Chatham’s Rich Archaeological History Detailed In Survey

Last February, a construction crew working at a property off Cranberry Lane, near the Pleasant Bay shoreline, came across a Native American burial site that eventually yielded some 13 boxes of artifacts, some as much as 600 years old.

In Chatham, a half dozen unmarked burial sites have been confirmed, all near the shore or fresh water resources, “a pattern we see throughout the region,” according to Holly Herbster, a senior archeologist with Public Archeology Laboratory Inc., a Pawtucket, R.I. firm responsible for an archaeological reconnaissance survey of the town.

“There is a history in Chatham that goes back hundreds if not thousands of years,” Messina said. Every day we see post-contact resources from the past three hundred years in the form of the town’s older, historic buildings, but the archaeological survey “goes below ground” to identify sites which have yielded or could hold important links to the past, he said.

The reconnaissance survey, which was conducted in 2006 and 2007 and completed in 2009, is a technical report that follows a Massachusetts Historical Commission format for reviewing and analyzing available data to identify existing archaeological resources and predict likely locations where other resources may be located. Periods covered in the survey are roughly divided into the precontact era, the time before Europeans settled in the area, and post-the contact era.

Humans were known to have lived on the Cape for at least 10,000 years, Herbster said, adding that there “certainly is the potential for sites that old to be located in town.

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