Kells Pasture Site: A Native American Archaeological Site in the Connecticut River Valley

 

Gray & Pape conducted reconnaissance (Phase IA), intensive (Phase IB), and site examination (Phase II) archaeological investigations at the Kells Pasture Native American site for Eversource Energy, in support of their Section 106 compliance obligations for a proposed reconductoring project in Greenfield, Massachusetts. The site investigation required intensive archaeological excavations and geoarchaeological analyses to better understand the Kells Pasture site’s place within the history of the Connecticut River Valley and the lifeways of the Native American peoples who once visited this site.

The Kells Pasture site is located on two river terrace landforms, upon which Native American groups once lived. Some of these site occupations occurred while the terraces were still receiving new deposits of sediment from the Connecticut River. This resulted in the burial of occupations from different periods in history within the terrace landforms.

Up to five periods of Late Archaic (6000-3000 years before present) Native American occupations were identified within the buried soils on the terraces, based on artifacts found and the radiocarbon dating of organic material associated with the different occupations. Near the surface of the terraces a transition occurred from the Late Archaic to the Early Woodland cultural period (3000-2000 years before present). This occupation is in a buried soil zone (a buried A horizon soil) that underlies the historic plowzone. This plowzone also represents the historical surface of the terrace. Within the plowzone, artifacts from a Middle Woodland Native American cultural period (2000-1000 years before present) were found.

Native American lifeway activities from the Kells Pasture site are at least partially represented by cultural features preserved in the soil. These cultural features mainly indicate that heating related activities occurred at the site, perhaps related to food processing or preparation. At least one cultural feature produced a significant quantity of butternut shell, which may be an indication of the types of resources collected at the site. Since butternuts are ripe and ready for collection in the fall, it may be that the fall was the season when Native Americas were most likely to visit this site.  Other food processing artifacts, such as nutting/grinding stones, were also recovered. Given the proximity of this site to the Connecticut River, it can be assumed that Native Americans likely used aquatic resources while at this site and that the site may have been visited while traveling the river by boat. The few stone tool artifacts recovered indicate that the Native American people who visited this site either traveled long distances within the North Eastern region of the United States or had good trade relationships with neighboring Native American groups. Other sites in this area of the Connecticut River Valley from similar time periods do not exhibit the same focus on nonlocal tool stone. This is suggestive of a single group of Native Americans who occupied and reoccupied this site over much, if not all, of it is history, from the Late Archaic cultural period up to the Middle Woodland.

While the Kells Pasture site investigation sheds some light on the lives of the Native American people who once visited it, its greater value is in showing that much of the history of the people who once lived in the Connecticut River Valley may be buried and preserved far below today’s ground surface.

To learn more about the Kells Pasture site’s archaeological and geoarchaeological investigations and the place of this site in the regional study of Native American history and lifeways in New England, a presentation geared towards public education about the site can be found by following this link…

KellsPasture: Archaeological and Geoarchaeological Investigation of a Native American Site in the Connecticut River Valley