Native Archaeology at Plimoth Plantation
Plimoth Plantation founder Harry Hornblower II was an avid amateur archaeologist. His interest in archaeology began in the 1930s, when, as a teenager, he accompanied Jesse Brewer on field trips to look at local Wampanoag sites in southeastern Massachusetts. Brewer worked as a gardener at the Hornblower estate in Plymouth. He was also an amateur archaeologist. Together, Jesse Brewer, Harry and his brother Ralph visited archaeological sites ranging from Scituate to Martha's Vineyard, and gathered a significant collection of Wampanoag artifacts. Today Plimoth Plantation owns these collections, which are used in exhibits and as examples for tools and pottery re-created at the Wampanoag Homesite.
Native archaeological collections held by Plimoth Plantation include tens of thousands of artifacts from dozens of sites from southeastern Massachusetts and beyond.
Wampanoag artifacts from Brewer’s and Hornblower’s collections consist of projectile points, fishing weights, hammer stones, celts and other stone tools from the Archaic Period through the Contact Period, as well as clay pots. The objects were gathered and excavated from the South Shore, Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard.
The Hallett Collection, compiled by amateur archaeologist Leaman Hallett, includes hundreds of artifacts gathered locally, particularly from inland areas of southeastern Massachusetts.
Almost all of the Colonial sites excavated by Plimoth Plantation have a Wampanoag component, from the Middle Archaic to the Contact periods. The English Colonists chose to settle sites that had fresh water and good soil for growing crops—sites that had been occupied by Wampanoag people over thousands of years.
A Wampanoag site on Plimoth Plantation grounds (the Eel River Spring Site) was excavated in 1991, 1992 and 1994 by Professor Barbara Leudtke and the University of Massachusetts field school. They recovered evidence of 6,000 years of occupation through artifacts such as stone tools, bone, pieces of pottery, and shells.
In 2006, the Fiske Center at the University of Massachusetts excavated a series of test pits at Plimoth Plantation to prepare for the construction of a new pathway to the Wampanoag Homesite. The Eel River Farm Site yielded stone tools and projectile points, particularly from the Archaic period.
Plimoth Plantation has inventoried its Native collections in compliance with Native American Grave Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), and is working with the Wampanoag Repatriation Confederation to identify any artifacts that might be sacred.