MIDDLEBORO (CBS) – When you think about archeologists digging into history you might think of Egypt or Greece, places rich in ancient antiquities. Well how about Middleboro?
Almost every summer since 1996, a group from Bridgewater State University has painstakingly excavated thousands of Native American artifacts and they’re doing it right next to the Middleboro Little League fields.
“This is a location where Native Americans lived and worked for thousands of years. We are exploring their material culture. The things they made and left behind,” says Curtiss Hoffman, PhD, professor emeritus at Bridgewater State. He leads the effort which has uncovered plenty. “We are somewhere about 27,500 items total,” he says.
Carbon dating shows some of those artifacts go back as much as 8000 years, to when what was called the Nemasket Band lived there. We know them today as the Wampanoags.
A sampling of the artifacts is housed at the Robbins Museum of Archaeology in Middleboro. “We have a large number of chip stone tools, so those would be points, and knives, and scrapers and things like that,” Hoffman says.
They also are finding a large number of artifacts they believe were used during ceremonies. “These include stones used to produce red, black and yellow pigment. They include highly polished pebbles which may have been used inside of rattles,” says Hoffman.
If you’re not extremely patient this isn’t the work for you, but when they find something; “It’s very exciting. It is very exciting because you realize someone has used that, someone has touched that,” says Maria Avery as she digs in her spot.
“It’s a link. And it’s fascinating to think that there were people here that long ago,” adds Bill Merritt, one of the other diggers.
It takes a trained eye to do this work. They look for stone items that show evidence of being shaped by human hands and that’s how they tell the difference between a plain old rock, and a true Native American artifact.
Dr. Hoffman plans to nominate the Middleboro site to the National Register of Historic Places as a pre-European site, which would protect it against construction.