Historic Arrowhead Found On Habitat Construction Site

By: William F. Galvin

Topics: Local History

Sally Urbano displays the arrowhead she found at the Habitat for Humanity construction site in West Harwich. The projectile is estimated to be between 4,500 and 6,000 years old. WILLIAM F. GALVIN PHOTO

HARWICH — With the clearing of land for the six-home Habitat for Humanity project to be located on land behind 93 and 97 Route 28 in West Harwich, an ancient arrowhead was recently discovered. The projectile appears to be a Brewerton type which dates back between 4,500 and 6,000 years.

The find is not anticipated to stall the Habitat project, but the site is expected to be registered as an archaeological site with the Massachusetts Historical Commission.

“I think I’ve wanted to be an archaeologist all my life,” said Sally Urbano, who walked the site after a tree clearing was conducted for the project. “I’m notorious for keeping my eyes on the ground for old things in places where trash may have been dumped in the past.”

Urbano said she found several pieces of pottery, an old ink well bottle and a goose figurine she had to piece back together. Speaking of the tree clearing there, she said, there was a large mound of dirt they had scooped to one side.

“The arrowhead was just sitting there,” Urbano said.

Not knowing what to do with it, Urbano called the Massachusetts Historical Commission and they recommended it be taken to the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History in Brewster. She said MHC said there was nothing they could do about it because this was a 40B permit project and they had no jurisdiction.

Urbano sent a photograph to the museum and they sent it on to their archaeologist, Dan Zoto.

“The point is most likely a variety of the Brewerton type that generally date between 4,500 and 6,000 years ago,” Zoto responded to Urbano in an email. While he was too busy to provide detailed information right away, he pledged to do additional research.

“Was it the Massachusetts Historical Commission (MHC) that suggested you reach out to the museum? I encourage you to allow me to file an archaeological site form with the MHC regarding this find. This is purely an information share and I assure you this find is yours to keep,” Zoto said in his email.

It was pointed out to Urbano that while MHC does not have jurisdiction over a 40B permit, local boards may still have a voice in the matter. She informed several local boards of her find, including the building department, and she said a short period is usually allowed before building actually begins to allow for an archaeologist to visit the site.

“This small artifact ties us to ancient patterns and cultures, it enriches our lives and adds to the total historic mosaic which defines Harwich,” Urbano said in her notification to the building department.

Since that time, Habitat has reached out to the museum about the find, and has agreed to file an archaeological site form with MHC; they have also invited the museum staff to conduct a walkover of the parcel to document any subsequent finds as part of the filing form. That event could take place within the next week or two.

“I think with the circumstances at hand the best that can be done is that the find gets documented as-is. Even with the construction started more information may come from the walkover,” Zoto wrote in his email to Urbano. Conducting a full-scale study of the property would require much time, permitting, and money and is not feasible, he said, but “adding the find to the state map of archaeological sites and getting the information into the official record will certainly be positive,” he wrote.

As for the future of the arrowhead, Urbano told The Chronicle she would like to have it displayed somewhere where people can see it. She said they have reached out to the Wampanoag Tribe outreach coordinator and said it could go to the natural history museum or even the Harwich Historical Society. Urbano said she is looking for “a good home” for it and a location where it will remain on display.

“I don’t believe there will be any disruption to the Habitat development,” Urbano said. “I wouldn’t want to shut that project down.”