Limits of History

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Joined: 10/26/2007 - 5:27am
Limits of History

Everyone has a history. A birth certificate proves my existence since 4/7/1951. My town of Lovell, Maine was incorporated in 1800. Some settlers prior to 1800 kept diaries. Indians lived here but they didn’t record much. European colonists wrote of who and what they saw when they arrived but not until about four hundred years ago in these parts. Darby Field came through Fryeburg in 1642 and described Pequawket (or Pigwacket) — the Indian village existing there at the time. Everything before then is prehistoric by definition. Earliest human records anywhere go back only five thousand years. We consult archaeologists for anything earlier.

They tell us people have been around here for about eleven thousand years, maybe longer. No artifacts that old have been found in Lovell or Fryeburg yet but probably will be someday. To the west, a beautiful spearpoint from that era was picked up near the scenic overlook in Intervale, NH around 1888. To the east artifacts approximately that old were discovered near the Lewiston/Auburn airport in the 1980s. To the north, even older artifacts were discovered near Lake Aziscohos in Maine, and to the south near the Ossipee River in NH.

The only professional archaeological dig so far conducted in Fryeburg was six-day effort in July, 2009 by Arthur Spiess and his team from the Maine Historic Preservation Commission. Results of that have not yet been published, but the site is thought to be from what’s called the Woodland Period. That goes back only three thousand years at most, and what was found is probably younger than that. It was only two miles from my house as the crow flies and some of my students participated.

Amateurs have collected artifacts in the Fryeburg area over the years including Eve Barbour, Benjamin Newman, John Gray, and others. The queen of them all, however, was the late Helen Leadbeater of Fryeburg Village. Her studies and explorations seem to have been her principal occupation for over twenty years from the 1950s to the 1970s. When I retired from teaching in 2011, Helen’s son, Arizona Zipper, gave me access to both her artifacts and her records. With the assistance of Fryeburg’s Diana Bell, I spent three weeks photographing her extensive collection while Diana scanned her maps, notes, and journals.

Helen not only collected, she read everything available on Indians in Maine and New Hampshire, especially those along the Saco River. If she heard about a find, she chased it down and either verified it or debunked it. She got permission from private landowners to explore their property. She kept extensive notes and drew very good maps. Many of her thousands of artifacts are individually labelled and she sketched them as well.

The rest is here.

Last seen: 2 months 6 days ago
Joined: 10/08/2008 - 7:59pm
Great article Tom. We need

Great article Tom. We need some more amateur archaeologists to come excavate the Weirs Beach Drive-In in Laconia, NH.
This past fall, a multi-million dollar real estate development fell through because of the costs associated with the said topic.

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