Archaeology camps take you back 200 or 2,000 years in NH

  • Volunteers work at the archaeology dig at the Native American site in Holderness in 2015. Courtesy

  • Volunteers at the archaeology dig at the Native American site in Holderness in 2015. COURTESY

  • An 1888 picture showing a pulp mill at Livermore Hollow, now part of a state park. Courtesy

Monitor staff
Published: 4/2/2016 11:30:49 PM

If you could go back in time, would you go back 2,000 years or 200?

   That’s a trick question: you can’t go back in time. Alas! But you can come close by participating in the state’s annual archaeological field schools, helping excavations at a Native American site in Holderness that dates back at least 2,000 years, or among the cellar holes of a long-departed industrial complex in Livermore Falls State Park.

In either case, there will be lots of very careful digging and sifting, and who knows what you’ll find.

“As with all scientific endeavors, the more you learn the more you want to know,” state archaeologist Dick Boisvert said.

In Holderness, at a location near Squam Lake – more specific directions aren’t being released publicly at the request of the property owners – Boisvert has questions both focused and sweeping.

“We have specific questions, specific goals, looking for evidence of cooking, making tools, fabricating pottery. . . . We also want to know what was the long-term trend at this site – that’s a tougher nut to crack,” he said. “We want to know what was life like 5,000 years ago, and how different was that from 4,000 or 3,000 or 2,000 years ago?”

The summer dig will be a continuation of work that started last year, after the owners of the site told the state about some artifacts they had found.

At Livermore Falls State Park, a location called Livermore Hollow, the goal is very different.

“In the 19th and early 20th century, it was the site of a large industrial complex – mills, tannery, a few other things – but that’s all gone. Between fires and floods, it’s just wiped out,” Boisvert said.

“The state is trying to improve facilities at the park. We’re working with them to improve the documentation of where the old buildings were locations, and to help them find places where they can build facilities where they won’t damage the archaeology. That project will involve mapping – cellar holes, the wells, things of that sort – as well as excavating,” he said.

The field schools are coordinated through the New Hampshire State Conservation and Rescue Archaeology Program, known as SCRAP, a program that has operated since 1984.

Boisvert will direct fieldwork and instruction in Holderness and Edna Feighner, a historic archaeologist at the New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources, will direct the Livermore Hollow investigations.

The Holderness sessions take place June 19 through July 1 and July 5 through July 15. The Livermore Hollow session is July 18 through July 29.

Fieldwork will take place from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays. Background readings and evening lectures are included.

The camp will offer both undergraduate and graduate credit through Plymouth State University for those who pay tuition, but you can also participate for free, just to learn.

“For volunteers there’s no fee, but we ask for a donation to help cover costs. If nothing else, I’ve got to rent a Portalet,” Boisvert said.

The state does not cover costs for the field schools, aside from the salaries of the instructors.

Advance registration is required. For more information and to register, visit and click on “Upcoming Events & Opportunities,” then “SCRAP Field School 2016” or contact the NHDHR at 271-6433.

(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or or on Twitter @GraniteGeek)

David Brooks bio photo

David Brooks is a reporter and the writer of the sci/tech column Granite Geek and blog, as well as moderator of Science Cafe Concord events. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in mathematics he became a newspaperman, working in Virginia and Tennessee before spending 28 years at the Nashua Telegraph . He joined the Monitor in 2015.

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