ORONO – For the past month, University of Maine anthropology students have been excavating a site on the downeast coast .
For hours a day, the students dig in the ground centimeter by centimeter to find items from the distant past under the tutelage of Bonnie Newsom, the associate professor of anthropology at UMaine.
“The items are one thing but it’s the story and the family and the culture around those items that really help us to understand Maine’s history, this part of Maine’s history,” Newsome said.
It may not look like much to the untrained eye but for anthropology students like twin brothers Dylan and Andrew Smith and Alicia Jacobson, every piece helps tell the story of Maine.
“It just looks like shells of dirt, but it’s so much more than that, it’s so much more. It teaches us about their culture, what they eat, it even can tell us about what season they were living here,” Jacobson said.
Some of the things they have found date back 3,000 years.
“Seeing these things in person from the people that came before us is just an experience that you can’t get anywhere else or recreate. It’s just something that’s amazing, honestly,” Andrew Smith said.
“We aren’t here to just collect stuff and look at stuff and be like ‘put it in the museum, this is mine.’ It’s doing it for the people that were here and the people that still are here. The Passamaquoddy, the Wabanaki, and the Penobscot, all those tribes that are still here, these are their relatives’ artifacts,” Dylan Smith said
Some of the Native American student archaeologists, like Sage Neptune of the Penobscot Nation, said it further connects them with their heritage.
“The more we can learn, the more we can know about those who came before us and that is probably one of the most important things you can do in your life. To know where you came from, to know who you are deep inside,” Neptune said.