling it an important American Indian site that should be preserved for research.

Andy Stout, eastern regional director of the Archaeological Conservancy, based in Washington DC, said his group wants to protect the site and save it from destruction.

“Once it’s disturbed, once it’s gone, it’s gone,” Stout said.

Stout declined to discuss the details of what’s been uncovered, nor the exact location. Town officials are also mum on the details, as the site has not yet been secured and they fear looting.

“Based on preliminary discussions, the site warrants preservation,” Stout said, adding it’s also eligible to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places. “A site such as this appears to be a significant Native American habitation area,” Stout said.

When the subdivision was first proposed in 2005, an archeologist from the University of Massachusetts, Christopher Donta, said flint, pottery, bones, stone tools, spear points and arrowheads had been unearthed.

“I found Native American artifacts all over the subdivision,” Donta said in 2005, noting there was a concentration of artifacts “not more than two-feet deep.”

Officials said human remains have been found, as well as evidence of a long house, several wetus (a domed teepees of the Western tribes,) and lots of fish scales.

The unearthed artifacts are being carbon dated by archeologists from the University of Massachusetts to determine their age, said Conservation Commission Agent Patricia Cassidy.

“We would like to preserve the property slated for a subdivision and work with the Archaeological Conservancy out of Washington DC,” Cassidy said.

She said the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe has been told of the find and is interested in working with the town to preserve the village.

Cassidy said the tribe has been to the site.

“The tribe has a great interest in seeing this land purchased and pursed, but right now the tribe doesn’t have the financial ability to participate,” said Amy Lambiaso, senior vice president of the Liberty Square Group, spokesperson for the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe.

The Archaeological Conservancy has appraised the property. Stout will visit Middleboro within the next few weeks in an attempt to put together a partnership of state, federal and private groups to purchase the land.

“We’ll leave no stone unturned,” Stout said.