For the past 15 years or so, Robert Goodby has been delivering public lectures statewide on local Native American history, in partnership with the nonprofit New Hampshire Humanities.
“And I’ve had a great time doing that,” said Goodby, an archaeology professor at Franklin Pierce University in Rindge. “It’s a very different way of communicating about archaeology. It’s much more enjoyable.”
Now, Goodby, 59, of Dublin, has used these lectures, and his 22 years of local archaeological research with his Franklin Pierce students, as the foundation for his new book, “A Deep Presence: 13,000 Years of Native American History.” Though Goodby has written a variety of academic articles for scholarly journals over the years, the book — which he wrote on a sabbatical from Franklin Pierce last year — is his first.
“The book, really, it’s not a typical academic book,” Goodby said. “I did not write this book so it could be read by a handful of my colleagues in archaeology. I wrote it for a broader audience than that.”
Specifically, he said he hopes the book helps Monadnock Region residents gain a deeper understanding of local history, especially that Native Americans have inhabited the area continuously for the past 13,000 years.
“But if there was sort of a central point to the book, a central mission, it’s been that Native American history has been either neglected or deliberately ignored over the last 200 years,” he said. “And this book, I think especially for non-Native people, will help roll some of that back. And that, I think, is an important thing.”
The 125-page book centers on four archaeological sites in the Monadnock Region where Goodby and his students have worked. These locations include the Swanzey Fish Dam, a large stone structure in the Ashuelot River built 4,000 years ago; a knoll overlooking Nubanusit Brook in Peterborough, which Native people began visiting almost 6,000 years ago; and Wantastiquet Mountain in Hinsdale, where Goodby and his team uncovered thousands of artifacts and the remains of timber rattlesnakes.
In one of the final chapters, Goodby also details what he has called “the best, most significant, most interesting site I’ve worked on” — an area near what’s known as Tenant Swamp in West Keene, close to where Keene Middle School currently stands. Goodby conducted an archaeological consultation on the land for the school district in late 2009, before construction began and ended up discovering the oldest evidence of life in New England.
“That’s definitely the standout among all of these,” he said. “It’s an extraordinary site. So I wanted to finish with that, even though the title of the chapter is, ‘Where it All Began,’ because, let’s put it this way, there is no older dated archaeological site in New England. It’s as close as we have come to seeing the very first people to have come into this area. And so it’s a really special look, and the site was remarkably intact, and we learned a tremendous amount from it.”
Throughout the book, Goodby writes about the Keene Middle School site, and his other work, with a mix of first-person storytelling and archaeological research.
“I’m sort of telling two stories that run in parallel with each other,” he said. “The first is the story of the Native people in the Monadnock Region and some of what their history is. And then the second story is me working as an archaeologist. And those two stories weave back and forth, connect with each other.”
“A Deep Presence” is published by Portsmouth-based Peter E. Randall Publisher, in partnership with the Historical Society of Cheshire County in Keene and the Harris Center for Conservation Education in Hancock. Book publishers today often want authors to come with some financial backing for their projects, Goodby said, which led him to reach out to the historical society and Harris Center.
“And they supported it because it really fits with their mission,” he said. “Both of those organizations are really grounded in this area and both of them work for a broad public audience. And so this fit right in.”
Jeremy Wilson, executive director of the Harris Center, said the book is accessible, making it easy to learn about the history of the land in the Monadnock Region.
“We’re all about understanding the natural history of this region, and Native American presence in this region is a huge part of what leads to the natural history we see today,” Wilson said. “... And it’s so fun to read about places in the Monadnock Region that we all have been, and then start thinking about the deep history of these places.”
The Historical Society of Cheshire County at 246 Main St. will host a book launch at 6 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 11, Indigenous People’s Day in Keene. Goodby’s partners will talk about their involvement in the project, and Goodby will lead a discussion on the topic before signing copies of the book, which is available for $28 from both the historical society and Harris Center.
The free event on Oct. 11 is already nearly full, Goodby said, though organizers are working on a way to stream the proceedings so people can watch from home. Additionally, the Monadnock Center for History and Culture at 19 Grove St. in Peterborough will host a similar event outdoors, allowing for a larger crowd, Saturday, Oct. 16, at 11 a.m.