After you learn how to identify prehistoric Native American artifacts, there are many places to see them locally. The following list was assembled exclusively for SeacoastNH.com readers. If you discover more local displays or collections accessible to visitors, click Talk With Us and pass along the details.
Precious few prehistoric items from Seacoast, NH have been found and scientifically studied. Artifacts unearthed in Seabrook in the mid-1970s, the best known prehistoric dig in the region, produced a carbon date of 4,000 years BP (Before Present). Due to the cost of analyzing and displaying collections like this, most of the Seabrook artifacts remain in storage two decades later.
Archeologists focus their study of ancient Indians mostly on stone tools and weapons because they are the items that have survived to this time. Bones from fish, birds and mammals and, in the Seacoast, piles of shellfish shells (called "middens") also give valuable details about diet, food gathering and lifestyles of early Native Americans. In some coastal sites, researchers have also discovered the wooden posts of fishing weirs, long nets strung across rivers to catch fish. (A reconstructed weir can be seen in Newmarket at the Lamprey River Landing.). Early Seacoast Indians also fashioned clay storage pots. In this area, metal items, when found, denote artifacts used after contact with Europeans.
SEACOAST NH AREA
Durham Historical Association
Durham NH (603) 868-5436
Small stone tools mostly from dig in Woodman garrison area in Durham. Limited hours.
Exeter Historical Society
Exeter, NH (603) 778-2335
Stone pestles possibly used for grinding corn. Limited hours.
Phillips Exeter Academy, Anthropology Dept
Exeter, NH (603) 772-4311
The display is in a classroom on campus and can be seen during open school hours by calling Don Foster in advance. Hallway display in basement of Academy building. Includes wide variety of prehistoric stone tool types. Phillips Exeter is among the key sites in the state since most collections from the NH Archeological Society are stored there. Some are catalogued and available to professional researchers.
Portsmouth Public Library
Portsmouth, NH (603) 427-1540
Recently rediscovered collection of arrowheads donated in 1896 sewn into seven hand-made leather packets. Includes over 100 stone points labeled from Tennessee, Oregon, Idaho, Washington State. Many obsidian and agate points.
Portsmouth, NH (603) 431-2538
Three small donations made to this private library in the 1820s include three axes, two pestles, a gouge, groundstone and steatite bowl -- all from the NH Lakes Region. Also colonial reed quivers with feathers and a leather wall hanging collected in Michigan. Open to the public Tue/Thu/Sat afternoons. Some stone items on display.
Seacoast Science Center
Rye, NH (603) 436-8043
Currently no artifacts, but "Footprints in Time" display places Indian occupation at Odiorne in historical context.
Strawbery Banke Museum
Portsmouth, NH (603) 433-1100
A projectile point and gouge can be seen in the Jones House archeology lab on request. Strength is, instead, in colonial artifacts. Open year round.
Hampton, NH (603) 929-0781
Stored items include (dates not known) arrow heads and chips of tools from the Edgerly property in Hampton Falls, fishing weights, scrapers, grinder, hot stones. Also a late 1800s example of seagrass baskets woven by indians from Old Town, Maine who once summered in the region. Limited hours.
Dover, NH (603) 742-1038
This is the largest display in the region. A number of glass cases show a wide variety of arrowheads and tools, including a large mortar and pestle.
Many are attributed to the region, including finds in Dover, Kittery and Portsmouth. Other collections are from the American Plains and other sites with more than 200 items overall. Items can be seen during limited museum hours.
Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth
Hanover, NH (603) 646-2808
Large collection of Native American artifacts on display. Collection is especially strong in cultures from New Hampshire, the Northeast and the Southwest.
Wolfeboro, NH (summer only)
Collection began in 1912 recently analyzed by state archeologist, includes chronological display of 35 Abnaki artifacts from prehistoric to contact eras.
Manchester Historical Assoc
Manchester, NH (603) 622-7531
Native American collection started in 1896 includes items from 48 donors. Includes largely paleo-Indian lithics and pottery from the Merrimack Valley area. Call ahead to view collections.
NH Historical Society
Concord, NH (603) 226-3189
Now in its newly constructed museum site, the collection includes many artifacts and Native Amercan materials featuring a full-sized reproduction of a birch bark canoe.
IN NEARBY MAINE &
Bar Harbor, Maine (207) 288-3519
Maine Indian history, "experience archeological dig" exhibit. contemporary birch bark wigwam. A major repository for Maine Native American collections.
Amesbury, MA (508) 388-4528
Home of prized artifact found in Seabrook before 1873. The stone plummet, used possibly as a weight for fishing line, is carved in the shape of a whale and may be 4,000 year old.
Center for Maine History
Portland, ME (207) 879-0427
Now in its new site, the Maine Historical Society has artifacts in the Gallery and Native American information in their library. Now housed in new building. Call for information on current displays and access to collection.
University of Maine, Orono (207) 581-1901
Traditional and contemporary cultures from around the world.
Maine State Museum
Augusta, Maine (207) 287-2301
"12,000 Year in Maine" walk through exhibit begins with display of hunter-gatherer foods and stone implements. Large mural depicts tundra hunt and display shows incidence of European contact and trading. Free and open 7 days/week.
Olde York Historical Society
York, Maine (207) 363-4974
Museum is in Old Gaol building among campus of historic houses. Other Native American artifacts may be seen on request.
Peabody Essex Museum
Salem, MA (800) 745-4054
Currently showing exhibit of 19th century Native American artifacts combined with contemporary NA artists. "Gift of the Spirit" runs to May 1997.
Web Address: www.pem.org
Peabody Museum of
Archeology and Ethnology, Harvard
Cambridge. MA (617) 495-2248
Founded in 1866. museum is dedicated to archeology and ethnology. Current exhibit on first floor is devoted to Native Americans of North America. Admission.
Web Address: www.fas.harvard.edu/~peabody
Robert S. Peabody Museum of Archeology
Andover, MA (508) 749-4490
Among the largest repositories for Native American artifacts in the nation. Houses up to 750,000 items largely from New World area. Collections from 11,500
years old. Founded in 1901 on campus of Phillips Andover Academy. An exhibit based on exciting new research on Northeastern Paleo-Indians opens in Spring 1997.
Web Address: www.andover.edu/rspeabodymuseum
Compiled by J. Dennis Robinson with thanks to Brian Robinson, the NH Archeological Society and the organizations mentioned.
©1997, 1998, 1999 SeacoastNH.com. All rights reserved.
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