In August 2021, the Journal of Archaeology & Education’s editorial board met via Zoom to consider a policy regarding Institutional Review Board or IRB approvals for research published in the journal. The IRB originated with the passage of the National Research Act in 1974 after a series of congressional hearings on human-subjects research, but can trace its origins to research that lacked informed consent, like the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, which began in the 1930s.
The JAE board agreed that since studies involving assessment and other types of educational research would normally require at least a minimal review, we needed to have an explicit statement that alerted author’s to the need for IRB approvals prior to executing their studies. Shortly after the meeting the JAE policy website was amended to include the following guidance:
All human subjects research results published by the Journal of Archaeology and Education (JAE) must be approved by an Institutional Review Board (IRB) or an equivalent entity in the author’s country. The purpose of IRB review is to assure, both in advance and by periodic review, that appropriate steps are taken to protect the rights and welfare of people participating as subjects in your research. If you do not have an IRB affiliated with your organization, you must find a suitable IRB at a qualified university or other institution. Most universities have IRBs that will accept applications from outside their institution. Authors, especially those without an academic affiliation, could use an independent IRB, which is subject to the same federal regulations as universities. There may be fees associated with university and independent IRB reviews. The IRB protocol number assigned by your IRB must be included in the article. Manuscripts without IRB approval will not be considered for publication in JAE.
IRB policies at journals in medicine, psychology, and other fields that rely heavily on human-subjects research are usually brief. We felt, however, that the JAE policy needed to provide extra guidance as archaeologists expand their research to encompass educational studies on the effectiveness of teaching, assessment, work with students, and more. If you have questions about the JAE policy or how it might apply to your research, please contact the editors Jeanne Moe or Ryan Wheeler.
The Peabody has a long history with the Society for American Archaeology (SAA), dating back to the origins of the society in the mid-1930s. Carl Guthe, who had served as Alfred Kidder’s assistant on excavations at Pecos Pueblo, organized the society in 1934 and the first meeting was held at Phillips Academy a year later. Connections between the Peabody and SAA continued throughout the twentieth century and still exist today.
In 2020, the Peabody and the SAA partnered to create a new award honoring individuals and organizations dedicated to archaeology and education. The Robert S. Peabody Institute of Archaeology Award for Archaeology and Education recognizes excellence of individuals or institutions in using archaeological methods, theory, and/or data to enliven, enrich, and enhance other disciplines, and to foster the community of archaeology education practitioners. The Peabody Award will spotlight these contributions and promote teaching ideas, exercises, activities, and methods across the educational spectrum, from K-12 through higher education and including public education broadly conceived. Diving with a Purpose was the inaugural award winner in 2021.
I’ve had the honor of helping to create the Peabody Award as chair of the SAA’s teaching awards subcommittee, and to help launch the Binford Family Award for Teaching Critical Thinking in Archaeology, which is new this year. The Binford Family Award encourages curriculum development with a deliberate focus on teaching critical thinking and scientific reasoning skills in archaeology courses at any level, to reward individuals or institutions that develop excellent examples of such curricula, and to promote the sharing of ideas and materials relating to these efforts.
Both the Peabody and Binford awards include a $1,000 prize. Nominations are open to both members and non-members of SAA, as well as those based in the United States or internationally. The nomination deadline is December 1, 2021.
Details about each award and how to make a nomination can be found on the SAA website:
The return to in-person classes means that this fall’s Human Origins includes many of the hands-on project-based assignments that have become a hallmark of the course.
Students in Human Origins—an interdisciplinary science elective—visited with Claudia Wessner, Oliver Wendell Holmes Library Makerspace guru—who introduced the class to our hominin 3D printing project, including different 3D printing technologies, some of the ways that archaeologists use 3D printing and scanning, and Virtual Reality (VR) technology. Ms. Wessner also showed students how to use the Makerspace 3D printers for their projects.
Each project team will select a fossil hominin to 3D print in the Makerspace. Hominins are humans and their close extinct ancestors, including fossils dating back about 6 to 7 million years ago. Students will present their scaled prints, along with basic info on the fossil, during class in a few weeks. This project was inspired by the inclusion of 3D scans of Homo naledi in Morphosource, a database of 3D scans of fossils and biological specimens hosted by Duke University. Since the Homo naledi scans were made available in 2015, many additional fossil scans have been added, including other hominins.
During our September 2021 visit to the Makerspace, Ms. Wessner introduced us to Nefertari: Journey to Eternity-A Tombscale VR Experience. VR technology uses a headset interface so users can experience a virtual world, in this case an Egyptian tomb that has been scanned and recreated. We also discussed The Dawn of Art, Google’s VR version of Chauvet Cave in France, featuring some of the world’s oldest cave paintings.
