Boston Harbor Islands Archaeological Climate Action Plan
There are dozens of known historical and ancient Native cultural archaeological sites on the Boston Harbor Islands. There are also many areas that have never been surveyed. Most of these sites are located along island shorelines.
Climate change is worsening erosion of the Islands in Boston Harbor due to increased storm severity, wave action, and flooding. Erosion is causing archaeological sites and cultural landscapes to fall into the harbor.
In 2022, the Boston Harbor Islands’ archaeological sites were listed as one of the 11 most endangered historic places by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
While archaeological sites are sometimes protected from loss due to development or planned changes to the islands, there are no inherent protections of these sites from erosion.
Most archaeology done on the Islands have focused on ancient Native sites, though to date, there have been almost no projects on the Islands where local Native people were directly involved in the design, excavation, or collections management of archaeological projects.
- Combine existing erosional predictive models with archaeological site location data to determine which archaeological sites and unsurveyed areas on the Boston Harbor Islands are most at-risk of loss due to erosion
- Create a ranked list of archaeological mitigation priorities based on erosion threat and cultural significance (as determined by local Native People).
- Provide island managers with a detailed mitigation plan for each at-risk site including proposed scale/type of archaeological mitigation, estimated budget for mitigation, and methods for collaboration with Native People on Native sites.
- Evaluate field methods, laboratory methods, curation standards, terminology, and significance evaluation criteria with local Native People to decolonize archaeology
- Provide detailed methods for the project’s innovative assessment of erosion risk, collaborative archaeology, and community engagement that can be used as a model for similar projects throughout the world
- Seek additional funding to proactively survey the most at-risk sites on Boston Harbor before they are lost.
Determining the Erosional Rates of the Harbor Islands
The National Park Service through their Climate Change Response Program funded the Boston University Coastal Lab to assess erosion on the Harbor Islands.
Using Ground-Penetrating Radar, field observations, GIS analysis, and hydrodynamic modeling, the BU team was able to create a predictive model of erosion rates for the Boston Harbor islands.
For more information on this project, visit their Project Webpage
Archaeological Collections Work
Decades of archaeological work on the Boston Harbor Islands has resulted in the recovery of thousands of Native creations and historical artifacts. Most of these projects occurred during the period when digital data, including detailed artifact catalogs, were not made. A team of archaeologists and Native people are actively engaged in the reexamination and cataloging of thousands of Boston Harbor Islands artifacts excavated by archaeologists led by Barbara Luedtke at the Fiske Center for Archaeological Research at UMass Boston. This detailed information on what has already been found on the islands will greatly improve our knowledge of the sites on the islands, and help the Native collaborators on this project determine which sites are of greatest significance. This project will also address what the best practices should be for Native creations that have been removed from their original locations.
Project Financial Support
The current Archaeological Climate Action Plan production and archaeological collections work are supported by generous grants from the Boston Community Preservation Committee.
The final Plan will produce dozens of individual site mitigation plans for the Boston Harbor Islands. The funds needed to conduct these surveys will be extensive.
If you are interested in financially supporting this project, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org