When Glaciers Melt – First Settlers of Connecticut New Exhibit at The Institute for American Indian Studies

The new exhibit at the Institute for American Indian Studies located in Washington traces how Connecticut’s first settlers found their way as the glaciers melted. It is a rare opportunity to learn about the Connecticut environment, and the way people and animals lived here more than 10,000 years ago. A highlight of this exhibit is an extensive display of the Templeton Dig Site, one of the oldest in southern New England, found in Washington, Connecticut. The exhibit, When Glaciers Melt – First Settlers of Connecticut will be on display in the Institute’s special exhibition hall through mid.-November.

It is hard to envision that 21,000 years ago, much of the Northeast was covered under two miles of glacial ice. As the environment changed an ice-free corridor emerged in the western area of the United States and people began to migrate south across the Bering Strait. Eventually, they made their way to the Northeast. By the time settlers reached Connecticut, the average temperature was only 13 degrees colder than it is today! The receding glacial waters left a nutrient-rich soil that provided the perfect environment for the development of Paleoindian lifeways.
This exhibit illustrates how the first settlers in Connecticut lived. They are classified as hunter-gatherers and would follow migratory herds across the landscape and would forage for food such as strawberries, blueberries, and other seeds. The display on flint knapping is particularly interesting because it shows the reduction sequence of how rocks were broken down to form smaller pieces that would be used as tools such as projectiles and knives. One of the surprises of this exhibit is the number of different types of rocks used in flint knapping that came from places as far away as Pennsylvania, Eastern New York, and Rhode Island.

Another section of the exhibit details the Paleoindian environment that includes the presence of very large plants, trees, and animals. One of the most astounding animals showcased is a giant beaver that grew to the size of a black bear! This display makes an excellent photo opportunity for young and old alike! At some point both our modern-day smaller beavers and these giant beavers co-existed. Unfortunately, the giant beavers were unable to change with the environment and they went extinct around 10,000 years ago.

The centerpiece of the exhibit is the display regarding the Templeton Dig Site in Washington. Templeton is Connecticut’s first known Paleoindian site and, until recently it was the oldest site in all of southern New England. This exhibit includes explanations of why this site is so important, how it was excavated, what was found, an example of the tools excavators used, and plans for future excavations. A second display, the Brian B. Jones dig site located in Avon, Connecticut is also examined and discussed.

About The Institute for American Indian Studies (IAIS)
Located on 15 woodland acres the IAIS preserves and educates through archeology, research, exhibitions, and programs. We have an outdoor replicated 16th c. Algonkian Village, the award-winning Wigwam Escape, and a Museum with temporary and permanent displays of authentic artifacts from prehistory to the present that allows visitors to foster a new understanding of the world and the history and culture of Native Americans. The Institute for American Indian Studies is located on 38 Curtis Road in Washington Connecticut.

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