Chapters in the Archeology of Cape Cod, II: The 1983 Excavations at 19BN281


Site 19BN281 is a Late Archaic habitation near High Head (Pilgrim Heights) in North Truro, Massachusetts. The site is on land of Cape Cod National Seashore in the town of Truro. The site is near the outer end of Cape Cod, where the land narrows to a width of two kilometers before expanding again to the northwest. The site was discovered and tested as part of the National Park Service's general archeological survey of the seashore. In the context of the survey's results, 19BN28l is of interest for several reasons.

First, 19BN28l is virtually a single component Late Archaic small stemmed point tradition (Squibnocket complex) site. In this respect, the site differs from most other archeological localities on outer Cape Cod, which are typically multicomponent sites and are often dominated by evidence of earlier occupancy. Second, much of the site is buried beneath a layer of aeolian sand. This sand blanket appears to have reduced the disturbance the site suffered resulting from historic period agriculture and uncontrolled collecting. Parts of the site have never been plowed so the stratigraphy and artifact distributions at 19BN281 are in better condition than at most other prehistoric localities on the outer Cape. In addition, unlike most other prehistoric sites examined by the National Park Service survey (e.g., 19BN308 at Fort Hill), 19BN28l has no dense shell deposits.

The location of 19BN28l and the spatial pattern of which it is part are unusual. At Nauset Marsh and Wellfleet Harbor, sites are strung along bay and marsh shorelines in a linear fashion, and they rarely extend more than a couple of hundred meters inland from the shore. Site 19BN28l is several hundred meters from the nearest salt water or tidal marsh. The site is also part of a dispersed (non-linear) distribution of archeological localities at High Head. However, it is presently unclear whether 19BN28l is a discrete archeological entity or whether it is merely a dense patch in a continuous scatter of artifacts that covers many tens of hectares at High Head.

These characteristics mean that 19BN28l has the potential to inform archeologists about some facets of Late Archaic life ways better than most other sites in the seashore. Because of the large field effort to examine this site, it should be possible for the first time to develop a picture of the Late Archaic small stemmed point tradition on the outer Cape. This report describes and analyzes the results of excavations at 19BN28l and focuses particularly on the results of the 1983 field season. It provides a detailed study of the stratigraphy and artifacts at a single prehistoric site and in this way complements other, more synthetic, reports (McManamon 1982, 1984) on the results of the archeological survey at Cape Cod National Seashore. The report is guided by questions about several aspects of the site and life ways of its former occupants:

1. When was the site used, and were all parts of the site used at the same time?

2. Did the people who lived at 19BN281 use all parts of the site in the same way?

3. Why did people live at 19BN28l, and what did they do while they stayed at the site?

4. How did 19BN28l evolve from a place inhabited by hunters and gatherers several millennia ago to the archeological entity it is today? Particularly, what is the origin of the aeolian layer, and what are the possibilities that such buried sites occur elsewhere in the seashore?

Cite this Record

Chapters in the Archeology of Cape Cod, II: The 1983 Excavations at 19BN281. Christopher Borstel. Chapters in the Archeology of Cape Cod ,II. Boston: North Atlantic Regional Office, National Park Service. 1985 ( tDAR id: 4021) ; doi:10.6067/XCV8707ZHX

This Resource is Part of the Following Collections

Temporal Coverage

Radiocarbon Date: 4500 to 3500

Spatial Coverage

min long: -70.116; min lat: 42.044 ; max long: -70.088; max lat: 42.063 ;

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