In July, I start to think about the upcoming fall course Human Origins. Last year I spent most of the summer retooling the course into an online experience. I owe a lot to the advice of my spouse, who passed along many of her experiences teaching online in spring 2020. I was pleased with the result—an iterative, assignment driven course, taught exclusively online, that even managed to keep some hands on activities. In fact, I plan to keep many elements of the online course—students in the fall will use Padlet for many of their assignments, we will dedicate at least two weeks to flint knapping, and we will keep the three major themes: pseudoscience, human evolution, and race. I will continue to look for ways to decolonize the syllabus as well. Considering the frequency of new discoveries (Google “Dragon Man,” for example), the focus is more on how to think about human evolution, rather than the details. The frequent new discoveries in the field continue to challenge the two competing models of human evolution, making us wonder, maybe we really need a new theory?
I hope that we can revisit 3D printing again in the fall. Once many of the skeletal elements of Homo naledi became available on Morphosource, 3D printing became part of the course. For a few years, we visited the campus makerspace and looked at prints of Homo naledi’s more unusual features, including the hand and femur. In fall 2019, students worked in teams to 3D print their own miniature versions of fossil human skulls, learning details about each find and species as part of the assignment. Those miniature 3D prints got me thinking about earlier models and teaching tools for this subject, and my own first interests in human evolution.
My first inkling that human evolution was something to be interested in came from a mid-1970s rebroadcast of a documentary called Natural History of Our World: The Time of Man (first aired, December 14, 1969). I wanted to watch this for two reasons: 1) Richard Basehart, who played Admiral Nelson in one of my favorite TV shows, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, provided the narration, and 2) I wanted to know more about the fossils shown in the teaser ads! I think my parents were a little baffled, but they let me stay up and watch it. I don’t remember much about that show, but it included some pretty incredible shots of volcanic activity and, of course, Basehart’s distinctive voice. Not long after that, my dad brought home a set of the Time Life nature books, with the 1970 edition of Early Man right on the top (it looks like Early Man was first published in 1965, but there were many reissues). That book captivated me! Books on dinosaurs, fossils, and evolution (for someone who was a kid, or perhaps anyone, really), were in short supply in the 1970s. I still share that book with students in Human Origins, and we talk about the many errors of the “March of Progress” graphic that launched a thousand memes. For a kid in the ‘70s interested in evolution, that book—authored by a serious scientist, H. Clark Howell—was a treasure.
So imagine my delight when I found a tangible, material version of those fossil people. The discovery was in an unlikely place—the local hobby shop. I was interested in model kits, but the little metal figures of warriors, Vikings, and dragons were especially exciting. These were becoming more popular with the rise of the role playing game Dungeons & Dragons, and various alliances and licensing deals between the D&D publishers and companies like Grenadier who made these miniatures, or minis. There among the heros and monsters of D&D (think of the current TV show Stranger Things), were some old stock made by a company called Squadron Rubin. These were figures of all the fossil humans found in the pages of the Time Life Early Man book, and the color cards even referenced the book! Some Googling indicates that artist, sculptor, and businessperson Raymond Rubin was behind these figures. The main figures made by Squadron Rubin were of historical soldiers, spanning the Picts to Vietnam and every period in between. The idea was that you could buy these, glue as necessary, and paint following the color chart provided, building up your army. Eventually Rubin collaborated with others to launch Grenadier, the company that dominated the metal miniature business for a while. I wish I knew more of the story behind how the world of metal miniatures intersected with human evolution, but I was happy that it had!
The Squadron Rubin fossil people are 1:32 scale, so most are around or just under 2 inches tall. And, they aren’t frenzied savages like the “cavemen” depicted by Frank Frazetta or other artists around the same time. The artistic recreations in the Early Man book supplied the inspiration, and the figures are usually just posing, often in male-female pairs. I’ve managed to locate examples of Squadron Rubin Neanderthals, Australopithecines, and Cro-Magnon people, and I suspect there were other species depicted as well. Occasionally, they turn up on eBay.
The Squadron Rubin figures, along with the many other depictions of fossil humans in popular writing, TV ads, comic books, movies, artwork, and sculptures give us a glimpse into thinking about human evolution and fossil people through time. I often ask the Human Origins students to find and research examples of how fossil humans were depicted in popular culture. Are the treatments sympathetic, savage, sexualized, or something else? Often this has to do with ideas about how closely modern humans are linked to these ancient people. The recognition of genetic connections between modern humans and Neanderthals in 2011 marked one shift in our relationship to “cavemen.” Once we understood there was a connection between us and them, depictions of ancient people began to shift, becoming more sympathetic and sensitive to our ancestors. But, it depends a lot on the artist, medium, and specific circumstances.
