UNE students dig up the past in Biddeford Pool: Archeological excavation unearths artifacts from native inhabitants

Prehistoric ceramic fragment excavated by UNE students
Prehistoric ceramic fragment excavated by UNE students

June 13, 2017

A group of UNE undergraduates are literally seeing what they can dig up this summer. Students in the summer session of the Archaeological Field Methods in New England Prehistory course began excavating a native habitation site on the UNE campus on June 5, and the digging will continue throughout the rest of the week.

The site, located by Freddy Beach at the mouth of the Saco River, was occupied by the Almouchiquois people at the time it was visited by French explorer Samuel de Champlain in 1605. But according to Arthur Anderson, Ph.D., visiting assistant lecturer in UNE’s Department of Society, Culture, and Languages, who is supervising the excavation, previous digs show evidence of occupation dating back thousands of years.

Thus far, the dig team has unearthed stone tool fragments, ceramics, and food remains in the forms of shells and animal bones, which the team can send out for carbon dating tests to determine age.

This is not the first excavation the site has seen. Records indicate that some small excavations took place in the 1950s and 60s. Furthermore, digging prior to construction of UNE’s Arthur P. Girard Marine Science Center in the early 2000s produced other artifacts, which have been housed at the Abbe Museum in Bar Harbor. Anderson said that plans are underway to transfer those objects back to UNE where they, along with the artifacts from the current dig, will be housed in the university’s Special Collections.

Keeping the items all in one place and available for study near the site is important, said Anderson. “We’re extremely lucky to have this important archaeological site, which UNE has been such a good steward of over the years, right on campus. It’s a great resource for finding out more about prehistoric people and environments here in Saco Bay, and a great chance for our students to get real life experience with archaeology.”

An open house will be held onsite at the excavation on Wednesday, June 14, from 4 to 6 p.m. 

Read the news in the Portland Press Herald

Read the news in the Journal Tribune

Watch the excavation on Facebook Live

Watch a video about the excavation project

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