Shoals Marine Lab Students Make Archaeological Discovery

The first prehistoric archaeological site in the Isles of Shoals (NH and ME) has been discovered on Smuttynose Island, Maine, by students in Cornell’s Archaeology Field School at Shoals Marine Laboratory. “This is a special discovery,” said Dr. Robin Hadlock Seeley, Assistant Director at the Shoals Marine Laboratory and co-director of the Isles of Shoals archaeology project. “We always suspected that native peoples may have stopped at the Shoals before the 17th century fishing station was established, but now we have clear evidence for their presence.” A guest at the field school this summer was Native American archaeologist, Sharon Moses, who recently received her Ph.D. in Archaeology from Cornell University. Dr. Moses, who has worked on prehistoric sites in Central America and Turkey, was also very excited about the discovery, stating, “Congratulations to Professor Hamilton and the Isles of Shoals archaeology project for confirming what the archaeological community has only been able to speculate about until now.”

The director of the project, Professor Nathan Hamilton of the University of Southern Maine, documented several stone tools (arrow points, knives, and scrapers) recovered along with stone flakes from tool manufacture, ceramics and fire-cracked rock. These artifacts represent a substantial activity area that appears to date to AD 800-1200 on the basis of artifact styles that include a Levanna point, a side-notched point and a Stemmed point. Excavations during 2009 produced evidence sufficient to designate a prehistoric site number, and an application will be filed with Maine Historic Preservation Commission in coming months. The site will be known as the Hubbard-Oberlander Site.

Shoals Marine Lab Director William E. Bemis noted that: “Archaeological studies on Smuttynose Island go hand-in-hand with ongoing investigations on the historical ecology of the Isles of Shoals. As we build a better picture of human habitation of the islands, we can better understand the context for ongoing ecological change in marine and terrestrial environments.”
The Isles of Shoals are most famous for the colonial fishing station sited on Smuttynose Island that existed in the 17th-19th centuries and whose origin predated the arrival of Puritans to Massachusetts. Adjacent Appledore Island is home to Shoals Marine Laboratory, Cornell’s marine field station and the base for the archaeological project on Smuttynose.

For more information contact Robin Hadlock Seeley .