Block 79 Site

The Block 79 site is located on Boston Common near the present-day Parkman Bandstand and Tremont T Station.

This area of the Common has undergone relatively little landscape modification over the years since European arrival, which is good because the Block 79 site is much shallower than the nearby Frog Pond site. The area where Block 79 is located has recently been paved over with a walkway, which ironically will likely protect the site better than grass alone--- so long as the walkway did not extend deeply into the ground.

Biface from Block 79 Site

Overall, fewer lithics (stone tools) were found here than the Frog Pond site, however a very large knife-like biface was recovered during the 1988 survey of the Common. Unfortunately, the base of the point was damaged sometime in the past, so we are unable to conclusively determine the age of the point, however it is made of rhyolite that was likely gathered from the nearby Blue Hills.

Two rhyolite flakes, the pieces of stone that break off when making stone tools, were recovered from the Block 79 site indicating there was not as much stone tool manufacturing going on here as was happening near the Frog Pond site.

Overall, the lithics of Block 79 do not provide conclusive dates for the site, but definitely do show a clear use of the area by Native Peoples in the past. The Pottery from Block 79, however, provides some fantastic insights to Shawmut history.

100 pieces of pottery were found at the Block 79 survey---three times more than at the Frog Pond site. While the number of pottery fragments is large, they are so similar in appearance to each other, we can only divide them into two vessel lots. In other words, it is possible that all of the pieces of pottery may have came from as few as two individual pots.

What is significant about this pottery is its decoration. One of the fragments is decorated with incised lines. These lines were carved or drawn into the vessel while it was still wet. Archaeologist have determined that pottery with this type of decoration dates to the latest period of Prehistory- the Late Woodland (1,000-450 years old). It is possible that this pot was actively in use when Europeans first met the Massachusett people of Shawmut, and was undoubtedly created by a Massachusett Tribal member.

 

The decoration on the incised sherd consist of a "Double V" shape with a faint punctation (dot) in the valley of the V. Unlike many of the pottery sherds of this size, this particular fragment shows no curvature. Prehistoric pottery in New England all had conical or globular shapes, so larger fragments of pottery would, in theory, be curved. In the Late Woodland, however, a new style of pottery emerged in the area called Collared Vessels. This style appears to have originated in New York and spread to surround areas similarly to clothing styles spreading today from one area to another.

Collared Vessels have globular bases, a thin neck, but at the top are either canoe or square shaped. These flat "Collars" were often decorated with incised lines similar to the piece found in Block 79, so we believe that the decoration combined with the flat-ness of the sherd indicates that the pot found at Block 79 was a collared vessel similar to the one shown below.

Incised pottery from Block 79 (left) and digital reconstruction of design motif (right)

Overall, the Block 79 site shows that various areas of Boston Common were used throughout Prehistory. Specifically, this area seems to have been most heavily used during the last period of Prehistory and may have even been in use when Europeans first arrived to Shawmut.

Sources and Additional Information

 

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