Boston Archeology Fair – Spotlight: Alan Leveillee

It is not hard to spot the enthusiasm in Alan Leveillee’s eyes when he talks about archeology.   Speaking with him at the AIA-MOS Archaeology Fair, I was struck by his warmth and easy-going manner, and I had to remind myself not to monopolize his time as he discussed some of his experiences in the field.

Alan explained that, although he does some teaching at Roger Williams University, he works largely in “cultural resource management” at a company called PAL (the Public Archaeological Laboratory) in Rhode Island.  There, he is senior archeologist and principal investigator.

As discussed in a previous post, “cultural resource management” refers to the work an archeologist does researching a site before any construction or development can begin.  If any archeological resources are found, the archeologist is there to determine how best to preserve those resources.

Alan was researching a site in Millbury, MA when he discovered a Native American cremation site.  This discovery lead to his book in 2002, An Old Place, Safe and Quiet: A Blackstone River Valley Cremation Burial Site.


1.     You mentioned discovering an archeological site (a Native American cremation site) at Blackstone River in Millbury.  Can you explain how you determined that it was a cremation site?

We determined it was a cremation because of thousands of fragments of calcined (burned to the point of a chalky-white appearance) bone- both human and animal.  There were also artifacts included as burial offerings.

2.      Were you able to tell when this site was used?

The site was used by multiple generations of Native Americans between 2,800 and 3,800 years ago.  It was also recognized as a burial ground by subsequent Native American peoples in the Woodland Period, approximately 1,500 years ago.

3.      Do you know what Native American tribes used this site?  Or do you have theories on this?

They were the ancestors of today’s Wampanoag, Nipmuck, and Narragansett peoples.

4.      Have you participated in the Archeology Fair at the Boston Museum before?

Yes, there have been a total of seven fairs- I’ve had the pleasure of participating in all of them.

5.      What do you enjoy most about being an archeologist?

I work with great colleagues at PAL, get to teach a bit, and attend public events like the Museum of Science Archaeology Fair.  With a little academic background, imagination, and luck, I get to time travel- what’s not to enjoy about a career in doing that!!!


For more information on Alan’s book regarding the cremation site, An Old Place, Safe and Quiet: A Blackstone River Valley Cremation Burial Site:

Public Archaeology Lab (PAL):

Many, many thanks to Alan Leveillee!!

Fossils AND Ghosts! Q&A with Todd Young

My first introduction with Big Bone Lick State Historic Park was through a book I found at my local library, Big Bone Lick: The Cradle of American Paleontology, by Stanley Hedeen.  In it, he describes two resources that brought animals (both prehistoric and contemporary) and people (Native Americans and those that followed) to that area.

A number of mammoth, mastodon and ground sloth fossils have been found there over the years.  This is a site I want to revisit on this blog, as some of the initial recorded discoveries were significant for paleontology as a whole.  Todd Young alludes to this in answer to question #6 below.

Todd Young, a Naturalist at the Park, generously (and so quickly!) responded to my questions about the Park and the upcoming event on October 24th that details paranormal sightings there.


1. For those of us who are unable to attend, can you tell me more about what the program is like?
The program is a hybrid of the parks history coupled with paranormal claims at the park. Many people claim the history of the park has something to do with the paranormal activity reported at Big Bone. This program will accurately detail the history of people and events at the park. The paranormal evidence is being supplied  by paranormal groups and the general public who have investigated at the park.

2. Where does the information of paranormal activity come from?

The paranormal evidence comes from paranormal groups who have investigated here, the general public who has accompanied park sponsored investigations, and park staff.

3. Are any of the fossils at Big Bone Lick in situ?  How many fossils are currently on display at the park in general?

Bones that have been found outside on the park grounds are properly excavated and then stored so they are not taken. We only have a very limited display area so most of the bones and artifacts found at the park are in storage.

4. Do paleontologists continue to work here?
Yes. In 2008 the Cincinnati Museum Center conducted a paleontological dig to recover bison bones that had been found in the creek. Dr. Glenn Storrs, Dr. Bob Genheimer, and Dr. Stanley Hedeen led the dig and recovered several hundred bison bones from the site.

