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Our Land Acknowledgement

Hirundo acknowledges that it sits on the original homelands of the Penobscot Nation. This land was a site of travel, trade, gathering, and living since time immemorial. Hirundo acknowledges the enduring relationship between the Wabanaki Confederacy and their traditional territories in The Dawnland. Hirundo acknowledges the uncomfortable truths of colonialism and genocide and that issues of water and territorial rights, and encroachment upon sacred sites, are still ongoing.Hirundo wishes to pay respect to the Abenaki, Maliseet, Mi’kmaq, Passamaquoddy, Penobscot living before and among us. Our organization is committed to diversity and inclusion, to honoring and sharing the history of this land, and to building relationships with the Wabanaki community. 

The Hirundo Archaeology Project

Robert Mackay reading next to the trenches.

EXCAVATION HISTORY

The Hirundo Site was discovered in 1971 by an area resident walking through the refuge. The site is quite large, stretching 250 meters along the south bank of Pushaw Stream. Robert Mackay and David Sanger took interest in the Hirundo Site and taught field schools, in collaboration with the University of Maine. These field schools, which lasted from 1972-1975, taught University students detailed scientific techniques, including the process of systematic excavation. Experts in geological and paleoecological sciences also studied the site and its surrounding area. Funding for the project came from National Geographic Society, the Hazel Smith Fund and University of Maine, Orono. 

The importance of the Hirundo site was recognized and it is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. 

Oliver Larouche and a UMaine student work together at the excavation site.

ENVIRONMENTAL CONTEXT

Landscapes and climate are not static and it is within that ever-changing environment that we must live and adapt. When we consider sites of the past, we must also consider the environment in which those people would have lived and how that might have affected everyday choices. Earliest occupation in the Central Maine area began shortly after the Ice Age. After the massive glacier covering much of the continent melted, the Penobscot area was covered by sea until 12,400 years ago. At this time the land rose slowly upwards towards its present shape and the Penobscot River and Pushaw stream formed. Once the area became dry it was covered by woods much like it is today. The composition of the forest though has changed throughout the past 12,000 years and pollen studies in the area have allowed us to reconstruct the exact species present at different times. The efforts of the Hirundo Archaeological Project have allowed us to further understand and reconstruct how the environment looked in the local area and helped to explain how humans interacted within the changing landscape.

LIFE AT HIRUNDO

Excavations at the Hirundo site revealed a long span of occupation ranging from the Middle Archaic Period (c. 5000 years before present) to the early Historic period (c. 250 years before present). Dating the many artifacts of the site was accomplished through radiocarbon dating of charcoal, and analyzing the shapes and styles (typology) of projectile points that correspond to specific time periods. Hirundo is particularly important to Maine's history because it is one of the largest and longest occupied sites in the inland region, having been used for over 4500 years.

The archaeological evidence discovered during the excavation provides key insights to how prehistoric people lived, ate, and used the many natural resources of central Maine. Artifacts recovered from the site include chipped and ground stone projectile points (evidence for hunting), plummets (possible fishing weights), ground celts (axes), and pottery. Because of the strong acidity of the soil, animal and plant remains were scarce. No structures were found at the site but hearth fires were identified. Its location along Pushaw stream, along with the wide variety of artifacts found, suggests that it was used primarily as a fishing camp. Another archaeological site, the Young Site, located directly across the stream from Hirundo presented similar fishing artifacts. When investigating the two sites, Dr. David Sanger suggested that their locations amongst rapids in the stream were strategically positioned to optimize fishing potential. This does not mean that fishing was the only subsistence activity at the Hirundo site, but it was undoubtedly a very important resource.

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Preserve and Protect​

Hirundo is dedicated to protecting the important archaeological and indigenous heritage of the land which we caretake. 

Visitors are welcome to walk along the Wabanaki Trail (accessible from Gate 1 or 3) and read the interpretive trail signage highlighting the Wabanaki history of this land. As always, we ask visitors to keep to the trail out of respect and consideration to the archaeological site in the area. In acknowledgement of the Indigenous presence in the area, Penobscot glossary words have been incorporated on our other trail signage throughout the refuge, we welcome you to walk and explore our other trails and learn as you go.

Hirundo offers educational programs for the public on the archaeological and indigenous history of the area and welcomes collaborations with researchers and traditional knowledge holders to further study and/or share their work with the public.

To schedule a school visit/private program or inquire about a collaboration please email: info@hirundomaine.org