SPAP Report No.MSM-F.3

(Panther Pond in Raymond drains into Jordan Bay of Sebago Lake via Panther Run / River near where State Route 85 joins US Route 302. Panther Pond is c.3 miles long; and into it via Tenney River drains Crescent Lake, and into that via Rattlesnake Brook drains Raymond Pond.)


Herein we discuss Sebagoland’s Native American Prehistory, which is far earlier than anything yet presented by the Sebago-Presumpscot Anthropology Project in these SPAP Reports. For perspective, consider that heretofore we have dealt only with the Historic Period’s Wabanaki Algonquians of the last 500 years. Now, however, the Prehistoric Indians’ specifically Archaic Period stone artifacts (lithics) shown below are mostly dated well before Pharaoh Cheops’ Great Pyramid of Egypt was finished c.4,680 years ago.

The Maine State Museum in Augusta is the source of the following article, which appeared in their publication BROADSIDE (v21,n4,p2) in Winter 1999, with no accompanying illustrations. For most of the descriptions & photos shown below (i.e., all but the first ones), very special thanks are due to Chief Archaeologist & Curator of Ethnology Bruce Bourque and to Archaeolgy Assistant Robert Lewis. (The first photos & descriptions are of items not at MSM.)

To give general context to the selected artifacts pictured, the names & dates of the three specific PERIODS OF MAINE’s INDIAN PREHISTORY are:

1) Paleo-Indian Period 12,000 – 9,000 years ago
(Ice Age; nomadic big-game-hunting & gathering)
2) Archaic Period 9,000 – 3,000 years ago
(Post-Glacial Era; seasonal intensive foraging)
3) Ceramic Period 3,000 – 500 years ago
(pottery-making & limited gardening added onto seasonal intensive foraging;corn-growing was the very last addition to gardening, but its range was limited).
Prehistory ends and the Historic Period begins with European contacts c.1500 AD.

Specific context can be gained easily by visiting Maine State Museum’s excellent permanent exhibit titled 12,000 Years In Maine. The Museum is located beside the State Capitol in Augusta, and is open (admission free) 9-5 M-F, 10-4 Saturdays & Most Holidays, 1-4 Sundays. This and other fine exhibits make MSM well worth a special family trip (in addition, there is 1754 Old Fort Western to visit, just across the Kennebec River). And, at the MSM Store, a new book by curator Bruce Bourque & others now is available, titled Twelve Thousand Years: American Indians In Maine and published in 2001 by University of Nebraska Press.

Although no Paleo-Indian Period site is known on Panther Pond itself, there is one nearby on Sebago Lake in Casco. All of the stone artifacts pictured here (indeed, most of the entire Eleanor Plummer Collection) date from c.8,500 to c.4,000 years ago, meaning that they were made during the Archaic Period. They were used by Prehistoric Indians living by intensive foraging (efficient seasonal hunting-fishing-gathering), to take fullest advantage of natural abundance.

Yet taking advantage of Nature very likely included mentally paying spiritual reverence as well as physically carrying-away the foodstuffs. Some Archaic Period artifacts appear to have had definitely non-practical (spiritual?) features purposefully combined with the economically-necessary practical aspects. Those artifacts seem to make statements that we should try harder to understand. Openly recognizing their possible spiritual content / intent seems a reasonable compromise between the two extremes either of ignoring / denying that possibility or of going too-far-out mystically with supposedly precise details.

Dugout canoes, fish-weirs, and spear-throwers easily seem to have been highly practical wooden mechanisms for Archaic Period Indians who lived here long before both vegetable-gardening (of any sort) and bows-&-arrows evolved or diffused-in. Yet we must stretch our minds beyond just wondering why what we call symmetrical plummets (photo 5L) were so evenly made if they were only just stone sinkers for fishlines. And we simply cannot make sense out of whale-shaped & seal-shaped stone asymmetrical plummets (top photos) except as spiritual-value-added artifacts — but why & how did these sea-mammal effigies get inland to Raymond?

Whale Effigy

2 ¾” or 7 cm long


Above are 4 total images of the Whale Effigy.

ASYMMETRICAL “PLUMMETS” (fishline sinkers?) Archaic Period
[Not at MSM in Plummer Collection, but found on Panther Pond in Raymond]


3 3/8″ or 8.5 cm long

another view of the Seal Effigy

Some Archaic Period Indians of the coastal northeast shared a rich spiritual belief system, as evidenced by elaborate burial-equipment. Some examples are the very artistic yet overly-fragile slate implements we call bayonets (because of their size & shape; photo 2R), and (in Newfoundland) actual great auk (bird) bills and effigies of killer-whales. Also, there were the characteristic caches of red ocher (hematite) with many Archaic burials, that led 19th-century antiquarians to call these Prehistoric Indians the “Red-Paint People”. Today that name has been replaced by the “Moorehead Phase” of the “Maritime Archaic Culture”.

How the Archaic Period Indians of inland Sebagoland were connected with the coastal Maritime Archaic Culture’s society is not yet clear: directly? indirectly? seasonally? year-round? What is certain now is that Archaic Period lithics are quite numerous in Sebagoland. This point is emphasized by the likelihood that most if not all of the Eleanor Plummer Collection in MSM came from just the southern end of Panther Pond and Panther Run / River. The two other items pictured here (top photos: the two sea-mammal effigy plummets) also are believed to have been found on or near Panther Pond in Raymond. (They were given to Raymond historian Ernest Harmon Knight, who in turn gave them to your ethnohistorical author AHM.)


[the MSM Broadside article verbatim]

During the summer of 1998, Robert C Johnson of Rumford, RI donated an impressive collection of lithic artifacts in memory of Eleanor C Plummer, formerly of Raymond Village. The artifacts were recovered by members of Plummer’s family over many years as they eroded from the shoreline of the lower basin of Panther Pond and adjoining channel, Panther Run.

The collection includes 61 artifacts, most dating from the Middle Archaic period (8,000-6,000 years ago). These include flaked stone projectile points, adzes, gouges and rod-shaped whetstones, all forms typical of the Middle Archaic. In this respect the collection resembles the Kennard Collection from White’s Bridge in nearby North Windham, which came to the Maine State Museum two years ago after it was purchased at auction by a consortium of friends of the museum. Together, these two sites underscore the popularity of the Sebago Lake region during this early period [emphasis added].

One artifact stands out from the rest. It is a very long and well-made stone pestle. At 21.5 inches, its length is exceeded in Maine only by a stone pestle from Riverside, on the Kennebec River, that is currently on display in the “12,000 Years in Maine” exhibition. Such pestles are thought to have been used to pound dried corn kernels into cornmeal by late prehistoric people, for corn agriculture appears not to have arrived in Maine until a few centuries before Europeans arrived. They are more common to the west and south of Maine where agriculture was practiced during earlier times.

We hope to exhibit the Plummer Collection soon. Thereafter, many of its artifacts will find their way into the “12,000 Years in Maine” exhibition, where they will replace artifacts of lesser quality.

1) PROJECTILE POINTS (Spear-Heads, and Javelin-Heads for “Spear-Thrower” devices) [The Bow-&-Arrow was not yet used here] 8500-5000 BP*

*Before Present = Years Ago

2) Left: SPEAR-THROWER WEIGHT (counter-balance) c.7500 BP
Right: SLATE “BAYONET” [incomplete length?] (use uncertain) c.4000 BP

3) GOUGES (for wood-working —e.g., Dugout Canoe making) 8000-6000 BP

4) ADZES (for wood-working and hide-working) 8500-5000 BP

5) Left: SYMMETRICAL “PLUMMET” (fishline sinker?) 7500-5000 BP