On a spring day in the 1990s, I was walking close to the water along a Downeast ocean bay when my partner noticed a smooth stone sticking out like a tongue from the ground. She pulled it out. It was a stone adze with three quarter-inch carved slash-marks on the cutting-end. It was about 6.5” long, 2” at its widest point, and 1.5” wide at its cutting edge. Its cutting edge was smooth, sharp, and looked like it had just been polished. Perhaps never used or re-honed. (see slideshow)
On seeing it, I thought of part of my mother’s genetic roots stemming from the tribe she had talked about through my growing years. The Susquehannock Tribe that she spoke of were located along the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania where both sets of my mother’s family settle and lived. They were mostly Scots and High Swiss that married and formed American generations since the early to mid-1770s when they emigrated to what was then considered the frontier of Pennsylvania.
“Susquehannock people, also called the Conestoga (by the English) were Iroquoian-speaking Native Americans who lived in areas adjacent to the Susquehanna River and its tributaries ranging from its upper reaches in the southern part of what is now New York (near the lands of the Five Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy), ...” en.wikipedia.org But now I know they had a much more diverse geographical history. (see a page in the slideshow)
I was fascinated with the discovery of the adze, and decided to read more about the settlements along the Atlantic Coast in a book: Diversity and Complexity in Prehistoric Maritime Societies: A Gulf of Maine Perspective, Bruce J. Bourque. 1995 (Interdisciplinary Contributors to Archaeology)
To my spiritual amazement, on page 245 was a photo: It was a part of a broken atlatl weight with the same three carved markings on one end as my discovered adze. I realize it could well be the stone maker’s mark. Tools with these same markings were clearly used and found along the Maine coast.
The atlatl in the book was found in an archaeological dig on North Haven, an island in the Penobscot Bay. But what truly stunned me on page 244 was a heading: The Susquehanna Tradition North and South. More headings followed through page 254 about the Susquehanna tradition. I had no idea that a Susquehanna 'tradition’ had been so wide-spread, and had also lived in Maine thousands of year ago. Even my mother only spoke of Pennsylvania. According to the book, their duration was brief in Maine, appearing suddenly around 4000-3800 B.P. and “suddenly disappeared before 3500 B.P. possibly resulting in regional depopulation.” *BP placed after a number as in 3500 B.P. means years Before the Present and refers to dates obtained through radiocarbon dating. I learned in the book that these tribes even buried what was considered their pets.
I was so excited with this information about my mother’s heritage being so near to where I settled to live, that I called the author of the book for confirmation. Yes, they were Susquehanna tradition.
My mother’s ancestral tribe was found in archaeological digs at Turner Farm, located on North Haven Island in the Penobscot Bay. The artifacts, and burials of the Susquehanna Tradition were found in the ‘Age of Occupation 3.’ The dates of that occupation where 4020 +/- 80 B.P. to 3105 +/- 75 B.P., spanning more than a millennium. “The earliest date is on carbonized wood from a cremation.” They were also found as far south as Martha's Vineyard and other locales according to the Diversity book. I have always had a deep unnamed affection for Cape Cod and that area.
When we buried my mother in Upstate, NY in 1992, I kept a yellow rose from her funeral wreath. For years I thought about where to bury it or perhaps place it in the sea. But now, it seemed fate was working with me once again when my mate introduced me to a woman who was born, raised and living on North Haven. Her name was Faye, and Turner Farm, where the archaeological digs took place, was once a rich play area in her past. She was told about the adze we found, and the atlatl in the book with the same markings. The atlatl in the book was found in the same Age of Occupation 3, of my mother’s tribe at Turner Farm. We also told her about my mom’s rose.
Faye gave me a private tour of the island, where I decided on a quiet ground where I buried my mother’s rose. I felt it was meant to be buried on Turners Farm -- I had carried it for all of those years until I found the right spot in the late 1990s. The finding of the adze led me to a place of her most earliest genetics. I know my mother would have been pleased to make a connection to these past ancestors -- Even in the form of dried petals, and a daughter's love of her, and the past that enriches.