Kelley, Newsom quoted in Island Journal report on shell middens

The University of Maine’s Alice Kelley, an instructor in the School of Earth and Climate Sciences and a research associate professor with the Climate Change Institute, and Bonnie Newsom, an assistant professor of anthropology, spoke with the Island Journal for an article about Maine shell middens. There are thousands of shell heaps around the coast of Maine — but few are made of oysters, and none is as large as the Damariscotta River oyster piles, which are the largest middens on the East Coast north of Florida, according to the article. “There’s more to this than just a pile of shells,” said Kelley, a geoarchaeologist who uses geological techniques to study past interactions of people and climate and studies shell middens coastwide. “There are lots of reasons why they’d want to make a shell pile large and noticeable.” Newsom, a tribal citizen of the Penobscot Nation, said the middens could have been navigation aids, social boundary markers, resource markers, or multipurpose features on the landscape. “Rather than features of prestige or power, the middens might have served to signal a shared resource, an invitation of sorts to share in the Earth’s gifts to the people,” she said. “There are a wide variety of possible interpretations, and it is even possible that at different times, they served different roles. It does imply some sort of social organization or mutually agreed upon direction.”