The Ancient Dominions of Maine

A Note on Historical Chronologies

Many other organizations construct historical chronologies and timelines as part of their educational programs.  These chronologies serve the same purpose as those used for delineating the context of the tool collection of The Davistown Museum: they are quick handy references useful to students, parents, teachers or curators.  Always of questionable accuracy to professional historians, schemas and chronologies are the result of our inevitable pedagogical efforts to make some sense of the confusing relationship between history and artifact.  As long as historians and archaeologists write about history and artifacts or backcountry tool museums try organize and make sense of their collections, schemas and chronologies are as inevitable as Maine snowstorms.  The following historical chronologies are for absent minded curators as well as home schoolers, for hard core history buffs as well as teachers preparing course work.  They are intended as guidelines to help in the documentation of the history of the Davistown Plantation and the state of Maine.  Adapt them to your needs; reinvent or redesign them, construct new ones, critique and correct them.  Uncovering and understanding the actual sequence of historical events remains one of the most challenging jobs of archaeologists, historians, teachers and students.  Perhaps the most important element of this understanding is realizing that absolutely correct sequences or historical chronologies are themselves myths which we invent to help us make sense of disorderly history.

A number of observations can be made about the chronologies which are used as guidelines for understanding history:

Chronology I:  Prehistoric Periods
a generic timeline
Several revisions will be made shortly pertaining to Chronology II.
(From Snow, 1980, Archaeology of New England.)

Principal technological traditions
10,500-8,000 BCE*
Clovis points
Early Archaic
8,000-6,000 BCE
side and corner notched points
Middle Archaic
6,000-4,000 BCE
neville points
Late Archaic
4,000-1,700 BCE
bone daggers, swordfish bayonets, ground slate points
Terminal Archaic
1,700-700 BCE
soapstone vessels, small stemmed points
Early Horticultural
700 BCE - 1,000 CE
bone and antler harpoon points, vinette I pottery
Late Prehistoric
1,000 - 1,600 CE
cord wrapped and stamped pottery, trade goods
* Of noteworthy interest is the subsequent extension of the paleo-Indian timeline to much earlier 16,000, 20,000 and even 35,000 year old origins.

Chronology II: Late Archaic and Ceramic Period Chronology for Coastal Maine
(from Bourque, 1995, Diversity and Complexity in Prehistoric Maritime Societies: A Gulf of Maine Perspective)

Note that Bourque's chronology, taken from the Turner Farm site on Vinylhaven Island begins with Snow's late archaic.  While Snow's chronology applies to New England as a whole, Bourque's is site-specific for the Maine coast and is a timeline of radiocarbon dates based on a decade of research and archaeological excavation.  The following timeline has been further revised in Bourque's, 2001, Twelve thousand years: American Indians in Maine and in his recent appearance in a PBS documentary suggesting the "Moorehead Phase" (Maine Maritime Archaic) occurred over the brief time span of only 400 years.  Bourque also notes a gap after the Moorehead phase with no evidence of occupation in Maine for another 300 years prior to the Susquehanna phase.

Principal technological traditions
Occupation I
3290-2410 BCE
small stemmed point tradition
Occupation II
2555-1705 BCE
ground slate tools
Occupation III
2020-1105 BCE
ground bone tools
Occupation IV
Ceramic period
1280 BCE -1600 CE
vinette I pottery (coiled construction)
pseudo-scallop shell stamped pottery
dentate rocker stamped pottery
cord wrapped stick and pressed pottery
cord maleated and collared incised pottery
*The Moorehead Occupation is also known as the maritime archaic, a category which Bourque strongly objects to because of the derivation of the Moorehead from the small stemmed point tradition and due to differences from the more northern maritime archaic tradition defined by Tuck (1975).  This tradition is also known as Red Paint; see Snow, 1980, Archaeology of New England for comments on Red Paint culture as mythological archaeology.  Also see Sanger, 2000 for more recent comments on the misleading concept of separate cultures, and an explanation of why the term "red paint" is an inappropriate designation for indigenous communities.  A more appropriate term for the Moorehead Occupation, a term that unfortunately commemorates the dean of Maine's archaeological vandals, would be Maine Maritime Archaic, referencing the florescence of a seagoing indigenous Native American community in coastal Maine in this time period, while expressing its difference from the Canadian maritime archaic.