UMass and Rep. Kulik to discuss return of Native American artifacts - 1,500-year-old corn, deer remains, waste flakes - uncovered by students at Deerfield farm

Last modified: Friday, July 18, 2014
DEERFIELD — On Wednesday, a University of Massachusetts archaeology school official will meet with state Rep. Stephen Kulik’s office to discuss the future disposition of artifacts found on Pine Hill — and to decide who should be a part of the talks.

The UMass field school conducted a dig at Pine Hill, which is owned by Chester “Chet” and Stanley “Butch” Yazwinski, in the summers of 1980, 1989, 1991, 1993, 1995 and 1997.

Pine Hill is considered a domestic site where Native Americans of the Late Woodland period — some 1,500 years ago — returned on a seasonal basis, said Elizabeth Chilton, director of the UMass-Amherst Center for Heritage and Society.

Most of the material found there was items such as the remains of deer from hunting and various kinds of nutshells and seed corn. About 200 kernels of corn were also discovered at the site, an anomaly for archaeologists, since it’s rare to find preserved corn.

Waste flakes from stone tool makings were also uncovered at the site. Although the waste flakes would look like gravel to the untrained eye, archaeologists use them to determine what material was used and what size and type of tools were created.

The Deerfield farmers have — through Kulik’s office — requested site reports of those field school digs and the return of any artifacts. The family requested site reports from UMass, but has not officially contacted the school for the return of anything found during the work.

The findings from those field school digs are most likely summarized in a single 1997 report, Chilton said.

Chilton recently contacted the Massachusetts Historical Commission asking for any site reports. Chilton said she found that in 1997, professor Arthur Keene, who led the field school at the time, had sent an interim report to the state about the Pine Hill findings.

Once she obtains a copy of the report, Chilton said, she will share it with the Yazwinskis.

She also said students could digitize the report for the family.

“We’re trying to give them everything we can,” Chilton said. “We’re happy to help them.”

In the lower Deerfield River Valley, Pine Hill was the site of many archaeological digs during which chipped stone tools, ceramic shards and charred kernels of maize were discovered by the University of Massachusetts archaeology field school.