Native Americans once considered NH their home

MILFORD – In 2009, Robert Goodby was the archaeological consultant for the new Keene Middle School project, charged with looking for anything that might make the site eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.

Usually, studies of this kind are uncomplicated. But Keene’s Tenant Swamp, on the periphery of the site, had been undisturbed for many centuries, and Goodby’s test pits found stones that came from the White Mountains and from the Munsungan Lake area of Maine. The stones could not have come from southern New Hampshire – a clear indication that human beings had brought them here.

"We were excited. The school board was a little less excited," Goodby told the audience in Milford Town Hall during his recent presentation, called "12,000 years ago in the Granite State."

"Dig fast," school officials told the archaeologists, and Goodby, who is an associate professor of anthropology at Franklin Pierce University, soon found it was the site of a lifetime.

Local histories usually don’t say native people had settled here, he said. The 1904 history of Keene, for example, said Indians had merely "wandered through."

The first Europeans didn’t enter an untamed, uninhabited wilderness, though, but rather the homeland of people who had been here for hundreds of generations.

Physical evidence, including Indian-built dams and even the DAR monument on Keene’s Main Street, which says it was on the site of a fort that was "a refuge from Indians," buttress that idea.

"The history of the Indian people is nearly invisible," Goodby said.

But in 2010, the Tenant Swamp site offered further proof that the earliest Native Americans, from 10,000-12,000 years ago, considered this home.

Here were burned bone fragments, later found to be caribou bones – evidence of cooked food – and four kinds of tools consistent with what scientists know about Paleo-
Indian tools.

This all required careful study, but the middle school had to open on schedule, and state regulations require a 100 percent archaeological recovery followed by public education.

So Goodby was under the gun. He and his team worked on the site seven days a week for seven weeks, work that sometimes required twisting their bodies under the big roots of old white pines to find what was under them.

Clusters of artificats, including stones for scrapping hides, were found in four oval-shape spaces, considered "house floors" of the Tenant Swamp settlement.

"Everything was happening inside" the houses, Goodby said, because this was the time of the Younger Dryas climate, when it became sharply colder. "Winter in Younger Dryas is not the time you want to be outside."

Radiocarbon dating of the bone pieces showed they were from between 12,570 and 12,660 years ago – not too long, in archaelogical terms, after the Ice Age. Around 18,000 years ago, all of New England was covered in ice, but by 15,000 years ago, most of New Hampshire was ice free.

Which meant Tenant Swamp is the oldest archaeological site in New England.

A month into the dig, the researchers found a corner of a spear point, but they believe there was no hunting happening in Keene.

And contrary to popular beliefs about gender and divisions of labor among prehistoric people, in which men are the hunters and the women gathered nuts and berries or stayed inside, the scientists believe men and women stayed inside these shelters all winter, working on hides, working wood and splitting hard materials such as bone and antler. Their winter food seemed to be caribou.

"Was it plausible that women were busy and the men were doing nothing?" Goodby said. "We need to rethink that whole business."

Stones from the very edge of the four house sites were found to come from two sites, one 350 miles away, from the Munsungan Range in Maine, and the other from 110 miles away in northern New Hampshire, where early people had dug a cave to retrieve the stones.

"I think what happened here is this: One of the basic rules is to marry outside your band, which creates networks … of aunts, uncles and cousins," Goodby said. "In winter, they look forward to seeing family in the spring and they bring gifts. And if you live near good stone, you bring it" – just the way you would bring maple syrup to relatives in Arizona.

Goodby said he will be working on this site for the rest of his life, and that work includes the education aspect required by the state. Soon he will be talking to Keene sixth-graders and taking them out to the site where teachers have built an educational boardwalk.

Goodby’s presentation was hosted by the Milford Historical Society and sponsored by the New Hampshire Humanities Council.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or
kcleveland@cabinet.com.

Native Americans once considered NH their home

MILFORD – In 2009, Robert Goodby was the archaeological consultant for the new Keene Middle School project, charged with looking for anything that might make the site eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.

Usually, studies of this kind are uncomplicated. But Keene’s Tenant Swamp, on the periphery of the site, had been undisturbed for many centuries, and Goodby’s test pits found stones that came from the White Mountains and from the Munsungan Lake area of Maine. The stones could not have come from southern New Hampshire – a clear indication that human beings had brought them here.

"We were excited. The school board was a little less excited," Goodby told the audience in Milford Town Hall during his recent presentation, called "12,000 years ago in the Granite State."

"Dig fast," school officials told the archaeologists, and Goodby, who is an associate professor of anthropology at Franklin Pierce University, soon found it was the site of a lifetime.

Local histories usually don’t say native people had settled here, he said. The 1904 history of Keene, for example, said Indians had merely "wandered through."

The first Europeans didn’t enter an untamed, uninhabited wilderness, though, but rather the homeland of people who had been here for hundreds of generations.

Physical evidence, including Indian-built dams and even the DAR monument on Keene’s Main Street, which says it was on the site of a fort that was "a refuge from Indians," buttress that idea.

"The history of the Indian people is nearly invisible," Goodby said.

But in 2010, the Tenant Swamp site offered further proof that the earliest Native Americans, from 10,000-12,000 years ago, considered this home.

Here were burned bone fragments, later found to be caribou bones – evidence of cooked food – and four kinds of tools consistent with what scientists know about Paleo-
Indian tools.

This all required careful study, but the middle school had to open on schedule, and state regulations require a 100 percent archaeological recovery followed by public education.

So Goodby was under the gun. He and his team worked on the site seven days a week for seven weeks, work that sometimes required twisting their bodies under the big roots of old white pines to find what was under them.

Clusters of artificats, including stones for scrapping hides, were found in four oval-shape spaces, considered "house floors" of the Tenant Swamp settlement.

