Friday, April 1, 2005
Town hires professional archaeologist to study possible artifacts on Benfield Land
At their March 29 meeting, members of the Benfield Task Force voted 8-0 to hire Alan Leveillee of the Public Archaeology Laboratory (PAL) to determine the authenticity of claims that Benfield Parcel A contains sacred Indian relics. Native American interests insist that the Benfield site features many manifestations of the culture of the original people who lived here - over 60 ceremonial structures. The ceremonial landscape falls exactly on top of the area identified for affordable housing. The Massachusetts Historical Commission (MHC) has stated that before any proposed construction is begun, any historical or archeological resource must undergo an intensive survey under a permit from the state archaeologist.
Leveillee, who is a senior archaeologist, was the only applicant for the job and won with a bid of $11,365. PAL, with headquarters in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, is a recognized authority in cultural resource management and specializes in terrestrial and marine archaeology, architectural history, research and documentation, preservation planning, and consulting throughout New England and the Mid-Atlantic. PAL has completed a wide range of more than 1,400 projects in the areas of cultural resource management, historic preservation planning, and regulatory consultation and compliance.
In a short presentation, Leveillee explained that he gives little credibility to stone piles around the property, which were probably created by farmers clearing their fields. "We only deal with the tangible, not with intangible theories," he said. Instead, Leveillee intends to dig 80-85 holes, 1.5 feet wide and deep, and then sift the soil in search of arrowheads, spear points, pottery shards, and garbage to prove or disprove the existence of earlier settlements. He must obtain a permit from the MHC before beginning, and his results will require some analysis and documentation before a report is available to the town. This makes completion by the May 23 Town Meeting deadline difficult. "We'll be lucky if we have the report by May 23, unless the state moves fast," lamented chair John Ballantine. If the results are not available by Town Meeting date, the Selectmen may withdraw the related affordable housing articles from the Town Meeting Warrant and request a special Town Meeting at a later date.
© 2005 The