Walk Over Survey on Thompson Islands
Written by: Melissa Hurtado
More than half of the Boston Harbor Islands include archaeological sites. In fact, there are so many archaeological sites that it is considered an archaeological district. Much of the archaeology done in the harbor islands was done in the 70s. However, the Harbor Islands look vastly different than they did back then. Erosion and climate change has threatened the shores of the islands along with the archaeological sites documented on or near the shore. Many archaeological sites are no longer there and have been lost to sea because of erosion, both Native and historic sites.
Since before and after the 70s there has been no plan in action to address this. However, a team of people from Boston University, the City of Boston Archaeology Program, The Massachusett Tribe, and the Park Service came together to form the Archaeology Climate Action Plan. This plan hopes to document and protect archaeological sites at risk of loss due to erosion, climate change, and other threats. During my internship, I have been helping out with planning the initial steps for this plan.
We decided to do a pre-project survey on Thompson Island to see if some of the sites we had documented are still there or have been eroded away. This was planned so that in the future, archaeology contractors can know exactly which sites to survey and not spend so much time looking for a site that is not there.
The walk over survey essentially consisted of myself, Joe the City Archaeologists, and other Tribal members including Elizabeth and Faries going out to Thompson Island and methodically walking around the Island on the shore and looking for signs of eroded sites.
We were only able to do half of the Island because of stamina, mosquitos, ppe, and safety. It is important that we learned this because now we have an understanding of how long it will take archaeology contractors and Tribal members to survey an island. Additionally, it will allow us to prepare better for next time.
We saw many archaeological sites being eroded and understood the reality of how much erosion is affecting archaeological sites as well as how much more research needs to be done on the Harbor Islands. Here you can see some pictures of the island cliffs being eroded and nearly destroyed.
Thankfully, we have a plan in place and are working towards executing it in the next coming years!