URI plans underwater expedition to RI Native American sites

(Photo from University of Rhode Island)

NARRAGANSETT, R.I. (WPRI) — This weekend, a crew of researchers will take the University of Rhode Island’s research vessel Endeavor to study Native American cultural sites underwater in Rhode Island Sound dating back thousands of years.

Scientists and tribal historians believe Native American ancestors lived on so-called “drowned sites” that became submerged over 23,000 years as ice sheets melted and sea levels rose.

The crew will depart Sunday, June 5, for a four-day expedition, led by John W. King, a professor of marine geology at URI’s Graduate School of Oceanography (GSO). The grad school has been working with the Narragansett Indian Tribal Historic Preservation Office, as well as the U.S. Department of the Interior and the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council.

The team is in their fourth year of a five-year study identifying underwater ancient sites on the Outer Continental Shelf and to evaluate the potential impact of offshore wind energy projects — with the hope of avoiding damage to the ancient sites. They’re also going to be exchanging training sessions with tribal historians on scientific methods and tribal interpretations of the submerged landscapes.

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