Kelley’s efforts to save Maine shell middens featured in Working Waterfront

The Working Waterfront published an article on a citizen science research project being led by Alice Kelley, a geoarchaeologist at the University of Maine. Located along Maine’s coast and islands, prehistoric shell middens are in danger of being wiped out by the rapid acceleration of rising sea levels, according to Kelley, who is helping organize a citizen scientist effort to monitor some of the state’s 2,000 or so known shell middens. The shell middens, which were created by Maine Indians over a period of about a thousand years approximately between 200 B.C. and 1000 A.D., were considered trash dumps whose resources should be used for practical purposes rather than the valuable historic troves they are known to be today, the article states. Sea level has been rising along the Maine coast for at least 10,000 years, Kelley said, but climate change is hastening the process. “In at least one case, we went to a spot that had been located as a midden and were going to use it as a study site and it was completely gone,” she said. “It’s not just that they’ve been disappearing; they’re disappearing more rapidly.” Exactly how many shell middens have been lost recently is unknown, she said, but she hopes a Maine Sea Grant-funded project can be the starting point for gaining an understanding about what has been lost, current erosion rates, and the impact of storms.