Early and middle Paleoindians likely focused on hunting caribou

By Edith Tucker
The Berlin Sun

JEFFERSON/RANDOLPH — Those who now hunt large mammals in the fall with guns and modern-day bows and arrows in these two small towns aim to kill deer, moose and bear.

But for some 1,500 years — thousands of years ago — caribou (Rangifer tarandus) were the prime target for the early peoples who hunted with fluted points when they traveled through the valleys and along the riverbanks of these two communities. These Paleoindians chipped stone points to serve as their hunting tools as the glaciers of the last Ice Age melted. These symmetrical points were finished by carefully removing a single long parallel-sided flake or "flute" from one or both sides.

A viewshed analysis of Paleoindian sites — six in Jefferson and one in Randolph — supports the interpretation that Early and Middle Paleoindian inhabitants living 12,900 to 11,600  years ago focused on hunting caribou.

Three Granite Staters recently published their findings in a 10-page report — “Paleoindian Adaptation to the Landscape of Northern New Hampshire” — in “PaleoAmerica: a Journal of Early Human Migration and Dispersal,” sponsored by the Center for the Study of First Americans at Texas A & M University.

State archeologist Dr. Richard “Dick” Boisvert is the lead author of the 10-page research report. He describes the paper as “a summary, in part, of two decades of work in Jefferson and Randolph” that makes the case that these were specialized caribou hunting localities.”

Boisvert collaborated with GIS coordinator Tanya Krajcik, who also is an archeologist at the state Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, and avocational archaeologist Mark Greeley, past president of the N.H. Archeological Society. All three have worked on “digs” in these two Coos towns.

“In northern New Hampshire we have a cluster of Paleoindian sites (Jefferson I to VI) and the multiple-occupation Potter site to the east on the Moose River in Randolph,” they write. “These rivers serve as a corridor (along today’s U.S. Route 2) between the Connecticut and Androscoggin Rivers and have facilitated movement across the American Far Northeast for over 12 millennia.”

The trio say they hope their “essay may serve as a model which can be challenged, tested, supported, modified or rejected by future research.”

They conclude that caribou were the Paleoindians’ prime target because of the way these seven sites were positioned on the landscape and the observed variability in the artifact assemblages excavated at these sites plus some function-specific areas within them. Strategically placed vantage points and concentrated household encampments, along with function-specific workshops, have distinct distributions, they point out.

The authors describe some “intensely used spaces” about 430 to 540 square feet in size, where a wide variety of implements made from diverse rock types can be contrasted with smaller sized sites or site subareas where only a narrow range of tool forms were found.

“This pattern emerges among the sites in Jefferson, where household encampments are flanked by bifacial tool manufacturing areas, fluted projectile point finishing areas, and meat/hide processing areas, and at the Potter site in Randolph, with its multiple activity areas.” (This site) “combines all facets of the caribou hunting requirements in a single, heavily utilized location,” they say.

These are “settlement patterns,” say the authors.

In Jefferson, small low-density sites and certain locations where only point fragments and other stone flakes from tool manufacturing were found “are positioned with strategic views of the Israel River Valley floor,” they note. “They interpret these as hunter’s vantage points designed to have low profiles and to facilitate seeing herds of caribou, which would then be systematically harvested.”

But they point out, “household encampments with attendant special function areas would not necessarily have broad views of the valley, although some do.”

The Potter site in Randolph reflects a very similar pattern, but there the archeologists found no hunter’s lookout. However, its “viewshed is extensive, looking up the Moose River valley and applies to essentially the entire site. The site also occupies one of the few places where there is level land and close access to water. Potter is strategically very well placed to serve as a multipurpose Paleoindian caribou hunting and processing site.”

“Both valleys would have had caribou herds traveling along the valley margins and riversides,” the authors point out. “The size and destinations of the herds are difficult to estimate over the span of the Early and Middle Paleoindian periods.”

The authors point out that in 2002 archeologists Arthur Spiess and Page Newby postulated “extremely large herds moving enormous distances in the earlier centuries with a shift later to possibly smaller aggregations moving in and out of the emergent forests. ... Observers positioned on the hill slopes would have had excellent views, allowing them to signal and direct the drivers and hunters, perhaps pre-positioned closer to the herds and/or kill zone, to systematically harvest the animals. The products of the hunt — pelts, meat, antler, or a combination — would then be taken back to the habitation areas for processing.”

In addition, “the focus on caribou hunting is interpreted as a necessary adaptation to cold stress induced by extreme cold winters” during what scientists now call the Younger Dryas Chronozone, when Early and Middle Paleoindians trekked through this region. This climatic period is marked at either end by abrupt climatic reversals beginning with a sharp cooling and ending with an equally sharp warming.

