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.”