Maine has a rich prehistoric and historic heritage spanning thousands of years. Indigenous peoples have inhabited the land we now call Maine for the past 13,000 years. The Eastern Abenaki tribe, specifically the Almouchiquois, but others too, lived primarily in Southern Maine and here in the Kennebunks. They were part of the larger community of the Wabanaki or “People of the Dawnland.” The Brick Store Museum’s collection contains a few artifacts that represent this indigenous history. The collection reveals meaningful information about the indigenous peoples that lived in Southern Maine. Unfortunately, for the majority of these artifacts, the site from which they were recovered is unknown. This limits what we can learn from them. When artifacts are recovered without proper archaeological investigation into the context in which they are found, significant information is lost.
According to Dr. Arthur E. Spiess, Senior Archaeologist for the Maine Historic Preservation Office, very little archaeological research has been conducted in Southern Maine. There are only a few identified sites and very little is known of the archaeological resources that are important to our cultural heritage.
Many archaeology sites in Maine (and elsewhere) are under threatened with destruction by a variety of factors, including urban development, river erosion, and sea level rise. To combat the loss of cultural heritage, the Brick Store Museum has joined an initiative to support, advance and encourage archaeological research in the area.
Our current initiative is a collaboration that began in 2017 when the Brick Store Museum partnered with the Kennebunkport Conservation Trust (KCT), Tim Spahr (Principle Investigator/Archaeologist) and Gemma Hudgell (consulting Archaeologist) to form the Cape Porpoise Archaeological Alliance (CPAA). The CPAA’s research has focused on the islands and intertidal zone off of Cape Porpoise Harbor that has already been affected by sea level rise. Learn more about this work via our 16th Century Saturday Portal.
This work is part of the Museum’s larger mission to promote the preservation of Kennebunk’s cultural resources through research and identification of archaeological sites, burial sites, historic buildings and structures. Historic preservation is a crucial component of community projects and the planning and development process. It is especially effective in enhancing the character of a community. Archaeology contributes to historic preservation projects by amplifying existing records especially through carefully-planned excavation. The Museum continues to be a repository for artifacts recovered from archaeological investigations as well as providing curation and interpretation of archaeological collections through exhibits and educational programs.
In the future, the Museum seeks to gain more knowledge that spans from the earliest known occupation to the 20th century, all of which hold enormous historical significance. Archaeology can reveal so much of our shared culture by telling the story of indigenous peoples, minority cultures and ordinary lives that are often left out of the historical record. Only a society that examines all of its past can truly appreciate the powerful blend of traditions and lifeways that it carries into the present and future.
In Spring 2021, the Museum installed an exhibit displaying tools and items found during previous years’ digs in “Cape Porpoise: Archaeology in the Archipelago.” Learn more…
For more information on archeology in Southern Maine, check out the Southern Maine Archaeology Resource.
If you have discovered a prehistoric or historic object or feature (cellar hole, foundation, etc.), please contact the Brick Store Museum for more information, at (207) 985-4802.
If you would like to sign up for our Volunteer List to be notified of project opportunities (when available), please email [email protected] with the subject line “Archaeology Volunteer” and list your name, age, and contact information.
Are you looking to support this work? Archaeology and preservation requires significant funding due to the resources involved. Your help is always needed. If you would like to donate toward the Archaeology program, please contact Cynthia Walker at [email protected] or (207)985-4802, or click here to process a donation online.