The region’s Native American history

  • Robert Goodby speaks at the Amos Fortune Forum Friday night. Staff photo by Walker John—

  • Robert Goodby speaks at the Amos Fortune Forum Friday night. Staff photo by Walker John—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 7/19/2019 11:33:52 AM
Modified: 7/19/2019 11:33:39 AM

Franklin Pierce Anthropology Professor Robert Goodby was welcomed by a full house at the Jaffrey Meetinghouse for the Amos Fortune Forum Friday night.

Goodby discussed his experience as an archaeological consultant for the building of the new Keene Middle School in 2009 in his presentation titled, “The First to See Monadnock.”

Goodby walked the audience through the entire process of theproject. Based on an initial visual inspection of the land, he explained, he already knew his client had a problem.

“The wetlands were very attractive to the natives,” Goodby said. “I knew we needed to do more work.”

To begin an archaeological study, Goodby and his team used a series of holes to test different areas around the site for artifacts. If something was found in one of the holes, they would dig more around it. “It’s a lot like playing battleship,” he said.

Eventually, the team discovered a handful of sharp stone bits that Goodby confirmed as remnants of stone tools. From there, they knew it was a Native American site and needed to continue digging.

“As archaeologists, we know when we have found something really significant. We met with the state and came up with two options,” Goodby said. “We could try to avoid the site, or we could take steps to offset any damage to the site.”

Since Keene was in desperate need for the school at the time, the first option was not practical. Instead, they saw the site as an opportunity to preserve the ancient artifacts while also using them to teach students of the new school about the Native Americans that settled there.

Goodby and his team began digging, working seven days-a-week for seven weeks. To help with the sometimes difficult process of removing the artifacts, he also hired anthropology students from Franklin Pierce.

On the projector, Goodby displayed images of their findings as well as maps and diagrams that showed where artifacts were found on the site. He noted the oval patterns that the clusters of artifacts were found in and explained that the Native American tents were in the shape of ovals.

“Everything we found came from inside the tents. From this, we can concur that these were winter occupations,” Goodby said. “It’s as if we’re traveling you through time and walking you through their houses.”

The team found burned bones in the centers of the ovals, showing evidence of the fires that were known to be in the center of the tents. Using a new carbon dating technique, they found that the bone dates back to over 12,500 years ago, proving that the Native settlers truly were the first in the region.

Overall, Goodby and his team found 207 stone tools. From further analysis, they discovered that some of the stone had originated from places across New England including places in Maine, over 300 miles away.

“In these societies, they would marry someone from outside of their group. Since they had relatives from all over, they would arrange a time of the year to come together. This is part of how the stone is moving,” Goodby said.

The Keene Middle School opened in 2010, less than a year after the excavations. Goodby visited the school shortly after to give a talk about his findings at the site. The teachers of the school then decided to incorporate the site’s history into the curriculum.

Goodby concluded his presentation by asking the audience to close their eyes and imagine different scenes that took place for the first settlers.

“While the data gives us a lot of facts, we can also empathize and imagine what life was like for them. Data doesn’t do that,” he said.

Anne Pierce will take the stage as the third speaker of the Amos Fortune Forum on Friday at 8 p.m.

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