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: http://www.abc-clio.com/product.aspx?id=65710
Public Archaeology Lab (PAL): http://palinc.com/
Many, many thanks to Alan Leveillee!!