May 2021 saw the publication of special issue “Perspectives on Teaching, Learning, and Doing Archaeology and Anthropology Online” in the Journal of Archaeology and Education. Nine timely articles address the big picture and specific case studies in teaching archaeology and anthropology online—something that many of us have gained new experience in during the pandemic. And, while most institutions are looking to a return to in-person teaching, these articles, organized by David Pacifico and Rebecca Robertson, and based on the 2018 American Anthropological Association roundtable session “Teaching and Learning Anthropology Online,” make the case that teaching archaeology and anthropology online is not only possible, but can be done well and comes with some benefits. For example, Russ Bernard makes the case in his article that “online education is the only way to scale up training in statistics and research methods for both graduate students and undergraduate students of anthropology,” helping to forge more and better connections between our academic departments and employment. Michael Wesch, in his contribution, describes anth101.com, an online course that “is organized around 10 big lessons that attempt to help students embody the ‘ethos’ of anthropology, including … the ability to ask big questions, try new things, see patterns, see the big picture, see the little things that matter, and overcome fear, hate, and ignorance to empathize with others and understand cultural differences.” Check out this great special issue and all it has to offer at JAE today! And, many thanks to JAE editor Jeanne Moe and JAE guest editor Katie Kirakosian for their work on the special issue, and to the authors for sharing their work in JAE!
The Journal of Archaeology and Education is a peer-reviewed, open-access journal dedicated to disseminating research and sharing practices in archaeological education at all levels. We welcome submissions dealing with education in its widest sense, both in and out of the classroom—from early childhood through the graduate level—including public outreach from museums and other institutions, as well as professional development for the anthropologist and archaeologist. The journal’s founders recognize the significant role that archaeology can play in education at all levels and intend for The Journal of Archaeology and Education to provide a home for the growing community of practitioners and scholars interested in sharing their first-hand experiences and research.
JAE was founded at the Robert S. Peabody Institute of Archaeology, where archaeology is used to support high school curricula at Phillips Academy, and is hosted at the University of Maine’s Digital Commons website.
What is now called Andover, North Andover, and parts of Lawrence, Massachusetts were once Cochichawick. This is the Indigenous name for the place where many of us work and live. The name persists in Lake Cochichewick in North Andover, Essex County’s largest lake. Indigenous leader Cutshamache transferred the land to English colonists, not through a deed, but rather in an agreement ultimately attested before the General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony:
At a General Court, at Boston 6th of the 3rd m, 1646 (in the Gregorian calendar, May 16, 1646)
Cutshamache, sagamore of the Massachusets, came into the Court, and acknowledged that for the sum of 6 pounds & a coat, which he had already received, he had sold to Mr. John Woodbridge, in behalf of the inhabitants of Cochichawick, now called Andover, all his right, interest, and privilege in the land six miles southward from the town, two miles eastward to Rowley bounds, be the same more or less, northward to Merrimack River, provided that the Indian called Roger & his company may have liberty to take alewifes in Cochichawick River, for their own eating; but if they either spoil or steal any corn or other fruit, to any considerable value, of the inhabitants there, this liberty of taking fish shall forever cease; and the said Roger is still to enjoy four acres of ground where now he plants. This purchase the Court allows of, and have granted the said land to belong to the said plantation forever, to be ordered and disposed of by them, reserving liberty to the Court to lay two miles square of their southerly bounds to any town or village that hereafter may be erected thereabouts, if so they see cause.
Cutshamache acknowledged this before the magistrates, and so the Court approved thereof, and of the rest in this bill to be recorded, so as it prejudice no former grant.
The story and its protagonist feature prominently in Andover’s 1895 town seal, where we see Cutshamache holding the coat, part of his payment for the land. Cutshamache appears frequently in the seventeenth century records of the English colony in Massachusetts, ranging from his involvement in the Pequot War to skepticism about missionary John Eliot’s preaching (see Drake 1856). Frank Speck (1928:141), in his discussion of the Punkapog Band of Massachusett, mentions that “the name and pronunciation of Kitchamakin or Cutshamekin are still remembered.” For us, his involvement in selling a large portion of Andover, North Andover, and Lawrence to John Woodbridge sometime in the early 1640s is of greatest interest. Local histories, in books, articles, and now online, frequently repeat the story, and tweak it to fit whatever narrative is being told. In some cases, the currency is converted into modern dollars (a pretty complicated exercise), and in other variants, Cutshamache is described as a Pennacook leader (see the Wikipedia entry for the Town of Andover). The latter makes sense, since the Pennacook, helmed by their leader Passaconaway, are associated with the area around Andover. However, Cutshamache does not appear to have been Pennacook, but was rather a Massachusett leader who lived in what is now Dorchester. The General Court statement clearly identifies him as such. But, this is puzzling, since Dorchester is pretty far from Andover. So what’s going on?
Many authors suggest a family connection between Passaconaway and Cutshamache, possibly based on Sidney Perley’s assertion (1912:35), though I have found no primary sources to support this and this suggested link may just be a way to help explain Cutshamache’s involvement in the sale of the Andover lands. Passaconaway does seem to have created alliances through marriage that crosscut ethnicity and relied more on cultural similarities, creating a heterogeneous coalition distinct from the more homogenous Massachusett (see Cook 1976:29; Stewart-Smith 1998:24-25). What’s more intriguing is the sale of Haverhill in 1642 by Native leaders Passaquo and Saggahew required the consent of Passaconaway (in fact, his consent is mentioned twice in the text of the deed). See the original document and transcript on the Essex National Heritage Area website. The General Court acknowledgment of the Andover, North Andover, and Lawrence sale does not mention Passaconaway, suggesting several possibilities. Perhaps Cutshamache’s less formal court appearance resulted in an omission. But, the court statement includes considerable detail, including the preservation of land and fishing rights for Roger and his company, Indigenous residents of the area.
