This project was conducted by Stefan Claesson, University of New Hampshire, and funded by NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration.
Fishermen Interviews by East Carolina University Graduate Reveal Locations of Prehistoric Artifacts and Shipwrecks
In June 2006, Franklin Price (M.A.) of Bernard, Maine, and recent graduate of East Carolina University, received a grant from IMH and the Fund for the Preservation of Maine’s Maritime Heritage (http://www.maritimehistory.org/support.html) interview fishermen about the locations of shipwrecks and submerged prehistoric sites in Blue Hill Bay, Maine. “Fishermen know their coasts and fishing grounds. The fishing community is as likely as any to know the locations of cultural resources within their fishing areas,” says Price. In fact, scallop draggers from Blue Hill Bay in the 1980s and 1990s recovered stone biface tools from depths of up to nearly 200 feet below sea level. A recent interview by Price revealed other remarkable examples of Native American gouges and a spear point that were hauled by a Blue Hill Bay scallop dragger from approximately 20-30 meters below sea level. These new finds are tentatively dated to ca. 8,000 – 6,000 BP.
With recent reports of prehistoric finds in the region, interviews with fishermen have some immediacy. As transitions in the fishing industry, most notably the collapse of some fisheries, have led to shifts in fishing techniques, knowledge about historic and archaeological sites could easily be lost to time. Although the lobster fishery in the area still thrives, others have all but disappeared, including the scallop and cod fisheries. These fisheries exposed their participants to a different kind of endeavor than lobstering, using different gear, at separate locations, and potentially exposing them to submerged cultural resources. Almost all of the fishermen of the Blue Hill and Frenchman Bay region now rely on lobstering for their livelihood. As a result, knowledge gained during the pursuit of other fish is being forgotten, lost to time as the older generation of fishermen age and pass away. This knowledge includes the positions of submerged prehistoric sites, shipwrecks, and historic waterfront areas.
There is a significant gap in the prehistory and archaeological record of the Gulf of Maine coast. The earliest-known and scientifically-dated coastal archaeological site is the Turner Farm Site on North Haven Island in Penobscot Bay (5290 ±95 BP). Before this time is a relatively undocumented 5,000 year period of coastal prehistory from the PaleoIndian to the Late Archaic Period (ca. 10,000 – 5,000 BP), which could be filled, at least partially, by the discovery of inundated prehistoric archaeological sites. The interview work by Price has verified the presence of a now submerged prehistoric landscape in Blue Hill Bay, Maine. Price and IMH hope to continue interviewing fishermen and collecting archaeological data next year, which can be the basis for SCUBA and remote sensing surveys of areas where prehistoric finds have been reported by fishermen.