Pre-colonial, also known as ancient Native American archaeology, is complex, covering over 10,000 years. The time period begins with the retreat of glaciers and arrival of the first humans, and ends with European colonization. Through most of this period, native peoples were closely tied to the physical environment, which provided food, shelter, clothing, tools, and transportation resources. As the climate underwent significant changes over thousands of years, so did people’s adaptive strategies.
The artifacts left by ancient peoples are typically stone tool remains, because New England’s acidic soils usually consume organic material culture. Our pre-colonial specialists understand the area’s geological and environmental changes over thousands of years, and they are knowledgeable about tool-stone sources and tool types, which changed through time.
Ancient Native American Site on Green Harbor Marsh
Archaeological investigations conducted adjacent to a major tidal marsh on the Massachusetts coast identified three pre-colonial sites. One was preserved, and two underwent Phase III Data Recovery excavations to mitigate impact to these National Register-eligible sites. The sites were occupied from 7,000 years ago to the contact period, based on the recovery of diagnostic projectile points and radiocarbon-dated organic remains. Local stone, including beach cobbles, were fashioned into tools here.
Other Project Examples
Quinebaug River Prehistoric Archaeological District
AHS identified a cluster of pre-colonial Native American sites in a survey of a proposed new wetland basin on the Quinebaug River floodplain. Five sites were determined to be eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. Project impacts to the sites were mitigated through a combination of intensive testing, in situ preservation under geotextile and fill, and archaeological monitoring of the wetland construction. The sites now comprise a Connecticut State Archaeological Preserve known as the Quinebaug River Prehistoric Archaeological District. AHS produced a booklet (The Quinebaug River Prehistoric Archaeological District) and website on the sites, as well as a National Register nomination.
At a proposed apartment complex site in southeast Massachusetts, a small but significant area of tool manufacturing from nearly 9,000 years ago was identified and removed through excavation.
Route 7/15 Interchange
A Native American site was identified inside a highway interchange loop in southwest Connecticut. This National Register-eligible site could not be avoided by highway improvements, and data recovery excavation yielded a range of lithic artifacts.
For more information on AHS’s experience and capabilities, visit our expertise page.