Neponset Paleoindian Preform

Contributed by Quinn Rosefsky

While most of us have seen “arrowheads,” making sense of the complex world of Paleoindian lithic points is a challenge. The process of manufacture, flint knapping: the shaping of flint, chert, obsidian or other conchoidal fracturing stone through the process of lithic reduction (using a hand-tool pressure-flaking process) demonstrates a highly-advanced knowledge of how flint fractures when struck in specific locations on its surface. That the process has been in use for over 10,000 years commands respect for the fine hand coordination, skill, and thought-processes of individuals using this tool-making method. The example we are examining, a Neponset preform, is representative of the post-Clovis Folsom era.

Paleoindian biface from Neponset site, Massachusetts

About 12,000 years ago on the sandy shoreline of a partially drained glacial lake near what is now Canton, Massachusetts, a flint knapper, a Paleoindian using flint from Mt. Jasper over two hundred miles away in New Hampshire, stopped work on our preform. We can presume that something had gone wrong, resulting in the flint fracturing before it could be transformed into a tool, a projectile point, specifically a spear point. Call it quality control.

New England had three distinct point styles, each named after sites where they were found: Bull Brook, Neponset, and Nicholas. Materials came from three major sources: Munsungan, Maine (chert); Mt. Jasper, New Hampshire (rhyolite); and Hathaway, Vermont (chert). The Neponset site was found at the time of construction of a segment of I-95 not far from Canton. The work done by Stanley Buzarewicz, first in the early 1970s, and then in conjunction with Fred Carty in the late 1970s and early 1980s, yielded a variety of artifacts. In a 100 square meter area the archaeologists found ten fluted points and fragments; two miniature points and drills; thirty channel flakes and fragments; ten bifaces including preforms and fragments; eight leaf-shaped bifaces; and three biface edge fragments.

The findings were thoroughly categorized, including channel flakes because these provided direct evidence that a fluted channel had been created. Fluting refers to distinctive channels knapped into both the obverse and reverse of the point. The ones found at Neponset are distinguished from fluted points found at Bull Brook and Nicholas by stylistic elements. Neponset flutes run more than half the length of the point; have an average length of 6 cm; and are slightly tapered towards the base with flared ears.

The preform point, excavated on May 26, 1979, was described in Fred Carty and Arthur Spiess’s article The Neponset Paleoindian Site in Massachusetts published in Archaeology of Eastern North America, Vol 20 (Fall 1992, pp. 19-37). Made from Neponset rhyolite, it is a dark gray, glassy, nearly opaque material.  In these two pieces—now glued together making it whole again—this specimen was the largest preform found at the Neponset site, weighting 30.31 grams.  It measures 106.2 mm long, 36.6 mm wide at the widest point, and has a 6.2 mm deep basal indentation. The specimen was a final stage preform, meaning it had not yet reached the point where its maker would add the flute and finish its base. For whatever reason the point never reached its final form, we are witnesses to that moment in time, over 10,000 years ago, when a living person made the conscious decision not to complete a task.

Adopt A Drawer: What is it like to catalog a drawer?

The drawer before cataloging

Contributed by Marla Taylor

In fall 2013 the Peabody launched Adopt A Drawer, which connects supporters with our collections. Each gift of $1,000 supports the complete cataloging of one artifact storage drawer. Participants receive an Adopt A Drawer t-shirt, updates on cataloging,  and their support is acknowledged with a name plaque and in our online catalog, PastPerfect.

Cataloging the adopted drawers is a time-consuming but rewarding task. Each drawer is selected with care to identify areas of the collection that need a little extra TLC. Often times, I don’t even know what I am going to find in the drawer!

The drawer that I am currently working on has taken quite some time. There are over 130 artifacts – mostly stone tools – from at least 13 different sites across France. Many of them are from cave sites of the Magdalenian era (10,000 – 17,000 years ago), but some of these blades, scrapers, and cores date as far back as 70,000 years old. Some of these tools could have been crafted by the hands of Neanderthals.

The drawer before cataloging
The drawer before cataloging

When I first began work on the drawer, the tools were piled on top of one another in several smaller boxes. This poor storage can easily lead to damage along the delicately crafted edges of these tools. It was in need of a major upgrade!