"Everything was happening inside" the houses, Goodby said, because this was the time of the Younger Dryas climate, when it became sharply colder. "Winter in Younger Dryas is not the time you want to be outside."

Radiocarbon dating of the bone pieces showed they were from between 12,570 and 12,660 years ago – not too long, in archaelogical terms, after the Ice Age. Around 18,000 years ago, all of New England was covered in ice, but by 15,000 years ago, most of New Hampshire was ice free.

Which meant Tenant Swamp is the oldest archaeological site in New England.

A month into the dig, the researchers found a corner of a spear point, but they believe there was no hunting happening in Keene.

And contrary to popular beliefs about gender and divisions of labor among prehistoric people, in which men are the hunters and the women gathered nuts and berries or stayed inside, the scientists believe men and women stayed inside these shelters all winter, working on hides, working wood and splitting hard materials such as bone and antler. Their winter food seemed to be caribou.

"Was it plausible that women were busy and the men were doing nothing?" Goodby said. "We need to rethink that whole business."

Stones from the very edge of the four house sites were found to come from two sites, one 350 miles away, from the Munsungan Range in Maine, and the other from 110 miles away in northern New Hampshire, where early people had dug a cave to retrieve the stones.

"I think what happened here is this: One of the basic rules is to marry outside your band, which creates networks … of aunts, uncles and cousins," Goodby said. "In winter, they look forward to seeing family in the spring and they bring gifts. And if you live near good stone, you bring it" – just the way you would bring maple syrup to relatives in Arizona.

Goodby said he will be working on this site for the rest of his life, and that work includes the education aspect required by the state. Soon he will be talking to Keene sixth-graders and taking them out to the site where teachers have built an educational boardwalk.

Goodby’s presentation was hosted by the Milford Historical Society and sponsored by the New Hampshire Humanities Council.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or
kcleveland@cabinet.com.

Native Americans once considered NH their home

MILFORD – In 2009, Robert Goodby was the archaeological consultant for the new Keene Middle School project, charged with looking for anything that might make the site eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.

Usually, studies of this kind are uncomplicated. But Keene’s Tenant Swamp, on the periphery of the site, had been undisturbed for many centuries, and Goodby’s test pits found stones that came from the White Mountains and from the Munsungan Lake area of Maine. The stones could not have come from southern New Hampshire – a clear indication that human beings had brought them here.

"We were excited. The school board was a little less excited," Goodby told the audience in Milford Town Hall during his recent presentation, called "12,000 years ago in the Granite State."

"Dig fast," school officials told the archaeologists, and Goodby, who is an associate professor of anthropology at Franklin Pierce University, soon found it was the site of a lifetime.

Local histories usually don’t say native people had settled here, he said. The 1904 history of Keene, for example, said Indians had merely "wandered through."

The first Europeans didn’t enter an untamed, uninhabited wilderness, though, but rather the homeland of people who had been here for hundreds of generations.

Physical evidence, including Indian-built dams and even the DAR monument on Keene’s Main Street, which says it was on the site of a fort that was "a refuge from Indians," buttress that idea.

"The history of the Indian people is nearly invisible," Goodby said.

But in 2010, the Tenant Swamp site offered further proof that the earliest Native Americans, from 10,000-12,000 years ago, considered this home.

Here were burned bone fragments, later found to be caribou bones – evidence of cooked food – and four kinds of tools consistent with what scientists know about Paleo-
Indian tools.

This all required careful study, but the middle school had to open on schedule, and state regulations require a 100 percent archaeological recovery followed by public education.

So Goodby was under the gun. He and his team worked on the site seven days a week for seven weeks, work that sometimes required twisting their bodies under the big roots of old white pines to find what was under them.

Clusters of artificats, including stones for scrapping hides, were found in four oval-shape spaces, considered "house floors" of the Tenant Swamp settlement.

"Everything was happening inside" the houses, Goodby said, because this was the time of the Younger Dryas climate, when it became sharply colder. "Winter in Younger Dryas is not the time you want to be outside."

Radiocarbon dating of the bone pieces showed they were from between 12,570 and 12,660 years ago – not too long, in archaelogical terms, after the Ice Age. Around 18,000 years ago, all of New England was covered in ice, but by 15,000 years ago, most of New Hampshire was ice free.

Which meant Tenant Swamp is the oldest archaeological site in New England.

A month into the dig, the researchers found a corner of a spear point, but they believe there was no hunting happening in Keene.

And contrary to popular beliefs about gender and divisions of labor among prehistoric people, in which men are the hunters and the women gathered nuts and berries or stayed inside, the scientists believe men and women stayed inside these shelters all winter, working on hides, working wood and splitting hard materials such as bone and antler. Their winter food seemed to be caribou.

"Was it plausible that women were busy and the men were doing nothing?" Goodby said. "We need to rethink that whole business."

Stones from the very edge of the four house sites were found to come from two sites, one 350 miles away, from the Munsungan Range in Maine, and the other from 110 miles away in northern New Hampshire, where early people had dug a cave to retrieve the stones.

"I think what happened here is this: One of the basic rules is to marry outside your band, which creates networks … of aunts, uncles and cousins," Goodby said. "In winter, they look forward to seeing family in the spring and they bring gifts. And if you live near good stone, you bring it" – just the way you would bring maple syrup to relatives in Arizona.

Goodby said he will be working on this site for the rest of his life, and that work includes the education aspect required by the state. Soon he will be talking to Keene sixth-graders and taking them out to the site where teachers have built an educational boardwalk.

Goodby’s presentation was hosted by the Milford Historical Society and sponsored by the New Hampshire Humanities Council.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or
kcleveland@cabinet.com.