Climatic conditions in the New England-Maritimes Region reached near glacial temperatures, and environmental zones reflect tundra-like and sub-boreal zones. The authors note that although there are disagreements about how humans would have reacted to the temperature drop, “our interpretation of the data leads us to conclude that regardless whether this climatic shift would have been consciously recognized by Paleoindians at the onset, such a decline would have required adaptations to cold stress.”

Boisvert has spent time in Jefferson over seven summers, starting in the late 1990s, as well as in Shelburne, Berlin, Colebrook and points north.

This summer the 35 volunteers in the field school spent six weeks near the Applebrook B & B on Rte. 115A in Jefferson, with most tenting at rustic Coldbrook Camp in Randolph. Up to the final day nothing much had been found.

“But on the last day an important find was made, in what is a classic scenario in the field,” Boisvert emailed. “In the last pit on the last day we found definitive proof that we have another Paleoindian site. That pit produced twice as much in terms of artifacts than the rest of the site combined and had a diagnostic tool: a spurred end scraper. The crew was excited.”

Jeff Baron of Gilford, an anthropology major at the University of New Hampshire found it.

“The spurred end scraper was quite likely used to scrape the inner side of a hide to make it usable,” Boisvert said. “If the hide is not scraped, then it will rot. Leaving the fur on is optional.” 

More details are described in the journal article in which 40 articles are listed as references. Many are academic pieces. An impressive number of Ph.D. dissertations (three), Master’s theses (four), senior theses (five), plus journal articles and book chapters that were co-authored with Boisvert, based on findings at these seven Paleoindian sites plus other Coos locations: Colebrook, Glacial Lake Israel in Jefferson and the Pliny Range.


State and feds will pay bulk of cost for Spring Road bridge,

By Edith Tucker
The Berlin Sun

GORHAM — Town manager Robin Frost shared good news with the select board last week when she informed them that the municipality would likely only have to pay $77,623 for a bridge replacement project. That’s a relatively small portion of the total estimated project cost of $622,000.

The three selectmen were pleasantly surprised when they were handed a copy of the engineer’s opinion of probable construction costs, compiled by professional engineer Jon MacDougall of HEB Engineers of North Conway. MacDougall indicated that a whopping $544,183 would be picked up by two agencies: $260,289 from a FEMA Hazard Mitigation grant through N.H.-Homeland Security and Emergency Management; and the remainder from Department of Transportation State Aid Bridge funds.

“This cost sharing of FEMA, SAB and local municipality sometimes happens on municipal bridge projects involving flood damage,” explained project manager Chris Fournier, HEB’s lead structural engineer. “If there are additional costs over the amount agreed to by FEMA, then the costs are funded 80 percent by SAB and 20 percent by the town.”

The town road, not far from Moose Brook State Park, currently has a 6-foot steel culvert carrying Mount Crescent Brook under Spring Road, an unpaved dead-end road leading to a pleasant residential neighborhood of 24 homes and 14 seasonal camps with approximately 40-year-round residents, explained civil engineer Nancy Mayville of the NHDOT Bureau of Planning and Community Assistance.

The culvert is located at the beginning of the road, 600 feet south of the intersection with Jimtown Road, which leads to the Paul T. Doherty Memorial Town Forest, she wrote in an email exchange. The culvert is also located about 600 feet upstream from where the Mount Crescent Brook and another tributary converge.

“Since 1999 the culvert has washed out at least three times,” Mayville said. “Since it is at the beginning of a dead-end road with no alternate route, (washouts) result in no access or emergency services for the residents. The size of the culvert is inadequate to carry the flows in Mount Crescent Brook. The town has repaired the road and culvert multiple times, some with FEMA funding.”

The town successfully applied through the N.H. Homeland Security and Emergency Management for a FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grant. Although originally it looked as though only one culvert of less than 10 feet would be needed, an hydraulic study indicated that two culverts — one with a 6-foot span and the other with a 12-foot span — would be required.

Since the additional structure would have a span of 12 feet, it qualifies as a new bridge, defined as having a 10-foot span at a minimum.

“The NHDOT definition of a bridge is a structure which has a span of 10 feet or greater, that is, the water flowing beneath is 10 feet or wider.” Fournier pointed out. “Because the opening of the culvert needed to be larger and properly aligned to convey flows from storm events, the proposed solution is to construct a separate precast concrete bridge and metal culvert for the two brooks.”

“We reviewed the hydraulic study that supports the proposed size of the new structure prior to approving the project for State Aid Bridge funds,” Mayfield said. “In developing the design further, the town and HEB determined the appropriate solution to be the 6-foot culvert and a precast concrete rigid frame.” 

The project is municipally managed, she continued. The town hired HEB Engineers to assist with the design permitting, and oversight of construction. The project is programmed for funding for construction in state Fiscal Year 2018 (July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2018). The FEMA grant ends on March 24, 2019.

Construction will likely take place in the summer of 2018. The proposed budget includes $110,000 to install a temporary bridge, including approaches.