With the help of work duty students – I couldn’t do this without them! – each artifact was photographed, measured, and rehoused. I have researched each artifact in our original accession ledgers for location and collection information. These records have then been combined with notes provided by Kathleen Sterling and Sebastien Lacombe of Binghampton University and experts in the lithic technology of France’s Upper Paleolithic who visited the collection in May 2015. I am integrating all of this information into their catalog records and the adoption process is nearly complete.

I will soon share details of the contents of this drawer with its donor and you can access it too by exploring our collection online.

For additional information how to adopt a drawer watch our short video or visit our website.

Invisible Injustice: Discovering & Disseminating the Story of Slavery in the North

Contributed by Lindsay Randall

Logo of conference courtesy of Salem State History Department

Scholars, museum professionals, educators and interested members of the public gathered at Salem State University for a symposium that delved into the history and implications of slavery in New England. Essex Heritage organized this event to be interactive and engaging. In addition to scholars they also invited the participants to explore the topic through breakout sessions and facilitated activities.

Beth Beringer of Essex Heritage invited me to lead one of the activities. During the morning session I lead participants through our History 200 lesson, The Little Spots Allow’d Them.  Participants explored how landscapes can and have shaped human behavior using archaeological data from Isaac Royall’s Ten Hills Farm in Medford, Mass. (now the Royall House and Slave Quarters).

Curator of Education Lindsay Randall leads her break out group through the interactive activity
Curator of Education Lindsay Randall leads her break out group through the interactive activity

The program then shifted to exploration of the difficult discussions that arise when confronting northern slavery. The experts on this panel had a diverse background as historians, professors, and museum professionals. They focused on meaningful strategies that could be used to engage any audience – classroom, museum goers, or the public – in a substantive manner.

Keynote speaker (and ChuBbs Woodrow Randall enthusiast) Dr. Joanne Pope Melish spoke about the often complex relationship that New England had with the institution of slavery. She focused on the impact that this history has had on the region and its legacy today. Melish was also quick to point out that “rich men did not own slaves. Slaves made men rich” and how we need to shift the typical narratives used when engaging with students in any setting.

Two books promoted during the program, Understanding and teaching American Slavery by Bethany Jay and Cythia Lyerly and Disowning Slavery by Joanne Pope Melish

There also was a group of museum educators who talked about their unique ways of engaging the public in the history of slavery in New England. Maryann Zujewski from Salem Maritime National Park has been working with Dr. Bethany Jay of Salem State University to reframe their interpretive tours so that they are not simply ADDING black people to history, but that they and other minorities are becoming more integrated in a meaningful and natural manner.  Olivia Searcy discussed how she has helped to create the educational programming for the Royall House and Slave Quarters Museum in a manner that has focused on the history of the enslaved people at the site. The Caribbean Connections program from the House of the Seven Gables  is a duel language program, described by Ana Nuncio as innovative in its outreach to minority groups in a community which might not otherwise feel welcomed in a museum setting.

At the end of the day participants could self-select into a variety of breakout sessions to dive further into a topic of interest.

This symposium was very important and offered me a great deal of new information and ways of thinking. I am already furiously at work on how to integrate all that I learned into the lessons and activities that I teach. I hope that another symposium of this kind will be offered again and I anxiously await word from my friends at Essex Heritage!


An Evening with Pueblo Potters

Please join us for a special evening with award-winning Pueblo potters Dominique Toya, Maxine Toya, Nancy Youngblood, and Joseph Youngblood Lugo.

collage of Pueblo potters, from left to right: Dominique Toya, Nancy Youngblood, pottery firing 2015, and Maxine Toya

Learn about contemporary Pueblo pottery making with these gifted artists while they visit Andover to work with Thayer Zaeder’s studio pottery classes. Dominique and Nancy have collaborated to create pieces that meld their unique approaches to traditional pottery construction, bringing together swirl melon bowls, glistening micaceous slips, carved designs, and blackware firing techniques. Maxine makes delightful figurines that draw on deep Pueblo traditions. Joseph Youngblood Lugo continues the Santa Clara tradition of carved blackware pottery, adding contemporary themes and motifs. These artists are passionate about their work and will share how they have melded traditional and innovative materials and methods to create contemporary works of art.

7-9pm, Wednesday, May 25, 2016
Hors d’oeuvres, beer, and wine
$20.00 per person

Please RSVP – contact Crystal McGuire – Office of Alumni Engagement at or 978-749-4282

Biface Cache Research

Contributed by Bonnie Sousa

Abigail Gamble, a student at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, visited the Peabody to examine stone tools for her senior thesis.  She looked at several stone blades from an archaeological site in Andover for her comparative study of blades in the Northeast.   The museum acquired the artifacts from collector Arthur Hofmann in the early 1940s.


