FPU professor writes book on local Native American history

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    "A Deep Presence: 13,000 Years of Native American History," by Franklin Pierce University professor Robert Goodby, details his excavation of local Native American sites across New England. Courtesy photo—

  • Stone tools excavated at archeological sites across New England show evidence of the presence of the Abenaki tribe as far back as 12,600 years. Courtesy photo

  • Stone tools excavated at archeological sites across New England show evidence of the presence of the Abenaki tribe as far back as 12,600 years. Courtesy photo—

  • Stone tools excavated at archeological sites across New England show evidence of the presence of the Abenaki tribe as far back as 12,600 years. Courtesy photo—

  • Dr. Robert Goodby. Courtesy photo—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 10/6/2021 3:12:41 PM

For years, Dr. Robert Goodby has been exploring archeological sites, uncovering the history of the Abenaki tribe. In his new book, “A Deep Presence: 13,000 Years of Native American History,” he details the findings of four archeological sites, dating back nearly 13,000 years, and what they revealed about the people who lived here.

Goodby, a professor of anthropology at Franklin Pierce University, has been excavating archeological sites throughout New England for thirty years, specializing in Native American sites, particularly the local Abenaki tribe.

The book, written for a general audience, not a scholarly one, is a mix of the narrative of the process of the excavation of those sites, located across the state, and the story of what they reveal about the day-to-day lives of New Hampshire’s Native people, as well as the traditions of today’s Abenaki people.

“One of the things that we have learned is how far back that presence goes,” Goodby said. “And not just how far back, but how big a social world they had.”

The ancient Abenaki used stone tools, Goodby said, and were particular about the type of stone used. In some cases, tools were found made by stone that was quarried 350 miles away from where they were found. Likely, the users of those tools hadn’t migrated that distance. Instead, it’s evidence of extensive social networks with other tribes.

It is this kind of insight these sites can provide into life in New Hampshire thousands of years ago.

In the book, Goodby details findings from four archeological sites: a Native-built fish dam in Swanzey, a winter camp in Keene, a worksite in Peterborough, and an often-used site in Hinsdale.

Most of the sites date back about 5,000 years. But a site of four tents, believed to be winter residents, found at the Keene Middle School, dates back at least 12,600 years, according to carbon dating – the oldest evidence of Native inhabitation ever found in New Hampshire.

“It’s like being able to go back 13,000 years and walk into their house,” Goodby said.

Some of the sites Goodby explored have evidence they were used by the Abenaki tribe for a long period of time – sometimes, for thousands of years.

In Swanzey, the Abenaki built a stone dam to funnel fish to make them easier to catch. The dam itself was built over 4,000 years ago, and is large enough to be seen from an airplane, and is proof of the Abenaki building complex permanent stone structures thousands of years ago. While built 4,000 years ago, there is evidence the Abenaki were still using the dam at the time European settlers first came to America, thousands of years later.

Similarly, in excavated hunting camps, where Goodby and his team found evidence of hunting of snakes and water animals including turtle and beaver, showed evidence of several hundred years of use, at least.

“There’s evidence here not only that the Abenaki were here a long time, but that they had deep attachment to certain areas,” Goodby said. “They came back to the same places again and again, over long periods of time.”

A book launch is being held at the Historical Society of Cheshire County in Keene on Monday, Oct. 11, from 6 to 7p.m. Space is limited, and registration is required at bit.ly/RobertGoodbyBookLaunch.

In addition to the book launch, Goodby is also scheduled to give a book talk at the Monadnock Center for History and Culture, outdoors in the Peterson Courtyard, on Oct. 16 at 11 a.m. The program is in collaboration with The Toadstool Bookshop.

 

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.


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