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Macricostas School of Arts & Sciences

Social Sciences : Archaeology at WestConn

Summer Field School 2004 in New Milford, Connecticut

We helped test and excavate areas in the homelands of the Weantinock Indians in New Milford, CT. Over the past 200 years, many of their homelands have been destroyed by urbanization and by the illegal potting of sites by treasure hunters! Our work was supported by local landowners and by the Office of State Archaeology. Dr. Nick Bellantoni came out to our site to confer, as did Mr. Jim Morasco, a former student and former President of the Archaeological Society of Connecticut. Dr. Weinstein, along with Ms. Deseree Heme (a former student) have been writing the ethnohistory of the Weantinock Indians. My C.V. lists the presentations and publications under review on this all-important ethnohistory.

WestConn’s 2004 summer field school in archaeology recently completed limited testing and excavation of a flat grassy meadow just north of the orchards. The attached topographic map shows the location of our summer dig. Our work supports Mr. Morasco’s data. The projectile point styles tentatively indicate a Late Archaic through Middle to Late Woodland cultural time periods: Brewerton eared/corner notched points (Late Archaic), and Lamoka and Squibnocket points (Late Archaic through Middle to Late Woodland).

We also had charcoal staining (Feature 1) associated with two post mold features (Features 2 and 3) in one area (Transect 1, Test Pit 2) and pottery. We sent out the charcoal for dating, but the pottery and the Lamoka point styles from the same soil level indicate that we definitely have a Woodland component. We will have an expert on pottery styles (Dr. Lucianne Lavin) examine the ceramics to give us a more positive Woodland identification. We also found two other post mold stain features from Transect 2, Test Pit 2, (Feature 4), and Transect 3, Test Pit 1, (Feature 5). All features and the bulk of the artifacts come from the interface of the two sub-soils, at approximately 18+ cm below surface.

Our archaeological methods were based on a short, five-week field season with 9 beginning students. We created three transects that ran parallel across the flat terrace. We dug 11, 50 cm. square test pits every 10 meters along Transects 1 and 2. Because of the wealth of materials that we were finding at two test pits (TP 2 on both Transects 1 and 2), we opened up block excavations at these two locations. We also ran a shorter transect, Transect 3, and dug 7 test pits at 5 meter intervals. We dug test pits at 5 m levels in order to better test the area and pick up materials and features that we might otherwise have missed.

We screened all our materials in 1/8” screens. We used small wire mesh because we were picking up hundreds of tiny retouch flakes; such flakes would have fallen through the usual ¼” mesh. We took soil samples from several test pits and we will identify the strata using a Munsell soil book. We also did a flotation analysis on a soil/charcoal sample from Feature 1, a charcoal stain in Transect 1, Test Pit 2. We sent out the dried floral matter for identification. The charcoal stain did not have the typical bowl-shape design often found at other archaeological sites; we pedestalled the feature, bisected it and bagged the contents for floatation and radio carbon dating. The charcoal has been sent to Beta Analytic for dating.

My very general interpretation of the WestConn site is as follows:

  • Primarily a Late Archaic through Middle Woodland site (4,000 BP to AD 1000)
  • Camp site with evidence of structures, as evidenced by post molds and charcoal staining.
  • Hunters refurbished their tools here as evidenced by hundreds of retouch flakes; such flakes were found at almost all of the test pits and especially the two areas we opened up for block excavation. Pottery shards indicate that people were camping here and possibly cooking food over fires. Given the ideal site location—just up the hill from Lover’s Leap and the Housatonic River—it would have made an excellent camp site with many types of resources nearby.
  • The people who lived here were involved in active trade of some sort with other northeastern Indians, as evidenced by Hudson Valley cherts, red slate (from?) and red and yellow jaspers from Vermont and Pennsylvania.