Boston from Ice-Age to Fish Weir
"And this is good old Boston,
"Boston is a famous town
Geology to 3500 BP, The Woman of the Rock, The Journey, Quincy Quarry, Boylston fishweir
"from the beginning of time, since the first day of light"
BSN (Bostonian Society Notes): Boston is a basin rimmed about by hills composed of granite rock. The basin was invaded by the sea; sediment, mud, sand and pebbles deposited. Volcanic eruptions followed and the sediment was overlaid with lava above which was another layer of sediment. This was smothered by ice sheets during the ice age, followed by centuries of erosion which have left Boston in its present form.
BSN: "The massive dignity of the New England Mutual building - the ancient fish weir in the office of Mr. George Smith, the president of the company. Barnacles of a type found only in tropical waters. Think of the implication of this! Sea shells with thickened side showing how the waters of the Merrimac once swirled through the Back Bay before the Glacier of the Ice Age forced the river into its present Channel."
"The greatest trek in history -- a reconnaissance of two great continents in something of the order of 10 centuries."
From north-east Asia, across a broad section of land (Beringia,) and entered unglaciated part of coastal Alaska. Corridor between the Laurentide and Cordilleran Ice Sheets. Came into the country east of the Rockies.
Voyage from the high plains to North-East took several centuries. Glacial melt-water-- something to float on? They raft, swim, struggle in this great rush of gray-brown water or perhaps they wait to cross the ice bridges of winter.
"Country at the end of the endless journey"
Folsom (1908) -- 10,000 years ago.
Atlatl -- javelins, especially darts propelled by atlatls. Aztec for spear-thrower. 25 yards, not much good in close cover. On the open plains represented a technical advance of tremendous significance. (Bow = 2000 years ago)
A blitzkrieg against mammoths -- It is entirely possible that hunters gave the coup de gráce to big animals already weakened by deterioration of habitat. Tens of millions of animals disappeared as the Holocene arrived. -- In the NE, the dearth of skeletons is explained by acidity of the soils.
"In New England the Ice Lip of 18,000 years ago lay along a line running up the spine of Long Island and over Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket. The Nantucket Shoals and George's Bank were capes or islands. Water ran out on the flats of the exposed continental shelf. Cut slots where the shelf steepened into slope, and shot into the North Atlantic"
"Ice wall" -- During the first stage of the last ice period this ice-sheet was over two thousand feet thick in eastern Massachusetts, and its front lay in the sea at least fifty miles to the east of Boston. At this time the glacial border stretched from New York to the far north in an ice-wall that lay far to the eastward of the present shore, hiding all traces of the land beneath its mass.
By 13,500 years ago the lid of ice over New England was gone from Connecticut and from western Massachusetts hills. Over next 1500 years the margin had crossed to the northern edge of the St. Lawrence Valley. By 7,000 years ago, similar to what we know today -- 5,000 BC.
By beginning of the Holocene, roughly half of the ice sheets had melted. Meltwater and slowly rising ocean temperatures contributed to a general rise in the sea level -- to about 90 feet below present levels on the Atlantic coast.
Late Pleistocene. Woodlands of the East: Giant beavers -- 350 pounds -- acted more like muskrat than beaver. No evidence of woodworking -- Sloths the size of a good Jersey bull. Saber tooth cats. Smilidon. Smaller scimitar cats. Hunted peccaries etc. Bears.
Native Americans first arrived in Boston area 11,000 years ago following Ice Age.
At that time Boston harbor wasn't a harbor but open land. What we call Spectacle Island was a low hill. Paleo-Indians may have used the hill to watch herds of caribou which they hunted.
10,000 years ago, all of Boston was dry land and its islands were grass and spruce covered hills.
It wasn't until 2000 years ago that the shoreline around Spectacle Island reached its modern position. This is when the campsite was established. Beginning about 1400 years ago, the midden began to pile up and grew over the next 1000 years until native Americans stopped coming to the site around 1600 AD.
Spectacle Isle -- cod? Offshore but in late fall come closer to coast to spawn x cod bone
First people looked much like native Americans who watched the first Europeans land: "lithe, well-muscled with a skin that tanned easily. Dark-eyed with dark or thick-stranded hair on their heads and not much elsewhere."
(Europe: Modern Europeans out-competed Neanderthals.)
Hunter-gatherer societies are egalitarian, fluid but stable. They disdain the dependent person and the braggart. They are not strangers to violence but fear it as a threat not only to themselves but to their way of life: it is not wise to stalk an animal while being stalked by an enemy. Groups may go so far as to ambush and kill a member who is constantly flying off the handle. Sharing is essential in a life where luck on the hunt is never ubiquitous or enduring. Apportionment also minimizes accumulations that might otherwise slow down a ranging band. Elders might have been men and women over 40 -- exercise some influence but in general decisions are made tacitly. Affection keeps couples, familiars and groups together. Lack of it results in people leaving to join other bands or form new ones. Abandonment is greatly feared as a punishment, yet the hunter who has broken an ankle, the woman irreparably injured in childbirth, and the arthritic godfather expect to be abandoned. The need to retain mobility is paramount.
