Doctoral candidate shares research into Paleoindian period

Doctoral candidate Zachary Singer speaks during a lecture about his research into the Paleoindian period on Sunday, April 17, 2016 in Storrs, Connecticut. (Rebecca Newman/The Daily Campus)

Around 13,000 years ago, the Paleoindians, the first people of North America, hunted and gathered in regions across the continent. They had a noticeable presence in the northeast, according to doctoral candidate Zachary Singer at a lecture Sunday afternoon.

Singer reported the findings of his excavation near Ohomowauke, where he combed through a 500-square-meter plot of rocky land, searching for signs of Paleoindian activities in Connecticut. The excavation contributed to his research on Paleoindian ways of life in southern New England.

Many attendees, some of whom traveled several hours for the lecture, expressed their interest in the subject. 

“The subject is of great interest to me. I am very interested in pre-contact New England,” said Sandy Jacobi, a resident of Rhode Island.

Singer explained that Ohomowauke, excavated in 2012 and 2013, is largely swampland. The data gathered determines environmental features that can be used to identify the presence of Paleoindians. Some of these features include climate, wetness, dryness and the containment of deciduous shrubbery such as hazelnut. These details are key in determining dig sites that will offer insight into evidence of Paleoindians.

Connecticut is positioned in the New England maritime region–land that was formed largely through the movement and retreat of glaciers some 13,000 years ago.  This was a time when there was no Cape Cod Bay, for example, and during these days there existed the Champlain Sea, Singer said.

It took an entire year and many failed digs at the cost of hundreds of hours for Singer to finally find what he was looking for.

After two years of excavation, Singer reported that the site he eventually landed on and wrote about in his dissertation had one fluted, pointed projectile. He determined that this type of fluted point came from Maine, quantifying the vast distances these tribes covered and shedding light on the idea that many tribes exchanged tools and information about hunting and gathering.

Excavations like these have led to many discoveries about the past. For example, Singer explained that caribou hunting in the area during the Paleoindian period was probably common, since the caribou would have yielded many resources, from skins for clothing to meat for consumption. These kinds of activity wouldn’t have been possible without the fluted tools that Singer discovered during his excavations. 

Many sites have been dug across New England, all of them containing fluted stone tools in the form of hand tools, spears and possibly even bows and arrows. This is the connecting factor across all Paleoindian dig sites, which contain a fair amount of diversity in the actual types of tools, dependent on the region.  Based on how and where the tools were made, archaeologists could eventually plot a migratory path for Paleoindians, Singer said.

“I was incredibly happy with the turn out and everyone’s questions,” Singer said. “It’s great to disseminate my dissertation research to an audience because it’s them who support my work.”


Matthew Gilbert is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at matthew.gilbert@uconn.edu.