Artifacts like small points indicate hunting for small game, possibly deer, turkey, rabbit and beaver. Stone lined hearths, scrapers, charcoal, groundstone, carbonized seeds and large blades are associated with food procurement and processing as well. Choppers, hammer stones and whetstones indicate some tool production as well. Post molds indicate semi-permanent dwellings. All this artifactual evidence points to a seasonal settlement following a collector model with hunting, processing, and production activities being practiced at a base camp. Specialized tasks would be carried out at specialized locations such as hunting at blinds, collecting at berry patches and tracking animals along deer paths.
Although the tasks would be carried out at discrete locations, food and tools would be taken back to the base camp, obscuring the archaeological record. Early Archaic occupations had hunting of small game based on the presence of small points. Debitage, blade fragments and scrapers indicate tool production. Charcoal and hearths are representative of food processing and consumption. Like a seasonal camp, this temporary settlement would have been a stop over for the native groups traveling from Canada to the eastern seaboard for trade and resources. Abundant fish, game and tool stone within reach made the Weirs a promising camp, which was subsequently used for 10,000 years (Bolian, 1980). The Early Archaic B period was also a time of occasional small game hunting, more fishing, food processing, tool production, and technology procurement in the form of woodworking of atlatls, bows, arrow shafts, baskets, food containers and other wood items. Groundstone rods and abraded hammer stones could have been used for tool production and woodworking. Whetstones also indicate tool production. Choppers and scrapers along with projectile points indicate food procurement and consumption. The Middle Archaic is far less represented at the Weirs Beach excavation in artifact numbers found. However, hunting and food processing can be theorized from existing artifacts. No other Lakes Region sites contain groundstone rods or scrappers (Bolian, 1980). If other sites were specialized locations and the Weirs was the base camp, this would be expected in the archaeological record. All Early Archaic sites are close to rapids and falls in the rivers (Bolian, 1980), indicating fishing practices and access to transportation by watercraft like canoe. Middle Archaic sites are located in same sites with early occupations, but are generally larger and more common. A population expansion, as reflected by the archaeological record, could have been due to a well adapted seasonal round including varied food procurement activities represented at the Weirs Beach site and a wide diet breadth. The middle archaic occupations at the Weirs Beach and Aquadocton region stretch over a half-mile, pointing towards a large population settlement or frequent reoccupation.
A seasonal base camp with the added benefit of excellent fishing and hunting resources is represented at the Weirs Beach archaeological site. “It is hypothesized that all of the occupations at the Weirs were related to fishing activities. The site was an historic fishing station utilized by American Indians and Euroamericans. The time depth for this use may be nearly 10,000 years (Bolian, 1980).” While I agree that fishing was a major component of the Weirs site, small game hunting, tool production and food processing were also likely activities as suggested by an interpretation of available data through Binford’s Forager-Collector model.
I have constructed a proposed seasonal round for Archaic people represented at Weirs Beach. Starting in Fall, with the arrival of northern groups from Canada such as the Abenakis and Cree, fishing for spawning Shad in the rivers using fish weirs and nets would bring abundant fall resources. As winter approached, fishing and hunting would help supplement winter’s stress on supplies. A seasonal camp would allow for bulk acquisition and storage of food and specialized technologies associated with the tasks, like the weirs and nets. During spawning season, the Weirs would be an ideal fishing location, while the beach and grass areas would make nice camps. In winter, large settlements like ones at Alton Bay would form. Large aggregations of archaic people could trade and cement social ties. Like the Dalles of the Pacific Northwest, I believe a regional trade network stretched across New England and Canada in archaic times, allowing the transmission of goods and ideas. A centralized, seasonal aggregation would occur, spurning on the migrations that brought groups through the Lakes Region, leaving behind their archaeological artifacts and story. As spring approached and summer came, migration north into Canada would occur to another seasonal camp location. Perhaps the Weirs were occupied for half the year, perhaps more. I cannot be sure.
In brief, Weirs Beach may have been a seasonal camp for a large population movement. Providing fish in the fall, small game hunting in winter, and time to make tools and specialized technology, Weirs Beach was an ideal location for northern groups to over winter. An interpretation of the archaeological findings through Binford’s Forager-Collector Model leads one to the conclusion that the Weirs Beach inhabitants fit the collector description. Resources in the region are unevenly spread through space and time and affected by a high seasonality.
Bolian, Charles E.
1978 Weirs Beach: A preliminary report of the 1976 excavations. The New Hampshire Archaeologist 19: 47-53.
Bolian, Charles E.
1980 The Early and Middle Archaic of the Lakes Region, New Hampshire. Early and Middle Archaic Cultures in the Northeast. Rindge, NH: Department of anthropology, Franklin Pierce College.
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