Thursday, May 23, 2013
The Associated Press
CONCORD, N.H. - When it comes to archaeology in New Hampshire, a chain saw sometimes is more useful than a trowel.
The state's thick forest cover makes seeing artifacts on the ground difficult, said Richard Boisvert, the state archaeologist.
"The plowed fields of the Midwest and South reveal artifacts and make it easy to document the location of sites," he said. "Here, we have to dig small pits in large numbers to find sites."
Some of those pits, typically about a foot and a half square, will be the focus of the state Division of Historical Resource's latest SCRAP school. The acronym stands for State Conservation and Rescue Archaeology Program, which operates annual field schools to teach the public about archaeology through hands-on work, evening lectures and field trips.
This year's school will be held at a recently discovered 12,000-year-old Paleoindian site in Jefferson, and participants likely will find debris from making stone tools used by early nomadic hunters to process animal hides, Boisvert said.
"If we're lucky, maybe some whole tools -- knives, scrapers, spear points," he said.
Boisvert has run the summer field school for years, and many participants have returned year after year. Those who successfully complete the fieldwork are certified as excavation technicians and can get college credit through Plymouth State University.
Participants will document the site with detailed excavations and compare it to other Paleoindian sites in the area. They'll also help with public outreach by giving presentations and assisting with site tours.
"They get to do real archaeology -- which is not the kind of experience you might imagine from a 'Nova' special, but it's the real thing," Boisvert said. "In some ways it can be more tedious and hard and boring, but in some ways more exciting."
Participants have ranged from serious scholars to those with a passing interest in archaeology who quickly tire of the meticulous work, he said. But those who stick with it find it rewarding. In previous years, students have made surprising discoveries that are still being followed up on today, he said.
This summer's three sessions -- the first starts June 24 -- filled up quickly, and Boisvert has turned people away. Despite the challenging landscape, New Hampshire offers remarkably rich history, he said.
"You don't have to go to Arizona or Egypt to find exciting archaeology," he said.