The Taylor-Bray Farm in Yarmouth Port is a 23-acre swath of land fronting the marshes near Cape Cod Bay in an area of Yarmouth Port known as Hockanom. Richard and Ruth Taylor first came here from England and began farming the land in 1639. Over the course of a few hundred years, there were seven generations of Taylors.
The 2017 archaeology fieldwork season produced more evidence of the three distinct prehistoric eras when Native Americans made use of the farm covering a timespan that ranges from 2000 to 10,000 years ago.
Prior to 2009 when the professional archaeology project got underway at the farm, this area was a blank spot on an archaeological map of Cape Cod. Our fieldwork this year was guided in part by sophisticated laboratory dating tests that are a pioneering step in New England archaeology. Additional dating tests will be conducted in 2018 to refine our understanding of the farm's pre-colonial past.
The 2017 fieldwork, which benefited from almost 1100 hours of volunteer labor, discovered many stone projectile points and tools as well as an unusually large amount of firecracked rock, a solid indicator of prehistoric camp sites with hearths for cooking or processing foodstuffs collected in the wild. The dig also discovered the remains of four large post holes that emerged in excavations as we neared glacial soil levels. Post holes this size are unusual and could possibly be evidence of a large structure, a development that would cause us to rethink some of our previous conclusions that suggest only seasonal use of the site by prehistoric native peoples.
2017's archaeology fieldwork was undertaken to fill gaps in our knowledge of the farm's prehistoric past. We know from previous digs that native peoples were present here over several millennia going as far back as 10,000 years ago.
We found more evidence of tool making (stone points and flakes). We also delineated more areas of fire cracked rock (FCR), cobble-sized stones that have been split by deliberate heating. FCR is a feature of many archaeological sites indicating a prehistoric camp site with hearths for boiling water, cooking or processing foodstuffs collected in the wild. We will send selected samples of the FCR out for lab tests to help us date our finds.
Just a few feet from where in 2015 we found ancient points that are 8000 to 10000 years old, we discovered the bottom half of a rhyolite spear point similar to a Late Paleo era Agate Basin point found in 2015. This new discovery is possibly even older and our archaeologist plans on reaching out to experts in Native American projectile point typology to get additional opinions on the date of this unusual find. If it turns out to be a Paleo era point, our discovery would be evidence of some of the earliest habitation of what is now Cape Cod as nomadic hunters began to visit the area about 12,000 years ago with the retreat of the glacial ice sheet. Nomadic peoples would have only stayed a few days at the farm before moving on following migrating prey across a tundra like environment. Over the next few millennia as the climate warmed the tundra and grasslands would have been replaced with a different looking landscape with trees, shrubs and other vegetation. Sea levels rose over this same timeframe and the shoreline of Cape Cod Bay grew closer to it's current configuration.
As work continued, several more points were unearthed, among them a small stemmed Lamoka point (left above) made about 4,000 to 4,500 years ago. The point was discovered beneath a scattering of fire cracked rocks dating back 3,500 years uncovered in 2015. This finding reinforces our belief that the area of Taylor-Bray Farm was was a seasonally occupied Native American site during the Late Archaic Period. In addition to the points, tools including the hammer stone (right above) were recovered.
We returned to the southeast pasture to begin excavating a Middle Woodland Period (1000 to 2000 years ago) site that we explored in 2015 when we found stone tools and the largest concentration of native pottery artifacts we have discovered to date.
Our volunteers carefully excavated the largest concentration of FCR found to date at the farm. (above left) But this concentration may be for something different like firing pottery.
Making matters more interesting, near the FCR concentration we found three quartz Squibnocket Triangle points (above right) that are 2700 to 3700 years old. The point fragments and quartz scraper below were also excavated nearby.