After Hours Archaeology Tour for Pine Hawk Friends

October 23, 2023

On Sunday, October 15, seven Friends of Pine Hawk members traveled to the Robbins Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology in Middleborough, home of the Massachusetts Archaeological Society and a collection of 200,000+ cultural items. This after-hours tour of the museum was led by Greg Lott and Judi Macioci. Lott, a carpenter by profession, has a strong vocational interest in archaeology and has worked as a field tech on digs; similarly, Macioci is a teacher, but has worked on about 10 digs. 

a group of people views an exibit
Friends of Pine Hawk Members listen to guide Greg Lott in the Walk Through Time exhibit at the Robbins Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology in Middleborough. photo by Alissa Nicol

The museum is named for Maurice “Doc” Robbins, the first State Archaeologist of Massachusetts. Lott explained that Robbins is credited with establishing the discipline of archaeology, elevating it from a hobby practiced by amateurs and enthusiasts to a profession. The Massachusetts Archaeological Society was established in 1939 in Attleboro; in 1988, it moved to an office building donated by Reed Sand and Gravel in Middleborough. 

Most of the display cases in the museum featured animal tusks, teeth and bones, and Native artifacts from the periods before European contact: the Paleo, Early, Middle and Late Archaic, and Woodland periods. The Paleo began when the glaciers that once covered the North American continent began to retreat about 12,000 years ago, and is the period when humans first appear in the archaeological record here. These early humans were following game, such as herds of caribou. A mammoth tusk and mastadon tooth were on display. 

The Early, Middle and Late Archaic (9,000 – 2,700 years ago) cases featured numerous knapped and ground stone tools: points, axe and hammer heads, fishing plummets, bowls, pipes, and atlatl weights. The Woodland (2,700 – 500 years ago) objects included clay pots, tempered with sand, bone, or crushed quartz, decorated, and fired, as well as fishing net weights. In the cases holding objects made after European contact about 500 years ago, clay pipes, brass points and shell beads could be seen among the objects on display. 

One room in the museum was dedicated to a large Middleborough site, Wapanucket. This large site was the location of a Late Archaic village at the southern end of Taunton Glacial Lake. Archaeologists found post molds from the shelters in the 1/4 mile long village. The wooden posts supporting dwellings of various sizes, as well as drying racks for hides and fish, had been sharpened and stuck in the ground. Although the plant material used for constructing these dwellings and racks has long since decomposed, the darkened earth remains and the location of each post mold was mapped to show the outlines of the village dwellings. At this site, an incendiary pit, used in the cremation of the dead, was also discovered. A large diorama of the village, originally in the Peabody Essex Museum is an impressive exhibit centerpiece.

For more information about the remaining lineup of fall programs that commemorate Archaeology Month, visit the Friends of Pine Hawk website. For more information about the Robbins Museum, open only on Saturdays, visit Robbins Museum. The museum’s entrance, exhibits and restrooms are accessible.


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