Mohegan Archaeology Project
During the summer of 2013, the field school focused most of its attention on this enigmatic eighteenth-century structure.
The University of Leicester and the federally recognized Mohegan Tribe are working together to study archaeological sites on the Mohegan Reservation in Uncasville, Connecticut (established in 1671). As part of the process of investigating present and former tribal lands, the Mohegan Archaeological Field School engages in archaeological research at pre-European sites as well as early historic sites and reservation-era sites. The Mohegan Field School, now beginning its 19th year, works under the direct supervision of Dr. Craig Cipolla (University of Leicester) and staff members of the Mohegan Archaeology Department as authorized by the Mohegan Council of Elders. The main focus of the next four years of work will be historical sites on the Mohegan Reservation that were created and occupied by Mohegans, English colonists, and Euroamericans.
Unlike traditional archaeological field schools, the Mohegan project instills students with a deeper understanding of who the Mohegan are today, what archaeology means to them, and how a tribal nation designs and conducts research in collaboration with academics. The relationship between Native Americans and archaeologists has traditionally been fraught with tension and conflicting goals. The mission of this archaeological field school is to begin to rectify this discord. We practice a form of applied archaeology and community based research sometimes called covenantal archaeology, pursuing and serving the research goals and objectives of the Mohegan Tribe while maintaining academic rigor. Students of the field school gain valuable skills and experience in historical archaeology, while interacting with—and learning from—tribal members. Our students, including Mohegans and members of other tribes, help demonstrate how archaeology can contribute to contemporary Native communities and encourage trust, responsibility, healing, education, confidence, and pride.
2013 Field Season
Field Crew, 2013 Season, Session 1
Field Crew, 2013 Season, Session 2
The next four years of fieldwork (2013-2016) will focus on completing the excavation phase of new archaeological investigations of English-Mohegan interaction in the eighteenth century. As its focus, this phase of research concentrates on interactions in and around the pluralistic Cochegan Site in Montville, Connecticut. In contrast to the surrounding tribes, the Mohegan forged a close alliance with the English in the seventeenth century and subsequently used that relationship to help negotiate their place in Connecticut Colony. However, English colonists' ever-increasing thirst for land soured the relationship in the decades and centuries that followed. The micro-scalar perspective of archaeology promises to shed light on these known broad-scale dynamics of English-Mohegan interactions during the eighteenth century.
The Cochegan Site provides an optimal context in which to study the interactions discussed above. Currently a 37-hectare property owned by the Mohegan Tribe, the Cochegan Site contains both a ceremonial stone landscape—continuously used by the Mohegan Tribe since the seventeenth century—and an English/Anglo-American farmstead—owned and occupied by several generations of the Baker family throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. During the seventeenth century, the Mohegan sachem Uncas held tribal meetings on top of Cochegan Rock, a 16-meter-tall glacial erratic sitting at the heart of the site. In the early eighteenth century, Uncas’s son Oweneco sold a large portion of the Cochegan property to an English settler named Joshua Baker. Baker subsequently set up a farmstead directly adjacent to Cochegan Rock that he and his family occupied continually up through the late nineteenth century. The Bakers were not alone, however; oral and archival records suggest that a Mohegan shepherd named Caleb Cochegan—the property’s namesake—also lived in or near a natural shelter “underneath” Cochegan Rock during the eighteenth century. Since it was commonplace for Native men to work on English farmsteads at this time, it is also possible that Caleb Cochegan and other Mohegan men provided labor for the Baker farm.