The Turner Farm archaeological site is one of the oldest surviving sites on the Atlantic coast. It was excavated between 1971 and 1980 by teams led by Bruce J. Bourque. The archaeologists found that the site had been occupied during several different periods beginning over 6000 years ago.

The site is a shell midden, meaning that it is an accumulation of village debris, much of it clam shell. The shells neutralize acids in the soil allowing animal bone to be preserved. This bone tells archaeologists what animals were important to the site’s inhabitants. The shell built up quickly so that the remains of each occupation formed a separate layer overlying the deposits left by earlier occupants. The midden also contains artifacts of bone and stone as well as fragments of pottery. Larger features found in the midden include house floors and fire hearths.

One of the most important occupations of the site occurred around 5000 years ago, when a village of the so-called Red Paint people was established. This was a swordfish hunting culture, the earliest in the entire world. Archaeologists found the remains of many swordfish in the midden, along with the tools used to hunt them. Other animals important to the site’s occupants include cod, moose, deer, bear and beaver.

Written By Bruce Bourque