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UMass official to meet with Kulik’s office to discuss artifact disposition

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 meeting is a preliminary discussion to set a public meeting date.

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 materials found there were items such as the remains of deer from hunting and various kinds of nutshells and seed corn. About 200 kernels of corn was 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.

The report is a compilation of student work on Pine Hill. It is one of dozens of publications on the Pine Hill site — many of which can be found at the UMass library — written by Chilton and other researchers, Chilton said. While the many publications provide analysis, the site report is a technical compliance report filed with the state.

Chilton, who was a graduate student at the time, said she originally did not know of any formal report that was written or that Keene had attached student work to the 1997 site report. She had told the Yazwinskis in November 2013 that she was not aware of any reports. At the time, she offered to provide her dissertation on ceramic analysis from the site.

Part of the difficulty in accessing the site reports is the way in which they were submitted.

In the late 1980s and 1990s, Chilton says, archaeologists were cataloguing by hand. The university now completes site reports by computer, making it easier to print out an inventory, Chilton said.

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 sherds and charred kernels of maize were discovered by the University of Massachusetts archaeology field school.

In 1980 to 1981, the school conducted a survey class on the property. The school later returned to the site in 1989, Chilton, who was a first-year graduate student at the time, recalls.

She said the reason that UMass first approached the late Ed Yazwinski and proposed a dig at the site was because it was being looted by people looking for artifacts.

“At the time we didn’t know anything about the site,” Chilton said. “We proposed a dig there to the Yazwinskis because we knew someone was collecting from the sites. We wanted to document the site. That was our objective. We wanted to preserve information about it.”

You can reach Kathleen McKiernan at: kmckiernan@recorder.com or 413-772-0261 ext. 268 On Twitter, follow @RecorderKatMcK

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