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Ancient Fishweir Project

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5,300 years ago, in what is now Boston’s Back Bay, Native people built fishweirs in tidal flats to catch alewife, smelt and salmon. These four-foot high, fence-like structures were woven of alder, willow saplings and brush wattling and were made of over 65,000 wood stakes.


Archaeological evidence discovered during subway excavation and building construction over the last one hundred years indicates that fishweirs were built over a 1500-year period in tidal marsh now located 28 to 40 feet below the Boston Common and the Back Bay.


Buried under Boylston Street and the Green Line subway, fishweirs are direct evidence of the native communities that once occupied the area where urban Boston has grown.


In a city full of bronze sculptures of historical markers and memorials, there is no public display of information about the ancient fishweirs or the people who lived here 250 generations before the colonists arrived.


By engaging the imagination with the fishweir story, the Ancient Fishweir Project seeks to expand the timeframe of history told in Boston's public places and honor the memory of Boston's early Native inhabitants.


Site: Boston Common

Boston, Masschusetts

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