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The Berkshires are Mohican
Includes 8 images
Credit: David Degner via Visura
Asset ID: VA65079
Caption: Available
Copyright: © David Degner, 2024
Collection: Feature
Location: Boston, Massachusetts
Topics: Archeology Education Feature History Native American

David Degner

Based in New York, NY

I'm a  New York and Boston photographer working on documentary and commercial photography .  I feel it is essential to document this moment in the US while expanding my visual language to incorporate more video and...
Also by David Degner —
Colonists displaced the Mohicans from their homeland in the 1780s.  This summer the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians and Williams College opened two archeology digs to search for new evidence of their history in the Berkshires.

Historians have said they felt that the Berkshires was more of a seasonal hunting grounds. But the digs found evidence to suggest that there were many permanent residents and over a longer period of time.

I found this story while working on another one about old growth forests for the Smithsonian Magazine. You can see more of my Boston based photography on my website.
An archeological dig by the Stockbridge-Munsee tribe, Williams College, and the City of Stockbridge beside Ice Glen was looking for and found evidence of colonial era habitation by Native Americans a few feet underground.
After 4 days of digging exploratory holes and sifting through mud and sand little was unearthed. Until the 5th day, when they found a living floor with a charcoal hearth, signifying a house.   And there were layers of charcoal separated by flood deposits, signifying that the Mohicans returned to the exact same spot year after year.

The strange thing is when looking at magnetic imaging of the area it is one black disturbance in a line of about 6 black disturbances.

This had the archeologists scratching their heads most of the morning because it would be strange for houses to be lined up so close together and in a straight line. Over lunch, they consulted with a geomorphologist who suggested it could have been a line of hearths in a longhouse used for meetings.
The dark dirt on the bottom and the wall of the hole are evidence of a hearth, and the light dirt is a compacted living floor.

After finding the first evidence of a hearth the team opened another hole above one of the other magnetic imaging disturbances.

All afternoon they found charcoal, knapped stones, a used cobble stone, and burnt bone.  All signs of Mohican settlement, but they didn’t find a second hearth.  By 4pm a heavy storm started to come in and they had to cover the holes.  The next day would be their last, and was scheduled only as a cleanup day.

Charcoal collected at the site will be radiocarbon dated to determine the age of the site.
Proving or disproving the longhouse theory will require another dig.

But the bigger story is how the Stockbridge-Munsee tribe will continue working with Williams college to identify and repatriate artifacts, and bodies of their ancestors.  They are also working with the city of Stockbridge to identify and document their historic homes.
Grain plants still growing around the site give weight to the idea of a longer term settlement.
Knaps of flint were also found in the hole.