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Sunday, June 5, 2011

Rebecca Sgouros & Dr. David Sanger's Public Lecture

Last night was the long awaited talk! For the last few weeks Rebecca and Dr. David Sanger of the University of Maine prepped a joint presentation on the prehistory, paleoenvironment, and geoarchaeology of the Penobscot River Valley in central Maine.

Step 1 was the transformation of our humble Hirundo shelter into a presentation hall. After some cleaning, rearranging, and spit-shining we were able to muster enough room to hold about 30 spectators. The trash can holding the rotting moose hide was too heavy to lift (moose skin weighs a lot!), so we left it in the parking lot and hoped it wouldn't frighten prospective attendees.

Step 2 was coaxing the generator to pump out enough juice to power lights, heat, computers, and a digital projector. This, fortunately, was a piece of cake.

Once the crowds arrived, the main event and speakers were introduced by Hirundo board member Stephanie Larouche.

The talk itself was broken up into two portions: Paleoenvironmental & Geoarchaeological studies of the area (Rebecca), and the Hirundo Site excavations & prehistoric cultures (Dr. Sanger). Both talks complimented each other as both the local environment and its people have been quite dynamic since the first human occupations around 10,000 years BP (Before Present....or technically before 1950)

The presentations of last night put into perspective the survey work we have been doing the past few weeks. Rebecca noted that around the beginning of the Holocene (10,000ish years ago) the retreat of a continental glacier basically demolished the landscape of Maine. The glacial retreat not only left an incredible amount of debris, but also physically impacted the environment in the form of glacial depressions and the resulting crustal rebound. The combination of those geological processes formed a continuously waxing and waning marine environment that ultimately formed the marshes and bogs of modern day.

Just as this impacts our work today, the ever changing landscape drastically influenced the subsistence and living patterns of prehistoric communities. The altering environment stipulated the availability of food sources as well as hospitable living areas.

After Rebecca discussed the changes in the physical environment, Dr. David Sanger focused on the prehistoric occupation, and modern excavation, of a specific site. The Hirundo site, located on the Hirundo refuge was first occupied around 7500 BP and excavated in the 1970's by the University of Maine. Sanger provided a great tutorial on how the site was excavated as well as the light it shed on the prehistory of the Penobscot valley. After the show he provided a show and tell of many artifacts from the site, how they were used by prehistoric people, and what they tell archaeologists. Overall the talk was absolutely fantastic and will hopefully be the first of many to come!

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