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Talk – Racing the clock to preserve the past…A community-based approach to managing Maine’s shell middens

February 25, 2019 @ 3:00 pm - 4:00 pm

| Free

Managing Maine's Shell MiddensAlice R. Kelley, Associate Research Professor, Climate Change Institute & Instructor, School of Earth and Climate Sciences, University of Maine
Bonnie Newsom, Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Maine

The Maine Midden Minders is a volunteer, citizen science organization being developed with the support of the Senator George Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions and Maine Sea Grant to help document and monitor Maine’s eroding shell middens.  These features are composed of mollusk shells, artifacts, and faunal remains, and archive up to 4,000 years of coastal occupation by the state’s indigenous population.  Over 2,000 of these sites exist along the Maine coast, and virtually all are threatened by climate change as increasing rates of sea level rise intensifies damage from storm-driven waves and increased freeze-thaw cycles promote erosion. Only one or two middens are professionally excavated each year due to funding constraints.   Valuable archaeological and paleoenvironmental information is lost to the sea with each storm. The Midden Minders program will train interested volunteers from conservation organizations, tribal communities, and individual citizens to document seasonal to annual changes at middens. Measurements are made using simple tools, and site conditions are documented using digital photography.  This information is collected into a specially designed database that will be used to identify vulnerable sites and allocate limited resources by researchers and cultural resource managers.

Dr. Kelley is a geoarchaeologist with interests in past human/landscape interactions, cultural heritage preservation, and the application of ground-penetrating radar to the investigation of archaeological sites. She is an Assoc. Research professor in the Climate Change Institute and an Instructor in the School of Earth and Climate Sciences, both at the University of Maine. Dr. Kelley is particularly interested in investigating how changing climate is has affected humans in the past, and its impacts on our cultural heritage. She is active in regional, national and international research endeavors.

Dr. Newsom is an Indigenous archaeologist interested in the pre-contact lifeways of Maine’s Native peoples. She is an Assistant Professor in UMaine’s Anthropology Department and her research focuses heavily on Native peoples living during the Ceramic Period (ca. 3050-250 years ago). She seeks to humanize people in the past by exploring concepts of identity, social boundaries, and human agency. Her current research efforts center on aboriginal ceramic technologies and past relationships between humans and dogs. Dr. Newsom’s professional history includes working in the cultural resources management sector, as well as serving as the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the Penobscot Indian Nation. She has a strong public service record, which includes serving as Chair of the Repatriation Review Committee for the Smithsonian Institution.



February 25, 2019
3:00 pm - 4:00 pm
Event Category:


107 Norman Smith Hall
Mitchell Center - UMaine
Orono, ME 04469 United States
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Mitchell Center
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