Archaeologist Eric Johnson (1999:155), in his book chapter on Native political geography, provides a different way of thinking about Indigenous groups in the area during the seventeenth century that helps inform Cutshamache’s sale of Cochichawick. Johnson says, “What does a map of bounded tribes imply about political organization? It implies stasis and homogeneity, both within and among political units.” He attributes this to the desire of colonial European observers to describe unfamiliar people and places in a familiar way—through the lens of political organization in seventeenth century Europe. This plagues our understanding today—we want carefully delineated maps that show the boundaries of Indigenous lands, matching those of city, county, and state political entities. Johnson (1999:158) argues for a different model to understand the geography of the area that takes into account the dynamic and heterogeneous polities. Further, he suggests that groups in the region consisted of autonomous communities that regularly underwent expansion, contraction, and internal upheaval, depending on a variety of socio-political strategies at play among leaders and group members. Alliances, often transitory, could result in confederacies of autonomous groups, as well as splintering and new alliances. Confederations were based on real and fictive kinship relationships between principal leaders and those of local communities; autonomy of local communities varied greatly depending on the leadership qualities of the principal leader, overall group size, geographic distances between communities, and genealogical connections (Johnson 1999:161). Within this context, Kathleen Bragdon (2009:206-209), in her second book on the Native people of the Northeast, points to connections between Indigenous communities across the region, stating, “linkages between the Pennacooks and Pawtuckets of the Merrimac drainage of what is now northeastern Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire, show connections ranging as far south and east as Natick and Charlestown. Other historical evidence shows marriage ties between Pennacooks and Pawtuckets with Niantics and Wamesits as well.”
Intertribal relations just at the time of European conquest illustrate the linkages that likely characterize the area. After the devastating epidemic of 1619, Indigenous allies of the French raided the lower Merrimack. Passaconaway was the Pennacook sachem at the time. His Pawtucket counterpart, Nanepashemet, was killed around present-day Medford or Malden and his widow assumed the role of sachem. Two of her sons married Passaconaway’s daughters, cementing the Pennacook-Pawtucket alliance. According to historian David Stewart-Smith (1998:24-25), Passaconaway (also called Papisseconnewa) was acknowledged as the leader of Pawtucket, Agawam, and Piscataqua, though each group retained local leaders as well. He explains that it is helpful to think of the larger tribal designations as “aggregations of allied family territories,” including Pennacook, Pawtucket, Massachusett, Nipmuc, and others (Stewart-Smith 1998:28). The divisions were not hard lines, but rather fluctuated with marriages and other connections.
Historian Peter Leavenworth (1999:277) explains the ways in which Pennacook-Pawtucket lands moved into English ownership in the seventeenth century, principally through legal means, but also via violent incursions. He also documents important instances where Indigenous people resisted land loss. Leavenworth describes a violent attack against the Pennacook during King Philip’s War (1675-78), but helps us understand that the extensive transfers of land, through deeds or appearances in the General Court like Cutshamache’s, occurred during the 1640s, following the smallpox epidemic of 1633-34 and decisions by Passaconaway, including the belief that Indigenous people could share land with the English. According to Leavenworth (1999:281), there were serious misunderstandings in terms of what was happening, especially as these more informal land “sales” occurred: English colonists believed they were buying large tracts of land, while the Indigenous “sellers” believed they retained their usufruct rights. This is reflected in Cutshamache’s sale of Cochichawick, which references Roger and his group’s continuing rights to at least some small part of the landscape and fishing rights (check out this interactive map site that shows Rogers Brook in Andover, namesake of the seventeenth century Indigenous inhabitant). Leavenworth also documents an interesting shift in acceptable payment—at first the English were buying land for clothing, tools, ornaments and other trade goods, but apparently by 1650, the Indigenous people of the area would only accept currency. Cutshamache’s sale involves both—6 pounds in money, and a coat (interestingly, an earlier order by the General Court in 1642 directed that a coat be given to Cutshamache, perhaps the coat referenced in the 1646 appearance?).
So, there’s a lot to unpack in Cutshamache’s sale of Cochichawick. Most notable are the traditional cultural patterns that involved seasonal movements, settlement, and marriage that linked widely dispersed groups versus our modern desire to have Indigenous people fit into neat territories that align with historical and modern municipal, county, state, and national boundaries. It’s also impossible to think about this outside the devastating disruptions wrought by European incursions and the attendant diseases and demographic shifts (Strobel 2020:71-75). For example, Daniel Gookin, one of the English colonists, recorded 3,000 Pawtucket men in the earliest days of European conquest, but by 1674, the tribe had been reduced to “not above 250 men.” Within this milieu—traditional Indigenous practices, the disease and disruptions brought by the English, and attempts to adapt—land moved from Native to European hands.