No Longer Secret: Berlin Biomass Plant $52.3 million cost to consumers

By Chris Jensen, InDepthNH.org

Eversource customers paid $52.3 million more than necessary between November of 2013 and last April due to a controversial contract between the utility and the biomass-burning Burgess BioPower plant in Berlin.

That additional cost, which is being passed along to customers, is projected to grow to $100 million by April of 2020, if not sooner.

The affected customers buy their electricity directly from Eversource. Customers who buy from other suppliers, but are billed through Eversource, are not impacted.

The figures come from Frederick B. White, an Eversource official.

He is quoted in a transcript of a June public hearing that Eversource asked the state’s Public Utilities Commission to keep secret.

The PUC commissioners, Martin Honigberg, Kathryn Bailey and Michael Giaimo, rejected that request, saying the public had the right to that information.

The information was made public late Friday.

That extra-cost payments are allowed under a contract approved in 2011 by three different PUC commissioners.

That 20-year contract means Eversource will buy some electricity from the Berlin biomass plant regardless of how much cheaper it is on the open market, where the utility also gets electricity.

Consumer advocates opposed the contract in 2011. They said it could force Eversource customers to pay too much. They also argued that, in essence, it forced Eversource customers to subsidize the logging industry.

That plant is now owned by Cate Street Capital Holdings Group, according to court records.

Sarah Boone, an official with Cate Street Capital, did not respond to a request for comment on the $100 million limit.

However, in an email she said the plant is “by far the cleanest, most efficient biomass generating facility in New Hampshire and its economic and community benefits are very significant.”

In an email Martin Murray, a spokesman for Eversource, wrote: “The testimony is straightforward – our forecast was based on then-current information. We projected that the Fund limit could be met in April, 2020 but noted that it could be earlier or later than that date.”

Plant’s Future An Issue

The $100-million mark is important because it could affect the future of the plant and to some degree the profitability of forestry in the North Country.

Under the contract any payments over $100 million are deducted from the subsequent payments that the plant receives from Eversource. That has the potential to steadily erode its profitability.

In May, Cate Street Capital’s Boone told InDepthNH.org that “should the need arise we will look at all options available to us. Continuing to keep Burgess BioPower successfully operating is of vital importance to Coos County.”

The public’s right to know about a controversial deal

The state’s watchdog for utility customers, Consumer Advocate D. Maurice Kreis, objected to Eversource’s request to keep impact on its customers secret.

Kreis said the information provided a valuable look at how government functioned when the PUC approved the “contentious” contract.

The plant burns wood chips and advocates, including some state officials and the logging industry, urged approval of the contract, saying it would provide a boost to the economy of the North Country.

Indeed, in May Cate Street Capital’s Boone said since the plant went into full operation in 2014 it has purchased about $40 million in biomass in New Hampshire. That’s about half of the biomass used by the plant.

Those advocates also argued that the plant would provide green energy, although some environmentalists argue burning wood for energy is a poor choice because it is inefficient.

Officials from PSNH argued that the fixed rate could be good for consumers if there was a spike in energy prices.

But the PUC staff – and then Consumer Advocate Meredith Hatfield – said it could also cost consumers millions of dollars, a prediction that is coming true.

The contract was approved by then-PUC commissioners Thomas Getz, Amy Ignatius and Clifton Below. Getz is now employed by a law firm that does work for Eversource; Ignatius is a Superior Court judge and Below works in property management.


Fish and Game officer involved in truck accident

STARK — A N.H. Fish and Game truck collied with a dump truck loaded with gravel Friday afternoon but no serious injuries were reported to occupants of either vehicle.The accident occurred at the intersection of Nash Stream Road and Amos Emery Road in Stark.

N.H. State Police reported the dump truck, driven by Glen Perry, 68, of Colebrook was traveling west on Amos Emery Road while Fish and Game Conservation Officer Glen Lucas was headed north on the Nash Stream Road in a state pick-up truck.

As the dump truck headed into the intersection, he did not see the state Fish and Game truck coming north on Nash Stream Road according to police. According to the report, the dump truck continued across Nash Stream Road and the two vehicles collided in the intersection.

The dump truck struck the state truck near its bed and behind the passenger compartment. The two vehicles came to rest on the northwest side of the intersection, with the dump truck on its side on top of the pick-up truck.

Lucas was transported by Groveton EMS as a precaution, but neither driver received serious injuries nor did a passenger in the state truck, Seth Martin, 33, of Sumner, Wash.

Both vehicles received heavy damage and had to be towed from the scene. State Police troopers responded to the scene and are investigating the accident. Also responding were Groveton EMS, Stark Fire Department and the Stratford Hollow Fire Department.

Anyone who may have further information is being asked to contact Trooper Matthew Favreau of the N.H. State Police-Troop F at (603)-846-3333 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.