In the Marshfield Airport project, a runway was extended into an area adjacent to the Green Harbor River were Native Americans had lived 6000-8000 years. Federal law requires construction projects using federal funds to take into account their effects on significant archaeological resources.
The Mashpee Wampanoag and Gay Head (Aquinnah) Wampanoag are the two federally recognized tribes who played important roles in the Marshfield Airport project.
Archaeological evidence indicates two Native American sites were occupied from the Middle Archaic Period (8000-6000 years ago) to the Late Woodland Period (1200-450 years ago).
In the 1620s and early 1630s, population pressure pushed Colonists out of Plimoth Planation and into surrounding areas. Native lands were “granted” to colonists. Into the mix, and Marshfield project area, moved Robert Waterman and his family, settling on an earlier Native American site
Eight thousand years ago the coastline was six miles out to sea. Today it is only about a mile from the airport.
The Marshfield Airport project is a lesson in the changes and differences in how humans perceive and treat the natural environment.
The Marshfield Airport Project is a good example of the maxim that archaeological sites can be anywhere. Instead of viewing as empty a strip of land in an airport, in a lawn, at a school, or anywhere, think of what it might contain. You might be walking on an 8,000-year-old camp site or a 17th-century buried house cellar.
Everywhere, under our feet and under water, lie sites that are thousands or hundreds of years old. Out at sea are submerged Paleoindian sites from 10 -11,000 years ago. Federal and state laws protect many sites: projects which receive federal or state funding or federal or state permits must have professional archaeological surveys to locate and preserve archaeological sites.
But most development projects require no such permits and are privately funded. Housing subdivisions, commercial blocks, and industrial development nearly all occur without archaeological survey, and this is how thousands of archaeological sites are lost.
If you have concerns that a project near you might affect archaeological sites, contact your State Historic Preservation Officer. In Massachusetts that number is 617-727-8470.
AHS provides services for cultural resource management projects (CRM). Cultural resources include archaeological sites; historic buildings; historic engineering structures such as bridges, dams and railroads; historic landscapes and cemeteries; and traditional cultural properties. We identify cultural resources, assess their significance, and help clients preserve important resources or mitigate development-related impacts.
We assist clients with historic resource management, including advising on appropriate rehabilitation of buildings and structures and developing integrated CRM plans that include a mix of cultural resources. We prepare state and federal documentation of significant resources, such as National Register of Historic Places and National Historic Landmark nominations, HABS and HAER documentation, and Traditional Cultural Properties documentation.
Our staff works as a tightly-knit interdisciplinary team. Our historians work closely with archaeologists to ensure thorough and accurate identification and interpretation of archaeological sites. Our experts in the pre-colonial and 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th-century periods work together to identify and interpret archaeological sites, and to develop impact avoidance and mitigation strategies.
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