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6 November 2005
Threats to prehistoric quarry in New Hampshire

Blasting and construction for a $28 million motorsports park has been cleared to proceed even though it will be located next to an area that archaeologists call one of the New Hampshire's (USA) most significant and endangered prehistoric sites.
     While the project won't directly affect the adjacent prehistoric quarry, the project could spur other development, endangering the site later, state archaeologist Richard Boisvert said. American Indians began using the Ossipee Mountain quarry, now located on privately owned land, about 9,000 years ago. It was in use until European settlers arrived.
     The quarry contains hornfels, a volcanic rock harder than flint. Hornfels breaks cleanly and predictably, which makes it a shapeable material prehistoric people prized for making tools, Boisvert said. The stone was shaped into spearheads, arrowheads, knives, scrapers, cutters and other objects. Tools made from the quarry's stone have been unearthed throughout New Hampshire and in southern Maine, Boisvert said.
     Only up to 10 other prehistoric quarries have been discovered in New Hampshire, and the hornfels quarry is especially valuable, he said. He said he believes the site is eligible for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places, but he called the process of having it included time consuming and often costly. He also warned that artifact seekers could irreparably damage the site and destroy archaeological clues important to understanding New Hampshire's prehistory.
     If future development threatens the quarry, Boisvert said he hopes the state would have the chance to explore the area and learn about it "before it's gone." A lack of funding and staff so far has prevented a study to find the nature of the site and preserve it, he added.
     David Starbuck, an archaeologist and associate anthropology and sociology professor at Plymouth State University, has visited the site. He said while he had heard of the existence of prehistoric quarries of hornsfel, he didn't realize just how rich they could be. He also warned that measures would need to be put in place to avoid looting before the work to seek a listing began.

Source: Foster's Online (6 November 2005)

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