Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Prehistory of My Place - Part 2

Part 1 last week (scroll down below) dealt with the prehistory of Lovell, including the work of the late amateur archaeologist Helen Leadbeater of Fryeburg citing an article by William Rombola called, “The Ceramic Period in the Upper Saco River Drainage: An Analysis of the Helen Leadbetter Collection” in the Maine Archaeological Society Bulletin for Fall, 1998.Helen Leadbeater’s extensive collection also contained artifacts the age of which Rombola doesn’t guess at, including what he calls “groundstone” tools like “half-channeled gouges” he says “are thought to have been used for some specialized form of woodworking.” By groundstone, I assume he means polished. There have been several polished slate artifacts similar to what he describes found in Red Paint sites all over the northeast and as well as sites in northwestern Europe dating from the same periods. “One,” Rombola says, “was recovered from the north end of Kezar Lake in Lovell, Maine.”North end of Kezar Lake

In July of last summer, fellow teacher Terri McDermith and I arranged for several of our students to assist Maine’s senior archaeologist Dr. Arthur Spiess and his team as they excavated a portion of the area behind the Fryeburg Harbor Church. That’s just across the Old Course of the Saco River from the Kezar Lake outlet dam. Many other locals have extensive collections of artifacts gathered from there during the 20th century. With help from a local archaeologist, Lovell’s Jane Dineen, we found chips and scrapers of hornfels and Munsungan Chert as well as pottery sherds and fire pits surrounded by fire-cracked rock. Dr. Spiess said they all probably date from around 1200 AD. Time and funds ran out just as we were digging the most promising pits and Spiess said that almost always happens. If we can raise enough money - about $6000 for a week’s work - we can resume. That whole area would seem to have been used continually from about 4000 years ago until the Pequawkets (who were Abenaki) cleared out nearly three centuries ago.In the Fall, 1986 Maine Archaeological Society Bulletin, Dr. Spiess published a study titled: “The Kimball Collection From Bear Pond Inlet (Site 22.8).” Locals know that’s in nearby Waterford. The artifacts were gathered prior to World War II by Harold Kimball as he walked by the area where Mill Brook enters the pond on his way to and from work every day. Spiess said, “ . . . the collection . . . apparently includes Early Archaic material (circa 9000 B.P.). B.P. means “Before Present.” He goes on to state that “Abrasive stones are present in a variety of forms.” By “abrasive” I assume he means what Rombola referred to as “groundstone” and other archaeologists call polished slate. Most old stone wood-working tools are made of polished slate. The grainy images of them in the article look like the polished slate tools I’ve seen depicted in Red Paint sites in northeastern North America from Maine all the way to northern Labrador. Spiess states later that, “[this] heavy woodworking equipment, we suspect, belongs with the Early Archaic, Middle Archaic, and Laurentian Late Archaic.” That would mean they were between 3000 and 9000 years old.Also in the Maine Archaeological Society Bulletin for Fall, 1998 was an article by Craig Norman called, “Controlled Surface Collection And Artifact Analysis Of The Stevens Brook Site, Presumpscot Watershed.” Craig Norman, also, was alerted by reports of local amateurs collecting artifacts, this time on the shore of Long Lake where Stevens Brook enters and forms a sand bar. Here also, both stone and ceramics were recovered. The stone was made mostly from the same materials as those in the Leadbetter and Kimball collections. As with the Fryeburg Harbor site, there was much evidence in the form of what archaeologists call “lithic debitage” (lots of stone chips) that stone tools were created on the site over several millennia beginning during the Middle Archaic Period, 7200 years ago.Jane Dineen and Art Spiess

So it seems the earliest evidence of human activity within a 20 mile radius of Lovell is in the form of stone tools 9000 years old when the whole area would have been treeless tundra. They must have hunted animals, some of whom would now be extinct. The tools they made were of materials from as far away as Northern Labrador. Some sites were continually occupied, at least seasonally, for many millennia. We don’t know who the earliest people were, but the latest occupants before European settlement were Pequawkets - the local branch of Abenaki Indians. People around here used pottery for at least three millennia. They planted and harvested corn during the last millennium. The Pequawkets were aggressive, raiding English settlements in Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts.Terri McDermith and daughter Emily seated

There are many gaps to fill in my quest to understand everything that ever happened around here, and I’ve only got about 25 years left to do it. A few thousand dollars for more digging would help a lot, so if there are any pecunious readers out there who want to help, let me know. I promise to spend your money more wisely than government would, and I’ll also report back about how it was spent without your having to file Freedom of Information Act requests.

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