12,000 Years Ago in the Granite State
Presenter: Robert Goodby
More than 12,000 years ago, small groups of Paleoindians endured frigid winters on the edge of a small river in what would become Keene, New Hampshire. In 2009, an archaeological survey for the new Keene Middle School discovered the remains of their stay and brought to light one of the oldest Native American sites in New England. The remarkably intact site produced evidence of four separate dwellings containing over 200 stone tools and fragments of burned animal bone. These early people, rather than being isolated stone-age nomads, were part of a social network that extended across much of northeastern North America. The discovery and excavation of the site was required by the National Historic Preservation Act, a frequently maligned piece of legislation that in this instance worked to save an irreplaceable piece of the human story
The native Abenaki people played a central role in the history of the Monadnock region, defending it against English settlement and forcing the abandonment of Keene and other Monadnock area towns during the French and Indian Wars. Despite this, little is known about the Abenaki, and conventional histories often depict the first Europeans entering an untamed, uninhabited wilderness, rather than the homeland of people who had been there for hundreds of generations. Robert Goodby discusses how the real depth of Native history was revealed when an archaeological study prior to construction of the new Keene Middle School discovered traces of four structures dating to the end of the Ice Age. Undisturbed for 12,000 years, the site revealed information about the economy, gender roles, and household organization of the Granite State's very first inhabitants, as well as evidence of social networks that extended for hundreds of miles across northern New England.