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SCRAP Field School 2010: Capitol Area Survey

2010 SCRAP Summer Walkabout and Archaeological Field Schoo

The 2010 SCRAP Field School took place in the towns of Weare and Hopkinton over the course of four weeks in June and July. The goal of the field school was to explore elements of the Merrimack Valley watershed not located on the main stem of the Merrimack River and to hopefully identify sites on the tributaries and uplands. The venture began where students received an introduction to paperwork and shovel test pit excavation at a known Native American ceremonial site, the Powwow site at the Mt Kearsarge Indian Museum. The students also had the opportunity to view the museum’s extensive display of artifacts from the recently acquired Howard Sargent Collection. Training Day at MKIM
Weare Sherd The field school then moved on to investigate a site area where artifacts had been found (more than 50 years ago) in soil taken from a borrow pit now situated in a second growth forest in the town of Weare. Great pains were taken not to confound the participants from out of state with the town’s name, with limited success. Crews from both the first and second sessions excavated STPs and mapped the topography around the borrow pit and nearby natural spring. They also successfully fended off swams of deerfly Luftwaffe, though with casualties taken on both sides. A small area of lithic debris was found adjacent to the borrow pit and a slightly larger collection of Middle to Late Woodland ceramics were recovered adjacent to the spring. Although the assemblage was small (barely a dozen specimens in all) the important finding was that this area had indeed been utilized. The location on a steeply rolling hillside well above the river valley below is a setting that would otherwise be dismissed as having very low probability for site potential. A combination of chance finds by children half a century ago and systematic shovel test pit excavation revealed these two expressions of prehistoric occupation. We also investigated the area where the original finds were made, the lawn in front of the landowners home. Here a series of STPs were very carefully excavated so as to leave no evidence of the digging. Abundant 19th and 20th century artifacts were found, ranging from toys to bullet shell casings and a few quartz flakes and biface fragment, thus confirming the earlier discovery.
The other major focus of investigation was at Mast Yard State Forest. Again both sessions spent time at the locality. First testing around a kettle pond and later on the bank of the Contoocook river. This effort was prompted by a planned timber cut by the NH Division of Forests and Lands. Ingeborg Seaboyer, the Southern NH Regional Forester, joined the crew for a day and provided expert interpretation of the forest, environment and history of the locality. The forest obtains its name from proximity to a colonial era parcel where mast trees were reserved by the British Crown. The perimeter of the pond was considered to be a highly sensitive area and well over 100 STPs were excavated. However with the exception of a few shell casings, no artifacts were recovered. This was certainly a disappointment.

The second area tested at Mast Yard was along the riverbank. Here a relatively high bluff was tested, along with a swale. Although sites had been recorded in the vicinity previously, the field school crew found no prehistoric materials and even rather little contemporary trash. This lack of finds was even more unanticipated than the absence of materials from the perimeter of the kettle pond.

Clearing Transects
Joy and Liz at a STP Although not part of the official 2010 field school, a third survey was mounted a week after the end of the formal sessions. A crew of 15 volunteers, virtually all drawn from the field school participants, decamped to Jefferson, NH to survey a parcel situated barely 100 meters from the Jefferson IV site where a complete fluted point was found in 2000. The property is the location for proposed private residential construction, however the landowner allowed SCRAP to conduct a shovel test pit survey on what is essentially a large lawn. Some 90 STPs were excavated on a four meter grid with the result that two small clusters of artifacts were found. The materials recovered included a chert end scraper, a thin biface fragment made from Munsungun chert, a proximal end of a channel flake and debitage equally divided between local spherulitic rhyolite and exotic cherts, mostly red Munsungun. The site is clearly Paleoindian, with at least two loci. Additional survey and testing will take place as part of the 2011 SCRAP field school. The landowner is very supportive of the research, which will take place before any construction.

The 2010 SCRAP Field School was certainly successful in terms of learning field techniques, site mapping and overall character building. While not long in terms of finds, significant data was achieved and the extra innings spend in Jefferson were absolutely productive. The 2011 Field School will build on these successes and we hope that many of the 2010 crew will return.

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