Archaeological dig in Woolwich

Posted Wednesday, July 27, 2011 in Culture

WOOLWICH — In 1654, at the home and trading post of Thomas Ashley on what is now Thwings Point, a group of settlers signed papers forming the first European-style government in the Merrymeeting Bay region.

Next month, from Aug. 8-15, volunteers may take part in a dig at the site, described as possibly the most significant un-excavated historic archaeological site in Maine.

Friends of Merrymeeting Bay (FOMB) and the Maine Historical Preservation Commission (MHPC) will jointly conduct a Phase 2 archaeological survey of the site along the Kennebec River.

A Phase 1 survey is the initial archaeological exploration of a new site. The purpose is to quickly cover a large area in a methodical manner. Small test pits are dug, soil stratigraphy and any artifacts found are recorded, and the pits are back-filled. This was done in 2007 by FOMB volunteers and MHPC staff. Results from the Phase 1 survey indicated more complete excavations were desirable, so in 2009 a Phase 2 survey focused on an area of artifact concentration.

This year's dig will continue homing in on the original building site. Leading the dig will be retired MHPC archaeologist Lee Cranmer.

Friends of Merrymeeting Bay invites volunteers to assist with the project. Volunteers are required to pre-register. A minimum time commitment of a half a day is required, though multi-day assistance is encouraged, space permitting.

Donations to FOMB are encouraged to help defray the $3,500 cost of the project. Donations of at least $50 from non-FOMB members will include a one-year membership in the organization. Any artifacts recovered remain the property of the landowner.

Volunteers will have the opportunity to work with and learn from trained archaeologists while making an important contribution to our knowledge of Maine history. There will be a maximum of three volunteers per MHPC staff person, with six volunteer slots available per half-day session. The morning time slot is 8 a.m. to noon and the afternoon slot runs 12:30-4:30, with a lunch break at noon.

Contact Dig Coordinator Sarah Cowperthwaite at 449-1450 or sarahcowperthwaite@rocketmail.com to register.

The next regularly scheduled FOMB Outside Series outing will be "Exploring the Houdlette Project," a guided tour of FOMB’s most recent land-protection project. The tour will be led by ecologist Andy Cutko and MHPC archaeologist Art Spiess.The event will take place from noon till 2 p.m. on Aug. 21. To participate, pre-register with Cutko at 666-3162.  

Also on Aug. 21, a concert call Wetlands Jam — Voice of the Wetlands Tour will take place at Thomas Point Beach in Brunswick from 1-7 p.m. The concert of Cajun, rock, roots, soul and blues music will feature Tab Benoit, Michael Doucet, Christine Ohlman, Sarah & the Tall Boys and others. It will benefit Friends of Merrymeeting Bay and post-Katrina and BP oil spill wetlands conservation work in the Gulf of Mexico. Tickets are $20 in advance, $25 at the gate. Tickets may be purchased in advance from FOMB, Bull Moose & Gulf of Maine.

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