Foraging societies tend to be open societies. Living an ethic of independence, focusing on one another but not bonding. Anxieties and uncertainties stress those lives like they stress ours but releases are at hand. Friends are there to hear grievances and break up quarrels. Shamans are there to intercede and to extend the powers of trance and vision.
North East -- Rise of deciduous forests shaped new association of animals. Oaks, hickories and other trees sent seasonal showers of nuts and other rich foods to lie as mast on the forest floor. Browsers moved in to feed, led in numbers and adaptability by the deer. Deer spread through these forests and elk fed in the glades and along the edges. Turkey clucked and ratcheted, and grouse made that eerie drumming that is more often felt than heard. They were part of an army of wild animals and wild plants that nurtured a way of life, perhaps the most sustainable that humans have developed so far, generally called the Archaic in North America and the Mesolithic in Eurasia. In eastern US, the archaic flourished from 10,000 to 3,000 years ago.
A hungry woman could collect rabbits or possums or squirrels or birds in nets and snares, by herself or as part of a group, and collect berries, nuts, tubers and greens. A hungry man, more often assigned by the culture to go after larger animals could take beasts in their winter dens. He could join with other hunters to locate gatherings of elk by their distinctive smells if the wind was right. Best of all, he could follow the whitetail deer.
NY State Museum: "a bull elk drinks from a small stream. His head is up. He crouches, sensing but not seeing a hunter with his throwing arm cocked, his dart aimed just below the rib cage."
Deer: brain went to process hides, rawhide went to make bindings or glue. Tanned hide became clothing pouches and containers of all sorts. Antlers were worked into points for weapons, into knapping tools, decorations, fishhooks, needles. Bones became scrapers, musical instruments, gaming pieces. Hooves made rattles and glue. All this after the meat had been cut away, muscle by muscle, dried, smoked, ground, mixed with fat, berries or nuts. Or eaten boiled, broiled or raw, sometimes several pounds at a sitting.
A native deer would dress out at 100 pounds, a moose at 800. Lip of a moose was a special delicacy; beaver's tail a luxury. Hunting ground or deer pasture at a distance, which was kept open, its herbage kept succulent by seasonal fires. There the large animals might eat their fill or browse; berries in simmer and fall.
Late fall/late winter = hunting parties. Long, often bone-chilling days of hunting
Nutting center: Hickory -- smack it and throw it into water with hot rocks from fire, the shell bits sink to the bottom, the meats and oils float. Scoop them out and work to right consistency -- hickory butter
Fishing: Stranded whales were a great gift
BSN: Fish weir
Area of stakes includes region between Boylston St. and Newbury St, Clarendon and Arlington St.
Fish weir ( 1913 during the construction of Boylston street Subway through Back Bay district) 65000 stakes x two acres x 650 days x 100 a day to cut and trim
In building the weir the aborigines drove stakes vertically into the bottom of ancient Back Bay and laid brush, here called wattling, horizontally among them. 1) four to eight stakes in a group which occupied about one square foot 2) multitude of single stakes. -- estimated 65,000 stakes x minimum of one per square foot-- the actual number of only passing interest, the point being that the stakes were in sufficient numbers to indicate the presence of a structure of incredible size and proportions
More recent studies indicate no single weir of massive size but smaller traps renewed/rebuilt/repositioned season after season.
Lutin: recent investigations seem to suggest that these stakes constituted numerous small weirs built over many centuries -- Dincauze
Paleo-Indian (ca. 11,000 - 9000 BP); Early (9000 - 8000 BP), Middle (8000 - 6000 BP) and Late (6000 - 3000 BP) Archaic; Early (3000 - 2000 BP), Middle (2000 - 1000 BP) and Late (1000 - 400 BP) Woodland; and Contact (400 - 200 BP).
(Quincy Quarry) "They found outcroppings of stones that the best of them could work to perfection. They quarried and reduced it to shapes and weights easy to carry. It is possible they traded some of the stone always looking for the flawless and often the beautiful."
Fluted points -- "the afternoon light shone through the flutes"
Pets: Baby wolves and bears and raccoons, even moose but pets often ended up in pot.
Little Ice Age of Northeast -- early 15th century
"Cloud-splitter" -- skilled archer or javelin thrower
"ancient and alien ones" (Navajo)
"societies of the time built their communities to a certain density and left them when dwindling rainfall or fishing resources or cultural pressures declined. The survivors lived more simply for a time and, where and when they could, started over."
Ron la France, Mohawk: "People are visual and oral. You show me something. I will remember. That's a discipline that's been passed on. Our people have to know our complete relationship to our environment. Spiritual, psychic, material, human. If we have no sense of that, we have no sense of place." Umbilical cord -- la France knows exactly where his is. He knows precisely where his body will go when he dies. Where his spirit will go.
New Hampshire's Prehistoric Settlement and Chronology by Virginia Bunker: