0250 GMT January 27, 2020
Connecticut Department of Transportation (DOT) crews were excavating the site of a new bridge in January 2019 when they came upon evidence of southern New England’s oldest humans, dating back 12,500 years, the Hartford Courant reported.
According to nypost.com, archeologists had long suspected there may be ancient remnants beneath the soil by Avon’s Old Farms Road, but didn’t have the money to excavate it themselves. In the process of building a bridge over the area’s Farmington River, state workers found them.
“This is the once-in-lifetime opportunity to look [at a site of this age] in Connecticut,” State Historic Preservation Office staff archeologist Catherine Labadia tells the Courant of the site, which is estimated to be more than 12,000 years old and date back to the Paleoindian Period. “This site has the potential to make us understand the first peopling of Connecticut in a way we haven’t been able to.”
The $14.7 million project unearthed prized evidence of human activity roughly six feet beneath the surface, showing “traces” of evidence regarding human behavior, archeologist David Leslie said, including holes, walls, a hearth and house posts from temporary dwellings.
And in addition to being ancient, the relics found are also vast. Leslie, who led the dig, said roughly 15,000 artifacts and 27 features — which are more highly valued — turned up at the site.
“And people have been looking for Paleoindian sites for quite some time,” said Leslie, adding that evidence from the Paleoindian Era is rare in New England and “right now, this is the oldest.”
While the bridge-building project wasn’t intended to uncover history, it’s quite common that construction reveals museum-worthy finds, experts said.
“Far and away most of the archeological resources that get investigated happened through . . . agencies doing their work, going about their business and spending money,” said DOT staff archeologist Scott Speal. While the construction crew didn’t intend on finding the artifacts, the National Historic Preservation Act required the DOT to search for them before building.
“They afforded us time and money to excavate the entire site,” says Leslie.
The discovered artifacts and historic landmark have been named the Dr. Brian D. Jones Paleoindian Site, in honor of a late archeologist who worked on the site and lost his battle with cancer in July 2019.
“Brian had a feeling that there could be the potential for archeology here,” said Leslie.
“It was almost like a gift that was given to him,” said Labadia.