New York Times reports on Kelley’s Maine shell midden research
The New York Times published an article on a research project led by Alice Kelley, a geoarchaeologist at the University of Maine, that aims to assess and preserve Maine’s shell middens. “We know that there are over 2,000 shell heaps on the coast of Maine,” said Kelley, an associate research professor at UMaine’s Climate Change Institute. “In virtually every case here in southern Maine, they are disappearing or they are gone.” While many of New England’s Native American artifacts have decomposed in acidic soils, those in middens are often well preserved, as the calcium carbonate in the shells creates more alkaline conditions, according to the article. The middens hold clues not only to ancient cultural practices, but also to historic environmental and climatic conditions, the article states. In an effort to more rapidly assess middens, Kelley has developed protocols to survey them using ground-penetrating radar with assistance from Jacque Miller, a graduate research assistant in the UMaine School of Earth and Climate Sciences. The radar not only shows the extent and thickness of the middens, but also reveals the detailed layering, including what may have been floors in historic settlements, New York Times reported. YESWENATIVE also wrote about the shell middens and the recent conference that Kelley organized at the Whaleback Shell Midden State Historic Site.