Unearthing History: 2022 Virtual Lecture Series

Unearthing History: The discovery of a 12,500 year old Paleo-Indian site along the Farmington River in Avon. Join us for a virtual series of lectures, sponsored by a grant from the Lower Farmington River and Salmon Brook Wild and Scenic Committee that will cover the archaeology, genetics, ice age mammals, trade routes and food ways of early life along the Farmington River, with a focus on the Brian D. Jones Paleo-Indian discovery in Avon, Connecticut.

This 2022 VIRTUAL HISTORY SERIES is sponsored by Avon Historical Society, Avon Free Public Library and Avon Senior Center, in partnership with the Avon Land Trust, Farmington River Watershed Association, and the Institute of American Indian Studies in Washington, CT. 

Times are EST: Eastern Standard Time.  Events are free to attend. Webinars will be recorded; links appear at the end of this post and are available on the Avon Library’s YouTube Channel.

Thursday, September 15, 2022, 7:00 pm. Looking into the Past with Ancient DNA. Presented by Christina Balentine and Samantha Archer, PhD candidates and research scholars at the UConn Dept. of Anthropology. They will present a broad overview of ancient DNA (aDNA) research past and present, discuss the ethical considerations of working with priceless aDNA samples, and highlight their own dissertation research using aDNA.

When the 1993 blockbuster hit Jurassic Park premiered in theatres worldwide, people were captivated by the idea of scientists being able to extract DNA from long-dead organisms to study and potentially even bring them back to life. The first time that DNA was actually retrieved and studied from a long-dead organism was in 1984 when scientists sequenced DNA from a quagga, an extinct relative of the zebra. In the nearly 40 years since then, the field of ancient DNA (aDNA) research has exploded, with scientists being able to study DNA from 1-million-year-old mammoths, Neandertals, people who lived thousands of years ago to just a few hundred to thousands of years ago, ancient bacteria, plants, and more. But why is studying aDNA important? What kind of questions can the study of aDNA address? In this lecture, Christina Balentine & Samantha Archer will present a broad overview of aDNA research past and present, discuss the ethical considerations of working with priceless aDNA samples, and highlight dissertation research that uses aDNA to address very different questions about the lived experiences of humans in the past.

Samantha Archer, M.A. is an anthropological geneticist and biocultural anthropologist entering her fifth year of the doctoral program in anthropology at the University of Connecticut. Her dissertation focuses on applying molecular archaeological technologies to investigate the lives of people who lived in mid-to-late 19th century Texas. She holds a Master’s degree in anthropology from the University of Texas at Austin. Christina M. Balentine is an anthropological geneticist and PhD candidate at the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Connecticut. In her dissertation research, she is studying ancient DNA from people who lived thousands of years ago in what is now Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego, Chile, to learn about their migration histories and how they adapted to their cold environment.

 Register here

Thursday, October 13, 2022, 7:00 pm. Update on the scientific analysis of the Brian D. Jones site in Avon, CT since its discovery in 2019. Presented by David Leslie, Dir. of Archaeological Research, Heritage Consultants, Berlin, CT & Eric Heffter, Senior Archaeologist, Archaeological and Historic Services, Storrs, CT.  They will present will present new findings based on artifacts and new analysis techniques. October is Connecticut Archaeology Month! Register here

Questions? Email Terri Wilson, President Avon Historical Society, president@avonhistoricalsociety.org

View the full Paleo 2022 FLYER

Completed 2022 programs:

Thursday, April 7, 2022, 7:00 pm. Ice Age Animals of New England presented by Dr. Sarah Sportman, CT State Archaeologist & Dr. Nathaniel Kitchel, Dept. of Anthropology, Dartmouth College.  They will present the Pope Mastodon (found in Farmington, CT on the grounds of Hill-Stead Museum) and the Mount Holly (VT) Mammoth, among other animals of the Ice Age. Watch the recording here

Thursday, March 10, 2022, 7:00 pm. What Genetics Teaches Us About the Peopling of North America  by Dr. Jennifer Raff, anthropological geneticist at the University of Kansas.  Presentation is based on her May 2021 Scientific American cover story “Journey into the Americas” and her new book, Origin: A Genetic History of the Americas being released Feb. 2022. Watch the recording here

Thursday, May 12, 2022, 7:00 pm. Paleo-Indian Peoples in the Northeast: Survival in the Ice Age and After, presented by Dr. Jonathan Lothrop, Curator of Archaeology, The New York State Museum. His focus is on the Pleistocene (Ice Age) into the Holocene period where Natives colonized 11,000-8,000BC. His research is on their technology, settlement and subsistence. He is a consultant on the Brian D. Jones site analysis.

According to Dr. Lothrop, the earliest indigenous peoples of the glaciated Northeast migrated  into the region shortly after 13,000 years ago, while this landscape remained in the grip of the last Ice  Age. Today, their ancient campsites are marked by small scatters of fluted points and other flaked  stone artifacts. This scant material record of these first peoples – known to archaeologists as  Paleoindians – testifies to an amazing story of ingenuity and perseverance in the face of daunting  challenges as they spread across the eastern Great Lakes and New England-Maritimes. How and when  did that peopling process happen? How did these people survive on this late glacial landscape? And  how did they interact with each other across these subarctic regions? In this presentation, we’ll review current evidence from recent and ongoing archaeological research that helps to answer some  of these questions. Finally, with the end of the Ice Age roughly 11,600 years ago, we’ll examine tentative indicators for how this abrupt climate change event may have affected these early peoples. Watch the recording here

Saturday, June 25, 2022, 1:00-4:00 pm. In-Person Event: Artifact Identification Day. Bring your artifacts for identification! Free event, open to the public.

Presented by staff and volunteers of the Institute of American Indian Studies, Washington, CT. Paul Wegner, Co-Director; Craig Nelson, Member and Secretary of the Board of Trustees; Nancy Najarian, Collections Volunteer. The Institute will have selected items, from various time periods, on display for viewing. Event held at the Avon Senior Center, 635 West Avon Rd., Avon, CT 06001.

 

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