For an Indigenous perspective, check out the detailed histories, timelines, and more on the Massachusett Tribe at Ponkapoag’s website. Here you can learn about the modern day Massachusett, their history, as well as ongoing initiatives, like work on the newly created Massachusetts state seal commission. If you would like to learn more about the Abenaki tribes in nearby New Hampshire and Vermont, start with the website of the Cowasuck Band of the Pennacook-Abenaki. There you can learn about history and contemporary initiatives of the Abenaki, who have close ties to the Native inhabitants of the Andover area.
References Cited and Further Reading
Bragdon, Kathleen J.
2009 Native People of Southern New England 1650 – 1775. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman.
Cook, Sherburne F.
1976 The Indian Population of New England in the Seventeenth Century. University of California Publications in Anthropology Vol. 12. University of California Press, Berkeley.
Drake, Samuel G.
1856 Biography and History of the Indians of North America, from its first discovery. Sanborn, Carter, and Bazin, Boston.
Johnson, Eric S.
1999 Community and Confederation: A Political Geography of Contact Period Southern New England. In The Archaeological Northeast, edited by Mary Ann Levine, Kenneth E. Sassaman, and Michael S. Nassaney, pp. 155-168. Bergin & Garvey, Westport, CT.
Leavenworth, Peter S.
1999 “The Best Title That Indians Can Claime:” Native Agency and Consent in the Transferal of Penacook-Pawtucket Land in the Seventeenth Century. The New England Quarterly 72(2):275-300.
1912 Indian Land Titles, Essex County, Massachusetts. Riverside Press, Cambridge (for Essex Book and Print Club).
Speck, Frank G.
1928 Territorial Subdivisions of the Wampanoag, Massachusett, and Nauset Indians. Indian Notes and Monographs No. 44. Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation, New York.
1998 The Pennacook Indians and the New England Frontier, circa 1604 – 1733. PhD dissertation, Union Institute, Cincinnati OH.
2020 Native Americans of New England. Praeger, Santa Barbara CA.
The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act became law thirty years ago. NAGPRA fundamentally changed the relationship between tribes, archaeologists, and museums, but there are still many challenges. Museums have over 120,000 Native American ancestral remains and some institutions have not yet consulted with tribes.
At the New England Museum Association annual meeting in November 2020 the Peabody Institute partnered with experts from tribes, museums, and federal agencies to answer questions about and discuss NAGPRA in a relaxed, welcoming, and no pressure workshop format. Seventy museum professionals participated, and we’ve had an opportunity to follow up with many of those folx since the workshop.
But don’t fear! If you couldn’t make the November workshop, we are still available to help you, wherever you are in the process. NAGPRA might seem a little daunting at first, so if you would like to chat with Peabody Institute personnel, or get some specific advice on how to move forward, we are here to support you. Contact Peabody Institute director Ryan Wheeler at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a time to talk.
National NAGPRA Website: This is the National Park Service’s newly redesigned website with everything you need to get started, including links to the NAGPRA law and rule, databases, templates, and advice on how to get started: https://www.nps.gov/subjects/nagpra/index.htm
The Robert S. Peabody Institute of Archaeology is not known for its Viking collections, or are we?
One object, donated to the Institute by Dr. C.A. Kershaw in the early twentieth century, is repeatedly cited as evidence for Viking visitors to Massachusetts long before the days of the Pilgrims.
The object in question is a copper dagger or knife and is pictured in Frederick Pohl’s 1961 book Atlantic Crossings before Columbus. Barry Fell also discussed the piece in his popular 1976 book America BC: Ancient Settlers in the New World. Both authors contributed extensively to the literature on connections between Europe and the Americas, often featuring Vikings; mainstream archaeology has dubbed Pohl, Fell, and allied writers as pseudoscientists who offer provocative theories, but little concrete or testable evidence.
