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A total of 4321 items are present in the Kingston Public Library Local History Room collection. This material comes from two collections, that recovered by Lester and John Cram from the Smelt Pond area of Kingston and an assemblage of artifacts from the Allerton site that was excavated by the late Dr. James Deetz in 1972. The Cram collection represents an atypical avocational archaeologist collections in the sense that the collector was apparently very conscientious, careful and thorough in the collection of a wide range of material from the excavations. Typical avocational collections often contain only complete or semi-complete artifacts and most typically little pottery, faunal remains or chipping debris. It appears that the Cram's recognized the importance of all classes of artifacts and took pains to collect as much as possible. The Crams even went to the extreme of collecting a complete Native feature which is still intact and resides in the collection.
The collections in the possession of the Kingston Public Library Local History Room were analyzed with the following objectives:
1) identify the sites present in the collection
2) identify the types of artifacts
3) identify the temporal associations
4) identify the materials
5) identify any significant trends in the collection indicating collector bias or real
6) place the collection within a larger framework of the town archaeological record and New England prehistory
Artifacts from many time periods of Pre-Contact history are present including one possible channel flake from a Paleo point made from chalcedony. If this is in fact what this artifact is, it would be the only evidence from this period that has been found in Kingston. The majority of the artifacts recovered appear to date from the Late and Transitional Archaic periods (6000-2700 BP) and the Late Woodland (1200-400 BP). Two burials were excavated by the Crams, one of which contained a complete clay pot filled with shells. This pot is likely still in the collection. Many of the pottery fragments present appear to be from one grit-tempered pottery vessel with decorative styles commonly used in the Middle Woodland period.
A greater occurrence of Late Archaic and Late Woodland period and seventeenth century sites were identified in the library collections than the MHC site files and no Contact Period components were conclusively identified in the Cram collection. This last observation is not surprising due to the elusive quality of Contact period sites and the fact that the only way to identify a Contact Period site versus a Late Woodland one, is the presence of European derived artifacts from the former and a lack of such from the later.
Other artifacts recovered by the Crams included bifaces, unifaces, drills, many steatite pot fragments, a hoe, abraders, axe heads, adzes, plummets and net sinkers and two pestles. The wide variety of tools is indicative of a large settlement where a variety of activities including wood working, shellfish processing, tool manufacture and processing of plant material. It is likely that the sites excavated by Cram were seasonally occupied settlements, likely fall to spring base camps, occupied by an appreciable number of people.
The types of raw materials that were used for the tools present in the collection indicate a reliance on local rhyolites, quartzes and quartzites with some exotic materials such as hornfels, Saugus and Pennsylvania jasper, steatite and chert being traded and used for tools during some time periods but not in others. This may be a reflection of changing interaction, trade and possibly conflict patterns that occurred throughout the Pre-Contact periods.
Another important component of the Cram collection is the large faunal assemblage that is present. The remains of many species, including three domestic ones, indicates that a wide range of mammal, bird and reptile species were hunted and collected by the inhabitants of these sites. Especially common were the remains of the common white-tailed deer. The variety and occurrence of the various elements from the deer skeleton indicates that complete carcasses were returned to the sites to be further processed. Both adult and immature individuals were present in the assemblage. This shows that there was a large and viable deer population that the Native inhabitants were exploiting.
The Allerton collection represents an assemblage of some of the most important artifacts that were recovered during the 1972 excavation of the Allerton site. This site offered some of the first clear evidence of post-in-ground (earthfast) construction in New England and thus is an important site. The artifacts recovered compare well with those that are with the remainder of the collection, currently curated at Plimoth Plantation. It would be a good idea to someday combine the collections and house them in Kingston when the town gets a state approved curation facility. In this way the entire assemblage would be in one location and would be more accessible for researchers.
Like the collection from the Mattapoisett Historical Society, the Kingston Public Library Local History Room Cram Collection is a good example of what can be learned from old collections. What we have been able to do with this collection is to put forth a series of observations concerning collections from Kingston that can be compared with other archaeologically or collector derived collections to see if they form a pattern. Is there an unknown seventeenth century site along the shores of Smelt Pond? Is there really a similarity between Late Archaic and Late Woodland populations, or is this just a result of chance?