Date of Completion

January 1984


Anthropology, Archaeology




The research upon which this dissertation is based was collected over a four year period. The research included studies in ethnohistory, geography, paleobotany and cultural ecology, conducted within the context of an archaeological survey of the lower Connecticut River valley. The primary objectives of the research were to construct a regional culture history of the lower valley, and to document changes in regional settlement patterns through time.^ Over 350 prehistoric sites were located through a combination of field surveys and informant interviews. Located sites ranged in age from 8,000 B.C. to A.D. 1700.^ Based upon excavations at over 60 of these sites, nine distinct phases were identified in the lower Connecticut River Valley, from the Archaic (ca. 2500 B.C.) through the Contact Periods (ca. A.D. 1600). Two major changes in aboriginal settlement patterns were detected. The first, beginning around 1000 B.C., indicates a trend toward a more logistically oriented settlement system, with large seasonal occupations located along the Connecticut River and smaller temporary and task-specific locations in the uplands. This trend continued throughout the Woodland Period, where it culminated in sedentary villages around A.D. 1000.^ The second major change in settlement patterns began around A.D. 1500, when the settlement system was characterized by the presence of small seasonal upland camps, demonstrated to be associated with small extended or nuclear families. This orientation towards smaller economic units indicates some important changes in aboriginal socio-economic systems during this period.^ Several potential explanations for these settlement shifts are examined in this thesis. The initial settlement shift to riverine areas may be the result of increased reliance on wetland resources, or developing trade networks with the upper Hudson valley. The second settlement change to smaller subsistence units could be the result of either intensification of horticulture, or early contact with Europeans.^ Data on site distributions and site types are presented and discussed for each defined phase. The data for each phase are then assessed with respect to current models of settlement and subsistence in southern New England. ^