Archaeologists at a railway bridge site scraped and sifted—as they had done many times. But what came out of the exploration along a New England river surprised everyone. The find would quickly become one of the most important Native American discoveries in the Northeast. It also shed light on a little-known tribe.
A 19th-century written history of Norwalk, Connecticut, mentions a Native American fort, and a road in that town is named Fort Point Street. Local historians also knew about a 1689 deed with a mysterious label: “point of common land where the Indian fort formerly stood.”
Other maps hint that in the late 1800s, citizens covered a fort to make room for the growing town. But no one knew exactly where the structure had been—or much about the Norwalk Indians.
Do you ever feel lost or forgotten? You’re not. God remembers all about you—the hairs on your head, the family you live in. And He knows all the peoples of the Earth, even those that seem to have vanished since “there is no creature hidden from His sight.” (Hebrews 4:13)
While replacing the 122-year-old Walk Bridge in Norwalk, the Connecticut Department of Transportation found the remains of a 17th-century fort. Workers also unearthed artifacts dating back about 3,000 years. That’s long before America’s founding. The discoveries were on a sliver of land next to the town’s railroad tracks.
“It’s one of the earliest historic period sites that has been found,” says archaeologist Ross Harper. “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.”
Very rich indeed. The site has yielded thousands of artifacts. Most are from Europeans’ first dealings with Native Americans. Little is known about this era. That makes the fort’s excavation even more important.
Archaeologists believe the fort had wooden walls because of holes containing wood fragments found at intervals around the area. They believe the Norwalk Indians maintained a fort at the site from about 1615–1640. From the types of goods found, they think the Indians traded with early Dutch settlers there.
Harper’s team will conduct further study of the Norwalk artifacts. Harper refers to a “giant blank spot of what we know about Native Americans at this time period.” He says of the Norwalk discovery, “Every single thing that we find adds something new and important to the puzzle.”