Regarding the dagger, here is what Pohl has to say:
Arthur Petzold (of Andover, MA) recently called my attention to a heavily-patinated copper “spearhead or knife” found many years ago by Dr. C.A. Kershaw of Merrimacport, Massachusetts, on Indian Flat near his home. A drawing of it showing two large and two small rivet holes for hafting was published by Warren King Moorehead in 1931. Benjamin L. Smith, who wrote “Supplementary Notes” to the Moorehead volume, says he has always been “troubled” by the copper artifact because its unusual form suggests it may not be Indian. Dr. Gad Rausing of Lund, Sweden, thinks that the general outline and size agree quite closely with the very early Bronze Age daggers of Northern Europe—but he has never seen one with two big and two small rivet holes arranged in such a manner, and so he says he “cannot claim to recognize it at all.” It may be, as he suggests, that the four rivet holes were not made at the same time, but that the small ones were added when one of the large ones got broken. A distinguished archaeologist, a specialist in European pre-history, has written me that the copper object is doubtless a dagger and, he believes, a very old one, from the mid-European early Bronze Age, presumably about 1300 B.C. But, he says, “How could it have found its way to Massachusetts, I wonder. Perhaps brought by some collector, and lost. Who can tell?” On the other hand, Dr. William Ritchie, New York State Archaeologist, assures me that prehistoric Indians of the Upper Great Lakes area riveted some of their spear points to the shaft, and so he says of the Merrimacport specimen that it may or may not be prehistoric. Spectrum analysis should determine its place of origin; for North American Indian copper is quite pure, having only slight traces of silver and iron, while European smelted copper contains antimony, bismuth, lead, iron, cobalt, nickel, Sulphur, gold, silver, arsenic and oxygen. In view of the possibility that the Merrimacport artifact may be early European, it is interesting that it was found only thirteen miles from North Salem and near the river used by boats approaching the North Salem site. [Pohl 1961:15-16]
Pohl’s argument is characteristic of many pseudoscientific claims—two competing ideas about an artifact or site are presented as equivalent—in this case, the Merrimacport artifact is offered as potentially Native American and potentially Bronze Age. The Native American origin of the dagger, however, is much more likely, especially as archaeologists like Ritchie noted similarities to copper artifacts from the Great Lakes. The North Salem site that Pohl mentions is now known as America’s Stonehenge and is located in North Salem, New Hampshire.
Barry Fell, building on Pohl’s arguments, illustrates a photograph of the Merrimacport artifact and cites ongoing research (mid-1970s) by James Whittall. Fell says that museums housing these copper artifacts, which he identifies as Celtic, believed they were from the European Bronze Age, but that they had been recently lost (see Fell 1976:127-128). Interestingly, James P. Whittall Jr., who wrote about the copper object in the December 1970 issue of the New England Antiquities Research Association newsletter, compares the piece to a Bronze Age dagger from Spain—a comparison that is echoed by Fell. And, despite that comparison, Whittall remains undecided about the origins and significance of the artifact, saying, “The dagger does not prove cultural contact between Western Europe and New England in the late Bronze Period, but the fact remains that the dagger was found here. This should be kept on record. When and if more evidence is recovered in this area, this singular artifact becomes more important. For the present it rests in a cultural void.” Writing a few years later, Whittall (1975:4) is more decisive, stating that “copper celts in Vermont and rivet copper daggers in Massachusetts are typical examples of middle bronze age European artifacts.”
Moorehead (1931:13), as noted by Pohl, includes an illustration in his Merrimack Archaeological Survey, though does not comment on the artifact other than to describe it as a “copper spearhead or knife,” while Charles S. Willoughby (1936:114-115) includes the piece with other Native American copper objects in his Antiquities of the New England Indians, saying:
The unique specimen figured in g [referring to Figure 59g], is from an old site on the bank of the Merrimack, at Merrimackport, Massachusetts. It is probably a knife, and was lashed to its handle through two perforations near its base, one of which has been torn out. In repairing this damage two more perforations were made just above the others. This is now in the Andover Museum. In all of the above [copper] specimens one side is flat. On the opposite side the blade is beveled from a central strengthening ridge to either edge.
So, you might ask, “what’s the harm in all this?” We do know that the Norse settled in Greenland, at least for a while, and that one Norse site has been confirmed in Labrador, so it’s not impossible that other sites or objects could be found. Ken Feder (2020:131), in his great book Frauds, Myths, and Mysteries, notes that “a growing number of native sites in Arctic Canada show evidence of widespread, occasional, but sometimes intimate contact for centuries between local people and Norse visitors.” Every year in my fall Human Origins course, we discuss the distinction between science and pseudoscience. We learn that science relies on falsifiability, where proving a hypothesis true is less important than the ability to prove it false. Possibilities and probabilities often fail to meet the falsifiability test—could Vikings have been in Massachusetts and neighboring states? Yes, but those possibilities must be subject to testing. Also, there’s a darker side to these Viking stories, which negate the long land tenure, accomplishments, and technology of Native Americans. As archaeologist William Ritchie reported to Frederick Pohl in the 1960s, Native Americans worked Great Lakes copper into an array of tools and ornaments thousands of years ago, and these objects were transported by travelers and through exchange networks. Before conjuring Celts, Vikings, Irish monks, or other trans-Atlantic European travelers, Native Americans are much more likely to have fashioned artifacts like the Merrimacport dagger.
Feder, Kenneth L. 2020. Frauds, Myths, and Mysteries: Science and Pseudoscience in Archaeology. New York: Oxford University Press.
Fell, Barry. 1976. American B.C.: Ancient Settlers in the New World. New York: Pocket Books.
Moorehead, Warren K. 1931. The Merrimack Archaeological Survey: A Preliminary Paper. Salem, MA: Peabody Museum.
