The Archaeology of Cape Cod National Seashore

Cape Cod National Seashore is not just a mighty and wondrous strand of glacial sand. It holds within its 43,000 acres an astounding collection of Native American habitation sites, shipwrecks, farm stands, small cemeteries, tourist and industrial sites, and military installations. Join Bill Burke (below, right) as he discusses this tale of discovery and the challenges ahead of documenting what is left and presenting to the public the most accurate story of life on early Cape Cod in this 67-minute YouTube video recorded on February 19, 2022 by the Massachusetts Archaeological Society.

After the creation of the Seashore in 1961, the National Park Service began to systematically identify places like the Great Island Tavern site, followed by the ambitious McManamon survey of 1979-84 and the dramatic storm-exposed Carns Site of 1990.

Fort Hill (above, right) was the highest point adjacent to the meetinghouse erected by Pilgrim residents of Nauset (later called Eastham) shortly after they settled the area in 1644.

The Cape’s archaeological resources have been tapped unevenly and sporadically beginning in the 19th century with more organized investigations beginning in the 1950s.

The archaeological study of the Cape continues, and much is now on display at the Cape Cod National Seashore in Wellfleet, MA.