Document Type

Research Report

Publication Date



Between 2003 and 2013 the Fiske Center for Archaeological Research at the University of Massachusetts Boston conducted an intensive investigation of the Sarah Burnee/Sarah Boston Farmstead on Keith Hill in Grafton, Massachusetts. The project employed a collaborative method that involved working closely with the Town of Grafton, through the Hassanmesit Woods Management Committee, and the Nipmuc Nation, the state recognized government of the Nipmuc people. Yearly excavation and research plans were decided through consultation with both the Nipmuc Tribal Council, their designated representative, Dr. D. Rae Gould, and the Hassanamesit Woods Management Committee. Dr. Gould also played a continuous and active role in reviewing and collaborating on research activities including scholarly presentations at national and international academic meetings and public presentations at the community level. Large scale excavation between 2006 and 2013 focused on the Sarah Burnee/Sarah Boston farmstead that was occupied intensively between 1750 and 1840. Sarah Burnee and Sarah Boston were two of four Nipmuc women to own and possibly reside on the 206 acre parcel that today comprises Hassanamesit Woods. The other two, Sarah Robins and Sarah Muckamaug, were Sarah Burnee’s grandmother and mother respectively. Excavation, archaeogeophysical survey, soil chemistry, and micromorphological and macrobotanical analysis were combined with the analysis of material culture and faunal material to generate a detailed picture of Nipmuc life during the 18th and 19th centuries. Excavation also found evidence of earlier indigenous occupations spanning some 6,000 years. The most intensive period of occupation covered the period 1750 to 1840, but with a significant spike the period 1790 to 1830. This appears to coincide with the coming of age of Sarah Boston who continues to live in the household with her mother Sarah Burnee Philips. Based on a combination of the documentary, architectural and archaeological data, it seems that an addition was made the structure between 1799 and 1802. A rich material assemblage of more than 120,000 artifacts was recovered from the site that provides detailed information on cultural practices including foodways, exchange networks, agricultural activities and other work-related activities such as basket making. A wealth of foodways related artifacts as well as faunal and floral remains provide ample evidence of daily meals and feasting. The latter conclusion is particularly important because of the implications is has for demonstrating that the Hassanamisco Nipmuc were regularly engaged in political activities. We believe the findings of the project provide empirical evidence that counters arguments made by the Bureau of Indian Affairs that the Hassanamisco Nipmuc did not persist as a politically and culturally continuous community.


Cultural Resource Management Study No. 69

Study by Stephen Mrozowski and Heather Law Pezzarossi, with contributions by Dennis Piechota, Heather Trigg, John Steinberg, Guido Pezzarossi, Joseph Bagley, Jessica Rymer and Jerry Warner.