Pohl, Frederick J. 1961. Atlantic Crossings Before Columbus. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.
Whittall, James P. Jr. 1970. An Unique Dagger. New England Antiquities Research Association (NEARA) Newsletter 5(4, Issue #19):77.
___. 1975. Precolumbian Parallels between Mediterranean and New England Archaeology. Occasional Publications of the Epigraphic Society 3(52):1-5.
Willoughby, Charles C. 1935. Antiquities of the New England Indians, with Notes on the Ancient Cultures of the Adjacent Territory. Cambridge, MA: Peabody Museum of American Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University.
Nekole Alligood, independent consultant, is a member of the Delaware Nation and has served as the NAGPRA Officer for the Nation. Alligood is a cultural anthropologist who has worked in museums and in Section 106. She has conducted NAGPRA repatriations in collaboration with the Delaware Tribe of Indians and the Stockbridge-Munsee Community and a non-NAGPRA reburial teaming with the National Forest Service in West Virginia. She currently is a scholar on the development of a traveling exhibit with Ball State University and Ohio History Connection focused on St. Claire’s Defeat (Battle of the Wabash). She also is working with Ohio History Connection on a reinterpretation of Schoenbrunn Village in Ohio. E-mail: email@example.com
Jaime Arsenault is the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer (THPO), Repatriation Representative, and Archives Manager for the White Earth Band of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe. Ms. Arsenault has worked with Indigenous communities for over 20 years. Currently, she is a member of the Minnesota Historical Society Indian Advisory Committee and the Repatriation Working Group with the Association on American Indian Affairs (AAIA) and a member of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History Repatriation Review Committee. She is a Community Intellectual Property Advisory Board Member for the Penobscot Nation and sits on both the Advisory Committee and the Collections Committee of the Peabody Institute of Archaeology. Ms. Arsenault also serves as a MuseDI Partner on decolonization practice for the Abbe Museum. E-mail: Jaime.Arsenault@whiteearth-nsn.gov
David Goldstein is an anthropologist with the National Park Service currently serving as the Tribal and Cultural Affairs Specialist in the Northeast Region. David works to bring the region’s tribal and community partners into the NPS stewardship programs through sharing capacity and ongoing consultation. The goal is to support self-determination and resource protection, acknowledging that tribal and community partnerships provide long term sustainability to stewardship. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Katie Kirakosian is a trained archaeologist whose research focuses on the history of Native American archaeology. She has conducted archival research in repositories throughout New England and New York State on many NAGPRA sensitive sites, particularly shell middens, prompting recent research with co-author Irene Gates on the complex nature of archival records and digital repatriation. E-mail: email@example.com
Krystiana L. Krupa is NAGPRA Program Officer, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her NAGPRA experience includes osteology and archival research relating to university and museum collections in addition to consultation. Krystiana’s current work focuses on tribal perspectives on the repatriation of biological samples extracted from ancestral remains, such as ancient DNA extracts. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Melanie O’Brien is responsible for carrying out all duties assigned to the National NAGPRA Program by the Secretary of the Interior and serves as the Designated Federal Officer to the NAGPRA Review Committee. Throughout her career, Melanie has specialized in Federal-Indian law and policy, applying her master’s degree in public history from Loyola University Chicago to the work of the Federal government. E-mail: email@example.com
Lorén M. Spears, Narragansett, Executive Director of Tomaquag Museum, holds a Master’s in Education and received a Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, from the University of Rhode Island. She is an author, artist and shares her cultural knowledge with the public through museum programs. She has written curriculum, poetry, and narratives published in a variety of publications such as Dawnland Voices, An Anthology of Indigenous Writing of New England; Through Our Eyes: An Indigenous View of Mashapaug Pond; The Pursuit of Happiness: An Indigenous View and From Slaves to Soldiers: The 1st Rhode Island Regiment in the American Revolution. Recently, she co-edited a new edition of A Key into the Language of America by Roger Williams. She consults with K-12 districts, Higher Education, museums and historical societies on Native American Cultural Competency and DEI/J training. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Marla Taylor is the curator of collections at the Robert S. Peabody Institute of Archaeology at Phillips Academy in Andover, MA. She has worked in all facets of collections management from cataloging to conservation to repatriation. Marla currently splits her time between leading an effort to conduct a full inventory of the collection and facilitating access to the Peabody’s collection for tribal partners, researchers, and educators. E-mail: email@example.com
Jayne-Leigh Thomas is the Director of the Office of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act at Indiana University. Her work involves active consultation with over 100 federally recognized sovereign nations across the United States to return ancestral human remains and cultural items to their rightful communities. Her research interests are NAGPRA, repatriation, bioarchaeology, ethics, cremation studies, and mortuary studies. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Jackie Veninger-Robert is the NAGPRA Coordinator for the University of Connecticut. In addition to her NAGPRA and collection management responsibilities for the Office of State Archaeology, Jackie advises students and provides instruction on issues surrounding Native American cultural property law and advocates for opportunities to decolonize museum anthropology. Jackie has worked for tribal governments in southern New England in a NAGPRA and collections management capacity. She is a non-member advisee of Connecticut’s Native American Heritage Advisory Council (NAHAC). Her research interests include: archaeological ethics, heritage management and conflict archaeology. E-mail: email@example.com
Ryan Wheeler is the director of the Robert S. Peabody Institute of Archaeology, a museum at Phillips Academy, Andover MA. At the Peabody he has advanced a strategic vision focused on collections, education, and repatriation. In 2017, Ryan co-founded the Journal of Archaeology & Education, the only academic journal devoted to the intersection of these two fields. Ryan lives with his family in Medford, MA. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Today’s Phillips Academy students often ask about the students of the past. Since November is Native American Heritage Month, the topic of Indigenous alumni often comes up. Happily, we are in touch with some recent alums, like Emma Slibeck ’20, who led efforts last year to create an Indigenous Land Acknowledgment, and Tristin Moone ’10, past member of the Peabody Advisory Committee. Paige Roberts, Academy archivist, maintains a list of notable Native American alumni, and we were happy to add LeRoy Spencer Jimerson Jr. (January 21, 1923 – September 28, 1991) to that list during some recent collections research.
