Archaeological Overview and Assessment of the Cape Cod National Seashore, Massachusetts

Author(s): Eric S. Johnson

Year: 1997


Previous archeological and relevant documentary research at the Cape Cod National Seashore

is reviewed and evaluated. The Cape Cod National Seashore is located on what is known as the

outer Cape, an area whose history goes back thousands of years, when the area's marine,

estuarine, and terrestrial resources, all located in proximity to one another, drew Native

Americans here. The area was an important center of Native American life into the seventeenth

century, when it was the homeland of the Nauset, Monomoyick, and Pamet communities. It was

also the site of some of the first recorded European visits to the Northeast. Among these early

visitors were the people commonly known as the Pilgrims, who explored parts of the region

before deciding to settle in Plymouth. A generation later, English settlers acquired land in the

area. As they began to farn and clear the forests, they initiated a sequence of environmental and

economic transformations that continues to this day. The settlers' agricultural and forest clearance

practices caused environmental degradation and deforestation, soils were depleted, agricultural

growth was arrested. At the same time, exploitation of shellfish, fish, and whales near the shores

of the Cape's bayside increased until overfishing depleted these resources and fishermen turned

to deeper waters.

Archeological research efforts have demonstrated that the Cape Cod National

Seashore contains a wide variety of archeological resources including Native American

habitations thousands of years old, shipwrecks, farmsteads, tourist facilities, industrial facilities,

and military installations. Thus far, the information from these resources has been tapped

unevenly. Archeology has contributed much to our understanding of precontact Native American

settlement and subsistence, and to our knowledge of the in-shore whaling industry of the late

seventeenth and early eighteenth century. Archeology can continue to make important

contributions to our understanding of many aspects of the history of the outer Cape, provided that

significant archeological resources are be protected from destruction. The Seashore must take

steps to minimize the effects of looting and erosion; these two are perhaps the biggest threats to

archeological resources in the Seashore today. Future research should be focused on areas where

threats from erosion and looting are most serious. Monitoring of threatened areas, subsurface

testing for site evaluation, and even data recovery of threatened sites may be necessary. More

generally, education must be an important element of any preservation program since it can foster

a public attitude of stewardship towards fragile archeological resources. The conservation ethic

as well as the results of archeological research can and should be integrated into the interpretive

programs at the Cape Cod National Seashore.

Cite this Record

Archaeological Overview and Assessment of the Cape Cod National Seashore, Massachusetts. Eric S. Johnson. Amherst, MA: The University of Massachusetts Archaeological Services. 1997 ( tDAR id: 378402) ; doi:10.6067/XCV80866DZ

This Resource is Part of the Following Collections


Archaic Historic PaleoIndian Woodland

Building Materials Ceramic Chipped Stone Fauna Glass Human Remains Metal Shell

Site Name
Atwood-Higgins site Barley Neck Blackfish Creek Bound Brook Island site Carns site Coast Guard Beach site Coburn site Fort Hill, Eastham Great Beach Hill site Great Island Tavern site Great Pond site Griffin Island Gull Pond site Herring Pond site Herring River site HIgh Head West site Indian Neck ossuary, Wellfleet, MA Kettle Field Area Little Creek Road Area Lombard Hollow Nauset Bay Orleans beach Orleans site Pamet River Drainage Peaked Hill Site Pilgrim heights Pochet Island, Little Pochet Island Ryder Pond site Salt Pond Snow Pond Drainage site The Highlands Truro Halfway House site Wellfleet harbor Show More

Site Type
Agricultural or Herding Archaeological Feature Bedrock Grinding Feature Bridge Causeway Church / Religious Structure Communal / Public Structure Domestic Structure or Architectural Complex Domestic Structures Encampment Fish Trap / Weir Funerary and Burial Structures or Features Hamlet / Village Historic Communal / Public Structure Hunting / Trapping Isolated Feature Lighthouse Linear Feature Military Structure Non-Domestic Structures Ossuary Railroad Resource Extraction / Production / Transportation Structure or Features Settlements Shipping-Related Structure Shipwreck Structure Trail Water-Related Show More

Spatial Coverage

min long: -70.273; min lat: 41.691 ; max long: -69.829; max lat: 42.11 ;

Individual & Institutional Roles

Contact(s): Francis McManamon

Prepared By(s): The University of Massachusetts Archaeological Services

Submitted To(s): National Park Service, U. S. Department of the Interior


General Note: This is a draft of the Overview and Assessment. It is unclear whether a final version was produced.

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