SHOWN ABOVE: Excavation of deeply-buried lithic reduction workshop.
IAC participated in a multi-year archaeological survey which covered more than one mile of highway
on the west side of the Merrimack River. The project area was part of the former village of Piscataquog in Bedford in the 18th and early 19th centuries, and encompassed the massive holdings of the Amoskeag Manufacturing Company later in the 19th century, best known as Manchester Mills. Linked to the rest of the textile mill complex by the Granite Street Bridge, the west millyard (north of Granite Street) developed most fully in the first decades of the 20th century. Here stood a massive steam boiler, foundry, pattern house, cotton storehouses, a chemical laboratory, and company stables interconnected by a system of rail lines and roads.
Archaeologists performed controlled excavations in ten areas — four residential lots, two social institutions, and four industrial components on the West Manchester landscape. Beneath the Chemical Laboratory Building (built in 1899 and razed in 2004), archaeologists encountered a deeply-buried lithic reduction workshop dating to the Late Archaic and Early Woodland periods (2,000 – 6,000 years ago). In 2007, the Exit 5 project was the largest urban archaeology project to date in the state. Approximately 800 square meters of soil were removed mechanically in trenches and “swaths” to expose deeply-buried deposits that were explored through controlled hand excavation. More than 23,000 artifacts were collected and analyzed.
Within a heavily built urban environment, such as the City of Manchester, and even more particularly, the industrial context of the mills, it is often tempting to believe that the evolution of buildings, roads, highways, and underground utilities has completely disturbed any context for Native American sites. In spite of earlier bridges having been constructed across this location as well as frequent flooding episodes, archaeological survey in the 1970s and 1980s revealed extensive, well preserved Native American sites – the Smyth, Eddy, and Neville sites – dating back from at least 8,000 years ago to the early Euroamerican period in the 1600s. It was expected that the present project would be no exception to this, in that the project area lies directly along the west bank of the Merrimack River, downstream from Amoskeag Falls.