Creek bed dig in Weybridge reveals pre-­history

WEYBRIDGE — In a place like Vermont, history is all around us — even hidden in the ground. Archaeologists are currently digging into the pre-Columbian history at a site along the banks of the Otter Creek behind the Huntington Falls hydroelectric facility in Weybridge.
“It’s a Native American encampment, probably dating back to the Middle Woodland period, about 1,600 years ago,” explained David Beale, a staff archaeologist of the Northeast Archaeology Research Center (NEARC) in Farmington, Maine.
He figured it wasn’t a steady settlement, instead used as a transient campground and resting area.
“It is a canoe portage now, and it was a canoe portage then,” he said. “Which is why you see scattered short-term occupations across the sight area.”
Beale said his crew, which numbered around 10 on Wednesday, was finding small pieces of stone tools used by the Native Americans. He said that most likely there were fire hearths for making and fixing tools while on a journey.
“You don’t have a really intensive occupation,” Beale described. “You just have an opportunistic thing where you’re trying to get up river or down river and need to take a rest for a little bit.”
The dig is not just for uncovering history. The archaeologists there are also assessing the hydroelectric facility.
“We’re working for Green Mountain Power,” Beale said. “Every 25 years dams have to be re-licensed by the federal government.”
One of the areas considered in relicensing is the cultural and natural impact of the dam. Does the dam negatively affect the area around it?
“In this case what is happening is that the land is eroding,” Beale said. “It is undercutting the bank, and so we’ve found this Native American site and it is slowly eroding away.”
The archaeologists are doing a phase three mitigation on the sight, which means that it is a temporary site.
“We’re trying to learn as much as we can from the site before it goes away,” Beale said.
They’re also giving the public a chance to learn. On the last weekend in June, around 20 people volunteered their time and efforts at the site. Beale and company will host a second volunteer session this Saturday and Sunday, July 13 and 14, that is free and open to the public. Volunteers are welcome from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. either or both days. Groups of five or more are asked to call ahead at 207-860-4032.
People who attend will be given a chance to help dig up the site and learn a little bit about the Native American lifestyle and get their hands on some artifacts. The dig site is located in the woods just behind the Huntington Falls hydroelectric facility just off Morgan Horse Farm Road in Weybridge.

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