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Are you NH's Indiana Jones?

Union Leader Correspondent

May 30. 2012 11:07PM
The state is gearing up for another archaeology field school in Jefferson this summer excavating 12,000-year-old camp sites. (Courtesy NH Division of Historical Resources)

JEFFERSON - If you've ever had an itching to be part of an archaeological dig, the New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources has an opportunity for you.

Its State Conservation and Rescue Archaeology Program (SCRAP) plans to operate a field school this summer at a recently discovered 12,000-year-old Paleoindian site in Jefferson.

'It's an opportunity to learn about the earliest period of habitation in this state and that's really a rare opportunity. And it's a real taste of archaeology,' said Dr. Richard A. Boisvert, state archaeologist, who has been directing the summer field school since 1983.

Participants in the field school receive hands-on instruction and learn fundamental recovery and documentation techniques as well as basic artifact identification and field laboratory methods.

Participants are essentially volunteers, though graduate or undergraduate credit is available through Plymouth State University.

Three two-week sessions are being offered. Each includes university-level instruction, Boisvert said, including background readings, evening lectures by various scholars and field trips to other nearby Paleoindian sites.

Volunteers receive the same instruction as credit students.

Those who successfully complete the fieldwork are to receive certification as an excavation technician from SCRAP.

Boisvert said the Jefferson site was discovered during a field investigation in the summer of 2010.

'What we found at this site is the remains of what looks like two separate encampments,' he said.

'It looks like hunters may have been camping and watching game. It has a good view of the (Israel River) valley for hunting purposes.'

Those hunters would likely have migrated to New Hampshire from the Great Lakes region and mid-Atlantic areas of the United States, and were likely the first inhabitants of the region after the Ice Age.

'It's a time that was not long after the retreat of the glacier. Still a very, very cold environment. Much colder than we see today,' Boisvert said. 'It's a very important site and a real contribution to our understanding of New Hampshire's past.'

Boisvert said he expects the most likely finds will be shavings left from the making or sharpening of spears and other tools.

The project can be an enriching experience for those who are considering archaeology as a career or for those who have always wanted to go on a dig, he said.

Archaeology takes patience, perseverance and self-discipline, he said. Then again, 'It's just luck sometimes,' Boisvert said. 'We have an awful lot of hard tedious work that goes into archaeology. The discoveries are out there, but they are not everyday events.'

There is no fee to participate as a volunteer; however, a $35 donation to defray the cost of supplies and instructional materials is suggested.

The field school will take place in three, two-week sessions: June 24 to July 6, July 8 to July 20 and July 22 to August 3. Fieldwork is scheduled from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays.

Advance registration is required and the sessions are filling up fast, Boisvert said.

For more information and to register online go to and click on 'SCRAP Field School 2012.'

You can also contact the N.H. Division of Historical Resources by phone at (603) 271-6433.

New Hampshire's Division of Historical Resources, the 'State Historic Preservation Office,' was established in 1974. You can learn more about their work at or by calling (603) 271-3483.

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