Take Action Now to Save a 10,000-Year-Old Ancient Village Site

 

In July 2020, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation is planning to destroy an “incredibly rare” undisturbed ancient village site that was recently discovered in Northampton, Massachusetts – for a traffic roundabout.

 

The state’s archeological site report which details findings from two years of work there has been unlawfully withheld from the public.

 

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Photo: Discovery of an undisturbed village in Northampton from approximately 5,000 years before the Egyptians built the pyramids.

 

 

Noted archeologist Dr. Richard Gramly (PhD Archeology, Harvard) reviewed the state’s report, which has not been made available to the public:

 

“Lands along New England’s Connecticut River harbor important vestiges of early settlements dating from the Glacial epoch. This earliest cultural phase is characterized by hunters who hunted caribou as well as gathered plants, fish, and small game. Their lifestyle came to an end 10,000-11,000 calendar years ago when essentially modern environmental conditions prevailed.

 

Archaeological sites documenting a transition to modern flora and fauna are rare in northeastern North America. Intact village sites of this early era that escaped later re-occupation are extraordinarily rare.

 

Stone artifacts, hearths, dietary remains, and ritual features, which by good fortune survived 10,000 years of burial, are precious to scholars and all students of the human past. This evidence links New England inhabitants with distant North American peoples of the same period.

 

Therefore, it is shocking to learn that a partially-explored village site of this ancient era in Northampton, Hampshire County, Massachusetts, known as the Skibiski Site, is threatened with total destruction by non-essential highway construction. Expanded study of such a remarkable site, as well as its continuing preservation for future generations of New Englanders, command our attention and must be allowed to proceed without any interference.”

 

 

The state’s unreleased archeological site report called the ancient village an "incredibly rare archeological discovery" that is "eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places". The formal recommendation was to preserve the site. Native American groups have requested additional investigation and mitigation of impacts to the site. Yet, the public has been kept unaware. 

 

According to Dr. Gramly who reviewed the report, approximately 20-25% of the known site was excavated. 75-80% remains to be uncovered. Significantly, the site report states that there are at least two hearths underground still waiting to be revealed and radiocarbon tested. 

It is also nearly certain that there are further features which have not yet been discovered as the testing interval for the site was too wide to reveal all prehistoric habitation loci.

 

Construction on the roundabout commences July 1, 2020 without any opportunity for the public to examine the results of the state's effort to identify historic properties, nor for the public to express their views. There was no public statement of adverse effect. As the roundabout is federally funded, all of this (and more) is required under 36 CFR § 800.2(d) of the National Historic Preservation Act.

 

 

 

What can I do to prevent the destruction of this ancient village site?

 

1.    Click here to sign the petition

 

2.    Contact the President of the Northampton City Council: Gina-Louise Sciarra   glsciarra@northamptonma.gov  413-570-3133

3.    The Mayor of Northampton: David Narkewicz   mayor@northamptonma.gov  413-587-1249

4.    Representative Lindsay Sabadosa  lindsay.sabadosa@mahouse.gov  413-270-1166

5.    Senator Jo Commerford  Jo.Comerford@masenate.gov  617-722-1532

6.    SHPO & Executive Director MA Historic Commission Brona Simon: Brona.Simon@state.ma.us  617-727-8470

 

* To automatically address an email to all five elected officials at the same time, just click here

 

7.    Share this with interested parties, especially the petition on Facebook

 

 

For more information contact: John Skibiski 413-586-1827  john@skibiski.com

 

 

 

Updates: 

 

July 13th: The Skibiski injunction hearing originally scheduled for today has been postponed, pending release of Section 106 documents which include formal site assessments by Native American tribes. Also, Daily Hampshire Gazette letters: Diane L. Kleber: Why has roundabout project been ‘secretly managed’ and Rodney K. Kunath: Ditch the roundabout. MassLive article: Native artifacts delay Northampton roundabout construction until at least August.

 

July 7th: MassLive article: Wampanoag official favors applying brakes to Northampton rotary project for additional archaeological examination.

 

July 6th: Native American history of the site, written by Nohham Cachat-Schilling, a published researcher on regional Native culture and archaeology, and Chair, Massachusetts Ethical Archaeology Society.

 

July 3rd: Update email sent to petition signers regarding recent progress and attempts to speak with the Nipmuc Nation. Also, another detailed update post written by River Valley Co-Op. And, an old photo taken near the site.

 

July 2nd: WGBY’s segment on Connecting Point which has aired twice this week, interviewing Joe Graveline, former President of the Nolumbeka Project & Dr. Richard Gramly.

 

July 1st: Article in CommonWealth. This article quotes Hartman Deetz, of the Mashpee Wampanoag. The Daily Hampshire Gazette quoted Mark Andrews from the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head, on June 26th. These are the only two federally recognized Native American tribes in Massachusetts. This enables them to participate in the Section 106 process, which will determine the fate of the archeological site.

 

June 30th: For clarification: The Skibiski family’s #1 desired outcome would be that the site be left undisturbed.

 

June 30th: 22 News WWLP video segment. MassLive article. MassLive profile of John Skibiski (2/2019).  UK Daily Mail article.

 

June 30th: Letter of apology to the Nipmuc Nation of Massachusetts. The Skibiski family regrets implying on the petition that we represent them or speak on their behalf in any way. We have been working directly with other Native Americans on this matter and are in contact with federally recognized tribes.

 

June 28th: The “Skibiski Site” as named by MassDOT should have an appropriate Native American name.

 

June 28th: If the Skibiski family wins an injunction on July 13th in Hampshire County Superior Court permitting re-examination the site, thanks to a very generous pro-bono offer from Dr. Mike Prentice, PhD of Geoscy LLC, the greater site area will be scanned with non-invasive Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) to potentially reveal additional features. All new site information will be shared with the public.

 

June 26th:  IMPORTANT  The Skibiski family received permission from the Attorney General to share the state’s archeological site report with the public. The State Archeologist has still not released it. Download here. Note the summaries on pages 38 & 42. Yellow highlighting ours.

 

June 26th: Daily Hampshire Gazette: Digging for the truth: Roundabout project stirs archaeological hunt, lawsuit and public outcry  (major article)

 

June 26th: MassLive: 10,000-year-old ‘once in a lifetime’ archaeological site in Northampton sparks fight over artifacts, access in roundabout project

 

June 26th: The Attorney General’s office informed the Skibiski’s attorney that there will be “no boots on ground” at the Skibiski site before July 20th. Also, here is the link to the city’s website which states “Project awarded to Ludlow Construction”.  And, River Valley Co-Op wrote another detailed post.

 

June 24th: River Valley Co-Op wrote a detailed blog post about the recent events and how we got here.

 

 

 

 

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Note on article: The state’s unreleased archeological site report contradicts the public statement above (and others) that “the site is no longer there”.

 

 

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This website was constructed by the Skibiski family in an effort to preserve our history.

Unfortunately, photos of the artifacts that have already been discovered are only available in the state’s unreleased report.