Summer 2019 Coastal Maine Archaeology Field School


University of Maine Catalog Description

ANT 477 – Field Research in Archaeology

Introduction to archaeological field techniques through excavation of an archaeological site. Intensive training in site survey, excavation techniques, recording, analysis and preliminary interpretation of archaeological materials. Admission is by application only.

General Information and Goals of the Course

The 2019 Maine archaeology field school will take place at a coastal archaeology site near Machias, Maine. The site selected for this year’s research is a shell midden containing a cultural and paleoenvironmental record spanning roughly 3,000 years.  Shell midden sites are unique places on the Maine landscape where Indigenous families lived for millennia. Large accumulations of clam shells at these locations aid in the preservation of a material and ecological record that includes stone and bone tools, aboriginal ceramics, food remains, and charred plant remains.

Additionally, the site is situated in a region famous for Indigenous petroglyphs or rock art features that are important to Passamaquoddy people who are active partners in research and management of cultural resources in the area. As such, the field school is conducted in cooperation with the Passamaquoddy Tribal Historic Preservation Office and focuses on exploration of past Indigenous lifeways as well as the early occupation of the area by the French and English in the 1600’s. Through this research we will learn about both cultures and the complex social processes that accompany colonization.

Petroglyph of moose
Female moose under the winter snow.
This year, the field school will pilot the integration of a Passamaquoddy language project into the course. The intent of the language component is to bring field school students and Passamaquoddy speakers together to create language resources centered on an archaeological theme. This initiative is designed to have students help create resources that will aid the Passamaquoddy people in their language preservation efforts and add a layer of archaeological and heritage information to language learning.

The field school is directed by Dr. Bonnie Newsom, an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at UMaine. It is funded by a prestigious MAPI (Maine Academic Prominence Initiative) grant provided by UMaine and written by the late Dr. Brian Robinson and Dr. Lisa Neuman, an Anthropology faculty member jointly appointed in Native American Studies.

MAPI funding for the field school covers participant expenses and includes 3 credits of in-state undergraduate tuition (ANT 477), room and board, and transportation to the field site. Maximum course capacity: 12 students.

Course Goals:

  • Develop in students an awareness of the richness of Wabanaki heritage and Maine’s history through a multi-vocal perspective that blends archaeology with Indigenous knowledges.
  • Explore the material representations of a 17th century European presence in Machiasport, Maine and the social complexities of culture contact between Indigenous peoples and Europeans.
  • Provide training in archaeological field methods, shell midden excavation techniques and strategies, and archaeological professionalism through experiential learning.
  • Convey to students the value of shell middens as important cultural and paleoenvironmental resources with relevance to contemporary issues and communities.
  • Develop in students an understanding of Indigenous archaeologies theory and methodologies.

Research Design:

This year’s field school is approached using an Indigenous archaeologies framework.  Indigenous archaeologies are archaeology projects conducted in support of Indigenous values and agendas. In addition to integrating an Indigenous language project into the field school, Indigenous community members will be hosted as community scholars for evening lectures and as participants in the field work.  Archaeological questions related to climate change, the human/dog relationship, and Indigenous pottery technology will shape our approach to excavations and data collection.

Application deadline is March 31st, 2019


2019 MAPI Field School Application

Photo of the sunrise at Machias Bay
Peters GommersThe sun has come up over a foggy Machias Bay. The sunlight reflects on the face of the rock where the petroglyphs are. The tide has just fallen, leaving the rock shiny