Changing Spaces

Collections with new plexi-glass doors

Contributed by Marla Taylor

Updating spaces at the Peabody is like playing with a giant sliding puzzle. In order to rearrange one room, you have to make space in another for everything that will be displaced. We wrestled with this puzzle as we recently updated two major spaces at the museum – our basement work room and our main exhibit gallery.

The basement work room is the center of most of the collections work at the Peabody. It is where work duty students, volunteers, and collections staff spends most of their time. And, until recently, it was home to several staff work spaces too. But it was time to refresh the space and make room to spread out the collection as we transfer artifacts from the old wooden drawer to new archival boxes.


Updating the gallery space was no small task! First, all the old exhibit was dismantled and objects were returned to storage. Then the exhibit cases were removed. And finally, the false walls that confined the space were demolished. Patching and painting is now underway. Future projects will see updated lighting and restoration of the windows.


Conversations are on-going about how to utilize this newly empty gallery space. The added space has already benefited our community family days and will hopefully provide space for student curated exhibits and larger student and alumni events.

If you haven’t been over to the Peabody for a while, now is the time!

BOOK REVIEW: Laguna Pueblo: A Photographic History

Laguna Pueblo: A Photographic History. By Lee Marmon and Tom Corbett. (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2015. Preface, acknowledgments, illustrations, notes, index. Pp. xx, 200. $39.95 cloth.)

Contributed by Ryan Wheeler

Origin stories among the Keresan speakers of New Mexico recount the beginning of Laguna Pueblo when two men—Prayer-Stick Boy and White Hands—were entrusted with leading the first people to a lake at the foot of a sacred mountain, destined to be their home on earth. White Hands ultimately guides the people to their home, but only after Prayer-Stick Boy attempts to settle the people elsewhere, which visits a life now burdened by troubles and hardship upon the pueblo. Part of the story—not shared with anthropologists—documents a second group of travelers that followed Earth Mother’s instructions explicitly and also reside at Laguna, but live as supernaturals in parallel to the original denizens of the pueblo. The interaction between the mortal and immortal residents is central to Laguna culture.

Photographer Lee Marmon’s trajectory as an artist shares a similar arc to those first people of Laguna. He is a product of the interesting melding of Native and non-Native people, and, as is mentioned more than once in Laguna Pueblo: A Photographic History, is like many artists: rebellious, free-spirited, with a zest for independence. In some ways he sounds a bit more like Prayer-Stick Boy—the original Laguna rebel than his righteous counterpart White Hands. Perhaps, however, the intercession of the Laguna supernaturals have helped shape his keen eye for subject and composition as a photographer. The book includes over 105 duotone photographs, most taken by Marmon between 1949 and 1990. The text deftly tells the stories of the landscapes and people photographed.

Lee Marmon's photo White Man's Moccasins.
White Man’s Moccasins. Photo by Lee Marmon (1954). Marmon relates that Old Man Jeff–the subject–was reluctant, but eventually agreed to pose for the cigar that he’s holding.

The book begins with an introduction that tells the story of the unlikely friendship between Marmon and physician Tom Corbett (Phillips Academy Class of 1956). The idea of producing a book was in the air for a long time and we learn that Corbett played a critical role in introducing the world to Marmon’s photographs, including a publishing company that produced posters of some of the most iconic images, like White Man’s Moccasins. Tom Corbett—in honor of his 50th reunion—donated a marvelous collection of Marmon’s photos to the Peabody Museum and arranged for a visit by the artist, as well as an exhibition at the Oliver Wendell Holmes Library on campus.

The trials and tribulations of Laguna’s people—from the consequences of uranium mining to government attempts to suppress language, religion, and native foodways—is etched on the faces in Marmon’s photography. Intriguing is Marmon’s medium—the photograph—most associated in Indian Country with Edward S. Curtis, who photographed Native America in the first decades of the 20th century for a massive book project financed by J.P. Morgan. But unlike Curtis, who we now know staged photos to enshrine the myth of a fading race, Marmon’s images are full of honesty, portraits of persistence and hard work, the punishment visited on the Laguna people for Prayer-Stick Boy’s treachery.

