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Nantucket and Other Native Places

The Legacy of Elizabeth Alden Little

Elizabeth S. Chilton, Mary Lynne Rainey

Publication Year: 2010

An indispensible, up-to-date overview of the archaeology of the Native peoples and earliest settlers of eastern Massachusetts. The archaeology and histories of the Native peoples and earliest settlers of eastern Massachusetts come vividly to life in these pages.Leading archaeologists and anthropologists share the latest findings and interpretations of such topics as: the archaeology of the Jethro Coffin House, arguably the oldest house in Nantucket; the origin and significance of maize horticulture; the production and distribution of wampum; Native women sachems of Martha's Vinyard; Native vernacular architecture at Nantucket; the "Indian planting fields" at Concord, Massachusetts; fertilizer and Native horticulture; the enduring strands of significance of drift whales; and an insightful examination of a seventeenth-century house in Duxbury, Massachusetts. A tribute to the career of the influential archaeologist Elizabeth Alden Little (1926-2003), Nantucket and Other Native Places offers an essential introduction to the archaeology of eastern Massachusetts.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Nantucket and Other Native Places

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Nantucket and Other Native Places: The Legacy of Elizabeth Alden Little

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pp. ii


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pp. iv-v


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pp. vi-ix


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pp. x

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pp. xii-xiii

Dr. Elizabeth Alden Little (1926–2003) was an accomplished physicist, archaeologist, and anthropologist who devoted over thirty years of her life to the advancement and dissemination of scholarly research on Nantucket’s Native American and Colonial population. She received her PhD in physics from MIT in 1954...

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1 The “Ancient Dwelling” on Sunset Hill: Preliminary Archaeological Investigations at the Jethro Coffin House

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pp. 1-23

The Jethro Coffin House is one of Nantucket’s (Massachusetts) important historical landmarks, representing the dwelling of a prominent early settler on the island. This historic structure, constructed in about 1686, is owned and maintained by the Nantucket Historical Association (NHA). An element of the Nantucket Historical District since 1955, the Jethro Coffin House was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1968...

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2 Native American Architecture on Nantucket Island, Massachusetts

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pp. 25-62

In southern New England, the search for archaeological remains of Native American residences, community structures, or specialized building forms has been driven by a broad set of regional ethnohistoric descriptions, archaeological site data, and nineteenth- and twentieth-century imagery believed to encompass the physical reality of Algonquian vernacular architecture...

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3 Drift Whales at Nantucket: The Kindness of Moshup

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pp. 63-86

From before 1668 until at least 1728, Nantucket Indians engaged in a structured whaling industry, centered about drift or stranded whales. Deeds and regulations governing the ownership of drift whales show that the Indians owned rights to all the drift whales at Nantucket and retained these rights as they sold land to the English. The records of stranded whales at Nantucket today suggest the importance of drift whales as a prehistoric resource...

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4 Island Queens: Women Sachems on Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket in the Colonial Period

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pp. 87-102

A salient feature of the native New England “interaction sphere” centered around the islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket and the territories ringing Buzzard’s Bay and Long Island Sound was the number of prominent “queen sachems,” or sauncksquûaog, who appear to have ruled there in their own right throughout the seventeenth century...

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5 Pilgrim Subsistence: A Seventeenth-Century Profile from the John and Priscilla Alden House, Duxbury, Massachusetts

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pp. 103-118

In the late 1960s, popular archaeologist Roland Wells Robbins excavated a seventeenth-century house site in Duxbury, Massachusetts, believed to have been built and occupied by seventeenth-century settlers John Alden and Priscilla Mullins. Elizabeth Alden Little traced her ancestry to this important English family, and the results of archaeological studies conducted at the Alden House were one of her many interests...

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6 The “Indian Planting Fields” in Concord, Massachusetts: Influence of New Techniques on Archaeological Explanatory Models

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pp. 119-136

In the 1990s the Concord Cemetery Committee started plans to expand the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord, Massachusetts. The field that would become the extension was an area where collectors had picked up Native American artifacts since the end of the nineteenth century and was thought to be the site where Indian planting fields existed at the founding of the town in 1635. These “planting fields,” together with a weir, were mentioned in a 1637 deed as given in exchange for wampum, tools, and clothing...

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7 Wampum Use in Southern New England: The Paradox of Bead Production without the Use of Political Belt

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pp. 137-158

Between 1600 and 1620, marine shell beads of a standardized size and shape, specifi cally called “wampum” (from wampompeag, the general Algonquian term for white shell beads), emerged as a commodity produced by foraging peoples living along the shores of Long Island Sound. Wampum use spread rapidly in the Northeast, but for purposes that were far from uniform among the Native cultures...

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8 The Origin and Spread of Maize (Zea Mays) in New England

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pp. 159-179

The adoption and practice of maize horticulture by Native Americans in Precontact New England are both poorly understood and hotly debated. While some archaeologists argue that the adoption of maize had a major transformative effect on Native groups, the extant archaeological evidence supports a model of mobile farming and the continuation of hunting and gathering by Native peoples...

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9 Limestone, Shell, and the Archaeological Visibility of Maize and Beans in New England: A Fertilizer Hypothes

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pp. 181-200

As of 2002, nine calibrated radiocarbon dates were obtained directly on maize kernels and ten dates on associated charcoal or shell from features in alluvial fl oodplains or coastal shell deposits in New England (Little 1999b, 2002). Four charcoal or shell samples from three coastal features are older than the associated maize kernels by 150 to 400 years. By contrast, four out of six pairs of dates on maize and associated charcoal from fl oodplains match surprisingly well...

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10 An Intellectual Biography of Elizabeth Alden Little, 1927–2003

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pp. 201-209

Dr. Elizabeth Alden Little was drawn into archaeology by a spectrum of lifelong interests that seemed almost to have preselected her, as well as by her formidable research skills. Betty Little’s early interests in history, natural science, and outdoor activities expanded throughout her life combined with her formidable research skills to create an outstandingly effective researcher, scholar, and teacher...

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Afterword A Presentation at Elizabeth A. Little’s Memorial Celebration, September 12, 2003

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pp. 211-213

Because I am the youngest, I am always the last one. My father informed me a couple of days ago that he didn’t want to use birth order for our readings. That is why I am going first. What I would like to say about my mom is from my perspective as the youngest. I trail my next sibling Tom by three years. So in some ways I had mom to myself for the years before the empty nest...

A Comprehensive List of the Works of Elizabeth Alden Little

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pp. 215-224


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pp. 225-228


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pp. 229-237

E-ISBN-13: 9781438432557
E-ISBN-10: 1438432550
Print-ISBN-13: 9781438432533
Print-ISBN-10: 1438432534

Page Count: 251
Illustrations: 7 tables, 33 figures
Publication Year: 2010

Edition: 1

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Subject Headings

  • Nantucket Island (Mass.) -- Antiquities.
  • New England -- Antiquities.
  • Little, Elizabeth A.
  • Indians of North America -- New England -- Antiquities.
  • Indians of North America -- Massachusetts -- Nantucket Island -- Antiquities.
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