Archaeology and history at the Chilmark library


Author James Richardson will be at the Chilmark library on Wednesday, July 13, at 5 pm to talk about the history of the John and Experience Mayhew homesite in Chilmark. He and Richard Burt wrote “Discovering a Lost Vineyard House: The Archaeology and History of the John and Experience Mayhew House Site on Martha’s Vineyard.” Both authors are archeologists and Islanders. 

According to a press release from the library, In the 1970s Dick Burt located a colonial house site Chilmark. His deed research proved that it was the home of John and Experience Mayhew, missionaries to the Wampanoag tribe, and grandson and great-grandson of Thomas Mayhew Sr. who had purchased the right to settle on Martha’s Vineyard in 1642. The Chilmark house, dating from 1672 to 1758, was the home of the two families, which included wives and 16 children over the 86 years they occupied the home.

The excavations in 1985 by the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Museum of Natural History resulted in the discovery of two cellar holes and a surrounding sheet midden of artifacts and refuse. The book presents the analysis and historic background of 15,000 artifacts and 10,000 animal bones of food remains, as well as the history of the English settlement of the Vineyard from 1642 to circa 1765 when the Massachusetts Bay Colony in Boston was the major source of political and economic support, the release says. It also chronicles the Mayhew family and the Wampanoag who have resided on the Island for more than 10,500 years.        

Richardson is an emeritus chief curator of the Section of Anthropology, Carnegie Museum of Natural History, and emeritus professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Pittsburgh. He has conducted extensive archaeological research in Peru, Western Pennsylvania, and on Martha’s Vineyard. Richard L. Burt, the press release states, “is an Island archaeologist and historian who has made significant contributions through his research, based on site surveys and surface collections, participating and co-directing excavations and for his contributions to study of colonial house sites and colonial history on Martha’s Vineyard.”

For more information, email for more information. Free. Sponsored by the Friends of the Chilmark Library.