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ConnDOT finds evidence of Native American fort, pre-historic human artifacts, in Norwalk

A Venetian trade bead found in Norwalk by archaeologists digging as part of the Walk Bridge program, according to the Connecticut Department of Transportation. (Contributed)

A Lamoka Point found in Norwalk, according to the Connecticut Department of Transportation. (Contributed)

NORWALK, Conn. – Evidence of a 400-year-old Native American fort has been found in Norwalk by archaeologists digging on behalf of the Connecticut Department of Transportation, along with artifacts that go back much further.

The archaeological investigation associated with ConnDOT’s Walk Bridge Program “recently uncovered a Contact Period Native American fort site, along with several thousand artifacts of varying age,” a press release said. ‘The site is on top of a 3,000-year-old site, indicating Native American use of this area for many generations before the arrival of European traders and settlers.”

ConnDOT is holding a press conference Thursday to share the details of the find with the media and the public.

“This archeological dig yielded amazing results,” Mayor Harry Rilling said in an email. “The artifacts discovered reflect the rich history of our great city going back hundreds, if not thousands of years.  I am truly hopeful that any and all remnants would become the property of our Historical Society.  It would be exciting if these artifacts could remain on display for Norwalk residents to enjoy for many years and to serve as historical displays for generations of Norwalkers to come.”

ConnDOT is working to replace the 122-year-old Norwalk River Railroad Bridge, a.k.a. the Walk Bridge. The program also consists of several inter-related rail and infrastructure construction projects.

“This discovery is a result of the Walk Bridge Program’s due diligence in conducting preliminary archaeological surveys during the Environmental Assessment/Environmental Impact Evaluation,” the ConnDOT press release said. “These surveys revealed the possibility of historically significant sites within the program’s work area, and further investigation revealed remnants of the pre-Contact and Contact Period fort. ‘Contact Period’ refers to the period when Europeans first began coming in contact with Native Americans, generally understood to be 1500 to 1700.”

The press release continued:

“’This is a highly significant discovery that represents some of the only real information we have on Native Americans in present-day Norwalk,’ said Dr. Ross K. Harper, Senior Historic Archaeologist, Archaeological and Historical Services, Inc., the Connecticut-based cultural resources firm completing the archaeological recovery effort.   ‘Sites like this one are very rare. Fewer than a half-dozen have been discovered in Connecticut and Long Island Sound combined. Were it not for the Department of Transportation and the Walk Bridge Program, we may have lost this important opportunity to deepen our understanding of these people and their role in Connecticut history.’

“The fort is believed to have been used primarily for trade between Native Americans and early Dutch settlers somewhere between 1615 and 1640 and is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. Artifacts uncovered from this time period include wampum, glass and copper beads, stone arrow points, European flint, and iron trade tools.  Artifacts from the pre-Contact period include an Orient Fishtail point and a Lamoka point. No evidence of human remains or characteristics of a human burial has been found.”

 

ConnDOT Commissioner James Redeker is quoted in the release as emphasizing the importance of continuing the Walk Bridge work.

“We are delighted to make this contribution to the existing body of knowledge surrounding the rich history of our state,” Redeker said in the release. “As important as the preservation of these historical artifacts is to understanding our past, so is the preservation of our railroads to securing our future. Our railroad system is a vital transportation asset that contributes to the Connecticut shoreline and the City of Norwalk’s status as one of the most sought after places to live, work, and do business in the country.”

ConnDOT officials have asked that the location of the dig not be revealed.

“This area is an active construction site, and the public is asked to refrain from trespassing for their own safety and for the preservation of the archaeological site,” the press release said, also explaining:

“Following consultation with the Federal Transit Administration, State Historic Preservation Office, and federally recognized Native American tribes, the Department of Transportation will complete the removal and the site. Artifacts will be conserved and analyzed to develop and present an understanding of what occurred at the site.  Although the site will be physically removed, the excavation will preserve what is most important: the story it tells about Native American peoples here.”

The Norwalk dig site, where archaeologists are working as part of the Walk Bridge program, according to the Connecticut Department of Transportation. (Contributed)

9 comments

enough August 8, 2018 at 8:30 pm

You have got to be kidding me!!!! How about we preserve some of our history instead of just destroying it more and more! Unbelievable.

Diane Lauricella August 8, 2018 at 10:11 pm

What a great discovery!
Time to take a breath with some questions:

1. Many local historians knew this part of the harbor had historic Indian significance so while happy that State Archeologists and DOT took care to unearth site could the plans/design now work around and preserve at least a portion of this historic site?

2. The artifacts belong to the citizens of CT, including Indian Nation and their display and future should be discussed with a public process.

3. Especially because this fort site may be on top of a 3,000-year old site, can this important discovery help move some of the Walk Bridge construction to a different location?

John S August 9, 2018 at 3:25 am

“no significant impact” per DOT

Norwalk corporate council should be filing a cease and desist while the significance of this find be evaluated by experts. This shouldn’t just be dug up, documented and filed away so this project can proceed.

Piberman August 9, 2018 at 10:11 am

Will Mayhor Rilling and the Common Council step out in front and give this discovery the full attention it deserves ? Or will they merrily continue their enthusiasm with the Boondoggle Walk Bridge that will devastate our Downtown for years ? Here’s a chance for Mayor Rilling to demonstrate he is the Mayor of Norwalk – one who respects of our historical heritage. Silence in City Hall isn’t a good sign. Diane is absolutely right. Here’s a fabulous opportunity to uncover and celebrate the past.

Rick August 9, 2018 at 1:01 pm

Ebay! Fowler, Rich and Rilling all need a new pair of shoes. Why hasn’t Grasso taken over the excavation?

Mario is now representing the Indians and Sheehan is working the numbers for a tourist center and Katherine is working on meters at vets park.

Its really funny they can find artifacts but not the homeless under the Stroffolino Bridge until the Oyster fest.

Ken August 11, 2018 at 4:35 pm

Rilling shouldn’t even be surprised. Iv an interest in our history and as such found long ago the map they’re showing and knew that Coastwise Marine was likely right on top of the fort. All it takes is a real interest. Theres another documented sight in Taylor farm that we ignore and park cars on instead of investigating. That one dates back to when the pond and cove marina were freshwater ponds with natives living there thousands of years. Sasqua hill area is another documented sight excavated in the 60s and reported to be over a mile in length.
If anybody else had come across this during construction it would be stopped immediately. They have no use for that land after the bridge replacement. Remove the artifacts if needed but lets create something for future generations there. A replica period fort and village would do more for Norwalk than anything else in our history. It would put Rilling in the history books and thats how it needs to be sold. He isn’t gong to do it because its “right” but he may if he gains popularity for it.

Ken August 11, 2018 at 4:46 pm

I have to say I disagree about the importance of metro north today. We are talking about early nineteenth century transportation. Besides the trampling of many sites like this its obvious that its not good for the environment nor financially feasible. Instead of taxing us all so a few commuters can work there and live here we should see if rate payers would foot the bill themselves and if not lock the doors and let metro north go the way of the stage coach.

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