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27 February 2007
US developer preserves ancient archaeological site

They call it the 'wooden box site' - for no other reason than archaeologists found a wooden box sitting on a piece of land where ancient American Indian artifacts were unearthed. That was six years ago when archaeologists hired by developers said they believe American Indians camped in Havervill (Massachusetts, USA) roughly 100 foot-by-100 foot piece of land 5,000 years ago.
     Now, the Massachusetts Historical Commission wants to know what happened to the site and what was done to ensure it will not be disturbed. The answer is simple, said developer Steve Doherty: His firm has placed a fence around the area, and the land will remain protected.
     "I have major concerns about this due to the fact that this area of Haverhill has been flagged as a high-density area of Native American sites," said Thomas Spitalere, chairman of the Haverhill Historical Commission. "There are probably artifacts such as spear points and human bones buried there. You never really know until you go digging."
     It is the third ancient Indian site in Haverhill to gain the concern of state and local historians in the last six months. Doherty said he first learned about the significance of the site in 2001 when the state requested an archaeological review of the land being proposed for the new housing development. He said the archaeologists his company hired to inspect the site dug down to a depth of about a foot and after sifting through the soil found what appeared to be a broken end of a spear. "About 10 feet from that they found another stone piece that may have been part of a stone knife," Doherty said. "Our archaeologists estimated the age at between 3,000 and 5,000 years old."
     Those archaeologists isolated an odd-shaped piece of land about 100 feet wide at its widest point. "They did a perimeter check and fenced in a no-disturb area," Doherty said. "The state gave us options of reclaiming or exhuming the area, or fencing it in. We fenced it in."
     "In the world of archaeology, sites such as these are kept secret so that they aren't damaged by amateur archaeologists looking for artifacts," Spitalere said. "I've been told by people who have worked with archaeologists that they act like a secret society and don't reveal the exact locations of important historic sites." Spitalere said Doherty did the right thing by cordoning off the area and keeping it protected for future archaeological exploration. "I hope more developers follow in his footsteps by keeping Native American sites protected," Spitalere said.

Source: The Eagle-Tribune (22 February 2007)

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