It’s not surprising that Laguna Pueblo has garnered significant praise since its publication in February 2015, including winner of the 2016 Western Heritage Award for Photography Book, the 2015 Southwest Book Award from the Border Regional Library Association, the 2015 New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards for Arts Book and Best Book, and the 2015 Southwest Books of the Year Selection.

Visit the University of New Mexico Press for more information and to order your copy today.

Masks at the Peabody

Contributed by Lindsay Randall

Masks are one of the most visual elements of a culture, often used to transform the wearer during rituals, ceremonies, or other events. The use of masks dates back thousands of years, at least to the Neolithic period some 9,000 years ago or much earlier. Many of our masks are believed to be from Mexico. Two years ago work duty students began researching some of the masks in our collection.  While not complete, their work has been invaluable for the classes we teach. Recently the Peabody pulled all the masks from our collection to share with students in Therese Zemlin’s art classes.

One class has an assignment to make a 3 dimensional clay gargoyle. By studying the Peabody’s masks students investigate how artist’s created expressions, developed the proportions of facial features, and how human and animal features were melded together. The other class is learning to perceive minute details that are otherwise missed when we assume we understand what we see.

After looking at the masks and talking with me, the students are given time to begin sketching a mask of their choosing. This helps them to focus their attention even more and to gain a more intimate appreciation of the object in front of them, which will in turn aid them with their art projects.

A student sketches a mask of unidentified origin

To see some of the masks that the Peabody has visit our online catalog:;id=5114D1BC-AAD1-4BF5-A8B7-271626649170;type=101

Sharing what you learn – Student presentations

Image of student presenter

Contributed by Marla Taylor

On the third Tuesday of every month, the Massachusetts Archaeological Society – Gene Winter Chapter invites a guest speaker to their meeting at the Peabody Museum.  For the past six years, Phillips Academy students have been invited to speak about their experiences with archaeology at one of these meetings.

On February 16th, seven students, in three groups, shared their research and work on a variety of topics.

Youth for Restoration: Preserving Local History

Viraj Kumar’s ’17 interest in local history led him to create a non-profit organization that works to preserve and restore local history in Poughquag, New York. He discussed his experiences working with the community on a 19th century grist mill.

Printing History: 3D Rendering of Artifacts

Four students, Alana Gudinas ’16, Jacob Boudreau ’16, Mia LaRocca ’16, and Sarah Schmaier ‘16, were challenged to scan three artifacts from the Peabody Museum’s collection and print them as 3D models.  They discussed the process and highlight some of the implications of this technology for museums and other institutions.

More than Meets the Eye:  19th Century Portrayals of Native Americans

In the 1830s, the first director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs launched an ambitious effort to collect over one hundred portraits of Native Americans.  Veronica Nutting ’16 and Alex Armour’16 investigated three of these paintings at the Peabody–how and when they got here, why they’re important, and how they compare to contemporary depictions of Native Americans.

Speaking to an audience of nearly 50 chapter members, professional archaeologists, and members of the PA community, all the presentations were very well received.  Congratulations to all the students for their hard work!

Check out this article from the Phillipian to learn even more.

Where the Past Meets the Future–The Peabody’s 2015-2020 Strategic Plan

We are happy to share the Peabody Museum’s draft strategic plan for 2015-2020, which charts the course for significant projects ranging from improvements to the historic museum building to enhanced physical and intellectual control over archive, photographic, and object holdings.

The plan emphasizes elements of Phillips Academy’s 2014 strategic plan, especially around the pillars of Creativity and Innovation and Equity and Inclusion. Many of the most requested class units at the Peabody explicitly deal with issues of race, ethnicity, and gender, often in the context of Native American history. The new plan underscores the importance of anthropological perspectives in teaching in these areas and encourages continued good partnerships with Native American communities. The pedagogy of collaborative learning is central to the Peabody’s strategic plan, which stresses hands on learning, project- and problem-based learning, experiential learning, and informed discussion in all of the Museum’s student focused programs. Plans to significantly improve collections storage will increase accessibility and ensure that collections are available for use well into the future. Centralized storage of collections within the Peabody building will set the stage for expanded classroom space in the future and allow us to better care for our significant collections.

To read the plan please visit our website

Feedback is welcome! Please contact museum director Ryan Wheeler to share and discuss your ideas. E-mail: or Phone: 978.749.4493