Jimerson was the son of Seneca leader LeRoy Spencer Jimerson Sr. of the Cattaraugus Reservation, Gowanda, New York. He attended Phillips Academy for one year, graduating in 1941. The senior Jimerson was an accomplished carpenter, attended Hampton University (a HBCU in Virginia that has some PA connections in its founding), established a scholarship fund for Native students, and served in Seneca leadership positions throughout his adult life.
After Phillips Academy, LeRoy Jimerson Jr. served in the Navy and pursued interests in electrical engineering and computers. He was an instructor at the Great Lakes Naval Base and at Treasure Island, California. Jimerson, in 1949, received a scholarship to the University of Michigan. Established in 1932 by the Michigan Board of Regents, that scholarship acknowledged the 1817 Treaty of Fort Meigs, which had required tribes to cede millions of acres to the federal government, some of which ultimately went to the university. Perhaps an early version of an institutional land acknowledgment?
A profile in 1951 Boys’ Life combines quaint anecdotes and stereotypes of life on the reservation with Jimerson’s academic success and interest in computers. The story appeared shortly after Jimerson completed his studies at the University of Michigan, but includes a lot of information on his post-graduate year at Phillips Academy when he “joined the school band, ran as a member of the cross-country squad, distinguished himself as a math student, won a Latin prize, and was elected to a cum laude (honor) society.” In the Boys’ Life article, he describes general acceptance by his fellow Academy students, relating one instance where an international student wanted to know why he wasn’t wearing paint and feathers. Today we recognize this as a micro-aggression, akin to the numerous accounts found on the black@andover Instagram page.
In the 1950s, Jimerson worked for Schlumberger, an oil field services company. Here he was involved in developing a magnetic resonance apparatus with scientist and engineer Francois F. Kirchner. Nuclear magnetic resonance continues to be used in oil prospecting today.
IBM, in Owego, NY, recruited Jimerson in June 1957, where he was quickly promoted to senior engineer. In 1962, McDonnell Aircraft contracted with IBM to provide the guidance systems for Gemini. From 1962 to 1966, Jimerson worked as a computer engineer on the NASA Gemini mission, laying the groundwork for Apollo and the moon landing a few years later. In an interview, Jimerson recalled that, “It was like a blitzkrieg, people didn’t know what hit them” (Time-Life Books 1993:33). According to a document prepared in 2012, Jimerson originated the math flows needed in the computer programming for the Gemini missions. Math flows–in this context–are detailed flowcharts like the one shown here, showing the sequence of algorithms that underlie computer code. At some point in the late 1960s or early 1970s, Jimerson and his family relocated to Herndon, Virginia, though it is not clear if he continued working for IBM.
Jimerson died on September 28, 1991 in Sarasota, Florida, where he had retired with his family in the mid-1980s. The picture that emerges from the few interviews that we located, is that LeRoy Jimerson Jr. was an accomplished scientist and engineer who worked on one of the country’s early and significant space flight programs. His time at Phillips Academy was short and well spent, and a stop along an educational career that included one of the top scientific and technical programs–the University of Michigan. Until recently, LeRoy Jimerson wasn’t on our radar. We are hopeful that Phillips Academy can connect with more Native and Indigenous students–it is clear we have a lot to offer one another.
Buffalo Courier Express (1961) LeRoy Jimerson Obituary. February 23, 1961, p. 27.
Crump, Irving (1951) Indian Cum Laude. Boys’ Life (March 1951):27, 64.
IBM (1962) Putting a Man on the Moon: America’s Next Step. Business Machines (August 1962):18-19.
Jamestown Post Journal (1961) Famed Seneca Indian Leader, LeRoy S. Jimerson, 72, Dies. February 23, 1961.