I just had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Arthur Spiess, PhD., Senior Archaeologist at the Maine Historic Preservation Commission who also works at the Abbe Field Schools. I have read many of his field notes while Zach and I have been planning our exhibit about the Ewing-Bragdon dig site, and I was looking forward to having the opportunity for him to look at the work we had done so far.
He is a friendly and enthusiastic guy, and he was able to offer some great feedback for the new addition to Layers of Time. Listening to him speak, I realized what a vast and expansive field archaeology is. It was only seventy years ago when Wendell Hadlock first excavated the Ewing-Bragdon site. At that time it was the bigger, easier to spot artifacts that they were searching for to answer questions about the past. Now, with advances in technology, we are able to use much more of what we find at sites to continue piecing together the history of the land.
By sifting through soil samples we are able to find things like shell beads, a piece of copper, and tiny bones. All of these were previously overlooked, but thankfully we got a second chance! The shell beads tell us there was free time for recreation. The copper indicates trade and metalworking. The bones clue us in to what was being hunted. Even the soil itself tells a story.
Archaeology brings us a little bit closer to our ancestors and helps keep the past connected to the future through the answers it provides. On the other hand, it is also interesting to think about the questions that can only be definitively answered by people who were alive thousands of years ago. Working on the Layers of Time exhibit and learning more about archaeology has been a great exercise in balancing science with mystery.