Summer sessions to explore ancient times in the South Coast


What forces of nature shaped the South Coast of Massachusetts and adjacent Rhode Island over the past 15,000 years? Who inhabited this region during that time and how did those inhabitants co-exist with and adapt to the changing environment?

An opportunity to explore these questions will be provided at six free public events in the latter half of July and early August.

Three Thursday evening sessions on July 18, 25 and August 1 will focus on the geological and climatic changes, the human residents and their changing lifestyles over the period of some 12,000 to 15,000 years. These sessions will be followed by three Saturday afternoon family-oriented sessions that will provide hands-on opportunities to explore the same topics from a different perspective. All but the last event will take place at the recently restored Stone Barn on the Allens Pond Wildlife Sanctuary at 786 East Horseneck Road in Dartmouth. The last event will be at the Lloyd Center for the Environment at 430 Potomska Road in Dartmouth.

These events are co-sponsored by the Massachusetts Audubon Society and its Allens Pond Wildlife Sanctuary, the Westport Historical Society, the Old Dartmouth Historical Society and the Lloyd Center for the Environment.

The principal presenters will include Paige Newby, Ph.D., senior research scientist, Department of Geological Science, Brown University; Professor Curtiss Hoffman, Bridgewater State University and Massachusetts Archaeological Society/Robbins Museum; and Alan Leveillee, senior archaeologist, Public Archaeological Laboratory, Rhode Island. The programs are supported in part by the Westport Cultural Council through a grant from the Helen E. Ellis Charitable Trust administered by Bank of America.

Ms. Newby is a leading authority on palynology, or pollen analysis, that uses core sampling of sediments taken from wetlands to reconstruct vegetation and climatic changes over time. She will be using recent core samples from various points along the South Coast and specifically the Allens Pond area to trace the dynamic record of landscape changes prompted by geological, climatological and human-associated changes. Her talk will be at 7 p.m. on July 18.

Mr. Hoffman has written about the Native American inhabitants of the Northeast. He will be discussing that  history and reporting on some of the recent archaeological work in this area at 7 p.m. on July 25.

Mr. Leveillee's research has focused on Native American culture, stone tool technology, and coastal adaptation, particularly the study of the ecological archaeology of greater Narragansett Bay throughout the Woodland Period. His talk will be at 7 p.m. on August 1.

The three Saturday afternoon sessions - July 20, 27 and August 3 from 1- 4 p.m. are meant to engage younger participants.

The first session, at the Stone Barn, will be led by Dr. Newby and Gina Purtell, the Allens Pond Sanctuary director, and will provide an opportunity to examine microscopic pollen samples from Allens Pond core samples and explore how natural forces such as climate and storms shape landscapes and living organisms such as bees affect plant communities.

The second Saturday session at Stone Barn will be led by archaeologists from the Massachusetts Archaeological Society/Robbins Museum and will demonstrate aspects of Native American life in this region in the pre-historical period.

The third Saturday session at the Lloyd Center for the Environment, will be led by members of the Lloyd Center staff and by Patricia Sheppard, former education director at the Lloyd Center. They will guide walks and visit archaeological worksites. Native American artifacts recovered from those digs will be on display, and participants will be able to replicate the original digs as well as learn about native plants, lifestyle.

Although pre-registration is not required, it would be helpful for anticipating expected attendance if those planning to attend any or all sessions would contact the Allens Pond Sanctuary Office at 508-636-2437 or by email to:  <>. Further information on the programs can also be obtained by calling that number or sending an email.



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A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.