In 2012 the University of Cincinnati started profile work here at Big Bone to set the groundwork for a more comprehensive dig in the following years. In 2013, Dr. Ken Tankersley continued Paleontological and archaeological work at the park and recovered several hundred bones and bone fragments from many different species of animals including those from the last Ice Age.
Work will continue in 2014 from mid May until around the end of June and the general public is welcome to come and volunteer to help out.

5. Where are the fossils in relation to this map?!userfiles/aParkBrochures/Maps/BigBoneLick.pdf

Fossils are generally buried well underground at the park and mostly are found in the low laying area around the creek.

6. Is there anything about the park (related to the fossils) that is not widely known?
There have been 5 holotypes found at Big Bone Lick. A holotype is a specimen of an animal that is first found in a certain location.

7. Are there any pictures of fossils from the park you’d like to include?
The best pictures you can find of fossil remains are from the recent dig. All of those pictures are on the UC field school Facebook page. You can find them at this URL location: 


For more information about Ghosts at Bone Lick on October 24th:

For more information about Big Bone Lick State Park:

To volunteer for the dig in 2014, be sure to contact people at the park!  Here is the site’s contact page:

Here is the contact info on the side of the page:
Phone: (859) 384-3522
Park Manager: Dean Henson

Many, many thanks to Todd Young!!

Cape Cod: Archeology Lab Open House & Artifact ID Day

While reviewing museums to write about on this blog, I found the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History (CCMNH). The name of the museum, according to its website, was decided in 1954 at the Brewster, MA town hall.  It may have started from humble beginnings: Initially operating out of a tent, the first museum building was constructed six years later in 1960.  But it is now in a much larger space and is steward to over 400 acres of land.

Exhibits on whales, sharks,  and local marine life combine with exhibits on archeology such as “People of the Land: The Wampanoag.”

The museum’s website states: “The Cape Cod Museum of Natural History integrates the three strands of its organizational identity – as museum of natural history, nature education center, and steward of conservation land.”

Their calendar was filled with interesting events, but what drew my interest was seeing an “artifact identification day.”

Kate Roderick, the museum’s archaeology lead, graciously responded to the questions below about the event coming up on October 5th:

1. What is the “Archeology Lab” at your museum?  Who has access to it? What kinds of artifacts are stored there?

The Archaeology Lab is the base of operations for Cape Cod Museum of Natural History Archaeology.  It is where we prep when we will be excavating, process, and store artifacts that are waiting for interpretation and further study.  Museum staff and trained archaeology volunteers use the space.  Due to the Cape’s acidic soil conditions the primary type of artifact we have are Native American lithic (stone) materials. We also have historic period artifacts related to Cape Cod’s long and unique Euro-American history. 

2. I haven’t seen any other museum offer an artifact id option.  Is this as unique as I think it is?  How many people bring artifacts and what kinds of artifacts do they bring?

I’m not sure how unique this is.  CCMNH Archaeology has a long history of doing artifact identification.  The number of people that come varies as much as the object they bring. Sometimes it’s a 19th Century ceramic fragment, sometimes it’s an 8,000 year-old spear point, sometimes it’s just a rock. 

3. What other local excavations will be highlighted on this event?

The artifacts from the Wing Island Archaeology Project are the primary objects we use. We also use a large collection of Native American materials (the Rennie Collection) for typology and education. The Rennie Collection was collected in Mid-Cape agricultural fields in the 19th Century, and although unprovenienced, still serves as a great comparative resource for local cultural materials. 

4. Is there anything about this day you want people to know?

We invite everyone and anyone to bring down whatever they may have that could be an artifact. As a non-profit we cannot appraise any materials but we would be happy to tell you about what you have. We are always open to artifact inquiries. Throughout the year you may email or call (508) 896-3867 to set up an appointment to have an artifact looked at. 

Please be sure to check this out!

Saturday, October 05, 2013, 11am to 3pm

Cape Cod Museum of Natural History
869 Main Street/Route 6A
Brewster, MA 02631

Many thanks to Kate Roderick and Barbara Knoss!