I’m now convinced that if you want to find the remains of ancient civilizations, the fastest, surest way to do so is to start building a road. Anywhere will do. Just grab that shovel out of the old shed, say out loud “I am now building a road,” and start digging. Chances are you’ll find a 10,000-year-old village. It just keeps happening. Either that or a school, but a road is easier for a single determined person with a shovel.
The latest ancient village discovered accidentally is in Northampton, Massachusetts. Construction workers excavating a site for a new roundabout discovered arrowheads, spearpoints, knives, and other tools. A private archaeological company, Archaeological and Historical Services Inc., was called in to excavate and analyze the site. Experts now believe that the site dates back to the early archaic period between 8,000 and 10,000 years ago. According to senior archaeologist David Leslie, sites from this period are “incredibly rare,” and this site represents a discovery of importance to understanding the development of the region.
During the excavation, archaeologists discovered multiple fire pits and remains of food like raspberries and acorns. This suggests, the archaeologists say, that the site was used as a temporary village for at least two seasons.
Mark Andrews, tribal cultural resources monitor for the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head, monitors excavations such as this one to ensure they comply with the law. He spoke to the Daily Hampshire Gazette about the site and says that sites like this are rare and increasingly rarer due to development. Because of their increasing rarity, Andrews says sites like this have only become more important:
“There’s less of this stuff to be found because places have been taken and impacted. The cultural resources are disappearing rapidly due to land development and land use.
Some of the best places that were native villages are now towns.”
Archaeological and Historical Services Inc. will now spend the next year analyzing and dating the artifacts found at the location. But construction will resume. Some aren’t too happy that the roundabout will go ahead as planned, like Northampton resident John Skibiski, who says the site could be preserved by simply adding a traffic signal instead of a roundabout. In a letter to the Daily Hampshire Gazette, Skibiski says:
Destroying the site, which has given evidence to possible further artifacts concerning those primitive times, is unthinkable. Preservation here is required, but a public outcry now can only save destruction of the site from the half-acre of tree removal followed by road pavement. Research is nearing its finish, with carbon dating planned.
As the site was a temporary village, there are no structures to be preserved and archaeologist David Leslie says that everything that was there has been excavated and taken away:
“The site is no longer there, we excavated it. It’s not going to be paved over — it’s gone.
We wouldn’t have been able to learn anything about the site if we hadn’t excavated it.”
That’s a fair point. But really, should we be building more roundabouts anyway? That’s the real question. They’re terrible.