Neville archaeological site
The first occupants arrived during the Middle Archaic (around 8000 years Before Present (BP)) and left around 5900 BP. However, people had been visiting the site for more than 8,000 years. The first occupation, termed the Neville Complex, houses the remains of the "Neville" stemmed points. These were "bifacial projectile points with carefully shaped tips and symmetrical bodies." Neville points are believed to be a variant of the Stanly stemmed points and are found from Maine to Connecticut. These points were made between 7800 BP and 7000 BP. Before 7000 BP, a new projectile point form had appeared. Dena Dincauze argues that Neville is a center for spring fishing and domestic activities and not hunting and plant processing. This is evidenced by the lack of hunting and plant processing tools.
The Neville site shows that Middle Archaic people of the Northeastern United States had a relationship with cultures along the Atlantic coast and even farther to the south. Some of the Neville points and tools are related to older Archaic sites in the southeastern United States.
The Neville site is located on the east bank of the Merrimack River in Manchester, New Hampshire. The site was occupied during the Middle Archaic period from ca. 8000-5900 BP and is located close to the Amoskeag Falls, at 205 feet (62 m) above sea level. Because the river provided an almost endless supply of fish, the site's location was probably important in attracting the first foragers to camp at the site.
Discovery and name
The Neville site is named after its owner, John Neville. John Neville received the property from the Stark family. For years the site was not known to have any archaeological importance and remained unexcavated. It was not until the construction of a bridge threatened to destroy it that the New Hampshire Archaeological Society decided to take notice of the site. After surveying the site, they planned an excavation in hopes of salvaging as much as they could before it was completely demolished.
The New Hampshire Archaeological Society (NHAS) began excavating the site in 1967 with the help of a team of volunteers. The excavation of the site continued through 1967 and 1968. One of the volunteers was an archaeologist named Peter McLane who excavated much more of the Neville site than the NHAS had planned on. It was a very good thing, because the Neville site yielded a wealth of archaeological material dating well back into the Archaic period. At first McLane and his sons found only typical artifacts within the first few feet of soil. But as they proceeded to excavate further they found more artifacts. McLane chose to have one of the artifacts dated via charcoal sampling and found that it was 5,385 years old. The ancient date made this artifact one of the oldest artifacts in New England at the time that the sampling was dated. There were other artifacts found, both earlier and later, but these are believed to have been moved to the site from another location.
The excavators of the site had three goals that they wished to accomplish:
1. to demonstrate the validity of the stratigraphic sequence,3. to define the patterns of the site utilization through time.
2. to describe and date the cultural sequence at the site, and
After the excavation, McLane had planned on writing the report for all of the artifacts and data recovered. However, soon after the excavation and before the outline had been completed, he fell ill and was unable to complete the report. He then sent all of the data that had been recovered to Harvard University, requesting that Dena Dincauze finish the report. Dincauze accepted the request, even though the site had already been destroyed, and completed the report with the information she had been given.
Native North Americans have been visiting the Neville site for more than 8,000 years. The first residents arrived during the Middle Archaic period about seven thousand years ago. Dena Dincauze, who wrote the report on the site’s excavation, named the first inhabitants of the Neville site the "Neville Complex". It is likely that the first people to use this site chose the location because it was positioned conveniently next to a river that was rich in fish and a forest that contained other useful resources. Despite the fact that the site was used primarily for fishing, there were no fish bones found during the excavation. This is because the environment did not allow for their preservation. High levels of mercury in the soil, however, provides circumstantial evidence to suggest that a great deal of fishing was done at the site. Dincauze wrote that it is most likely that very little hunting or plant processing was performed at the site because "artifacts associated with such work were absent."
Since very little hunting or plant processing was performed, it is probable that the site was primarily used for fishing. Bands of people would probably camp at the site during the spring and make great use of its abundant fish resources throughout the springtime. When winter came and resources became scarce at the site they would then move on to other locations where they might be able to forage for nuts or other more available resources. The first occupants of the site made use of "Neville" stemmed points which Fagan aptly describes as "bifacial projectile points with carefully shaped tips and symmetrical bodies, clearly intended for piercing." Because of the similarities between the Neville points and the Stanly stemmed points, it is believed that the Neville point could be a variant of the Stanly type. Neville points can be found anywhere from Maine to Staten Island in New York. Neville points were made from 7800 BP to 7000 BP, when new projectile points began to appear and replace them. Besides the addition of new projectile points, the tool kit of the residents of the Neville site began to vary slightly, which might suggest a more varied range of things being done at the camp. This increased level of adaptation at the site could be evidence that the occupants began to remain there for longer periods of time, perhaps even eventually occupying the Neville site as an almost permanent camp where they remained nearly all year. Around ca. 5900 BP the site was abandoned for reasons that are not yet known. After 5900 BP it would seem as though the site was inhabited primarily by foragers and visited only intermittently.
The Neville Site was a very significant site; it offered a great deal of information on the cultural systems of the Middle Archaic period. According to Dena Dincauze, "it remains to this date the thickest series of archeological deposits known in New England."(Dincauze, p. 5) The Neville site provides evidence that natives from the Northeast had cultural relationship with other societies along the Atlantic coast.
- Fagan, Brian. 2005. Ancient North America. Thames & Hudson, Ltd: London.
- Dube, Donna (1999 ). Rescue Archaeology. 24.
- Dena Dincauze, 1976. The Neville Site, 8000 Years at Amoskeag, Manchester, New Hampshire. p. 118.
- (Dincauze, p. 5)
- Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University