A cache of Native American goods and a 1600s fort are turning out to be some of the most important Native American discoveries in the Northeast. Archaeologists say the finds are shining light on a tribe’s dealings with Europeans.
Experts found the remains of a 17th century fort and artifacts including arrow and spear tips that date back an estimated 3,000 years. The discoveries came on a small sliver of land next to railroad tracks that carry Amtrak and Metro-North commuter trains.
“It’s one of the earliest historic period sites that has been found so far,” says archaeologist Ross Harper. “And it’s very rich in artifacts including Native American pottery and stone tools, as well as trade goods such as glass beads, wampum, hatchets, and knives. It’s definitely one of the more important sites, not just for the area but New England in general.”
Apparently, the Norwalk Indians had a fort at the site from about 1615–1640. They used it to trade goods with early Dutch settlers. A 19th-century history of Norwalk mentions an old Native American fort, and a road near the site is still named Fort Point Street.
The site was found during surveys for the state’s replacement of the 122-year-old Walk Bridge, which spans the Norwalk River and swings open to allow boats to pass. The bridge has gotten stuck open several times and caused massive rail service delays.
Excavation officials are working with the Mashantucket Pequots and Mohegans—two federally recognized tribes in the state.
“For me, it’s like a gold mine,” says Kevin McBride, anthropology professor at the University of Connecticut and research director at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum.
McBride says items found at the site show how Native Americans incorporated European products such as iron tools and knives into their culture.
(AP Photo: Archaeologist Ross Harper holds a notched projectile, estimated to be 3,000 years old.)