Winter Speaker Series

2021-2022 Zoom Speaker Series

King Philip’s War:
Impacts on Merrymeeting Bay

December 8, 2021

Bruce Bourque

Archaeologist, Director, Merrymeeting Bay Pioneer Project

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Bruce Bourque, now directing the Merrymeeting Bay Pioneers Project, is Chief Archaeologist, Maine State Museum, emeritus and also Senior Lecturer in Anthropology, Bates College, emeritus.


• Harvard University, 1971, Ph.D. (Anthropology)
• University of Colorado, 1967, M.A. (Anthropology)
• University of Massachusetts, 1965, B.A. (Anthropology)

Professional Activities

• Director, Fox Islands Archaeological Project (1970 - 2001): Basic goals of the project included the reconstruction of prehistoric cultural and environmental history of the Penobscot Bay region.

• Director, Merrymeeting Bay Archaeological Project (1975-2015): Basic goals were to assess the impact upon prehistoric human populations of sea level rise, including extensive investigations at eight large archaeological sites spanning most of the Holocene. (See Bourque, et al. 2002).

Relevant Publications

• 2012 Bruce J. Bourque. The Swordfish Hunters: The History and Ecology of an Ancient American Sea People. Bunker Hill Publishing, Piermont, NH.

• 2006 Lotze, Hieke K, Hunter S. Lenihan, Bruce J. Bourque, Roger Bradbury, Richard G. Cooke, Matthew C. Kay, Susan M. Kidwell, Michael X. Kirby, Charles S. Petersen and Jeremy B. Jackson. Depletion, Degradation, and Recovery Potential of Estuaries and Coastal Seas. Science 312, No 5781:1806-1809.

• 2006 Bourque, Bruce J., Steven L. Cox and Robert A. Lewis. The Archaic Period of the Merrymeeting Bay Region, South Central Maine. The Archaic of the Northeast. University of Maine Press, Orono, pp. 307-342. • 2001 Jackson, J., M. Kirby, W. Berger, K Bjorndahl, L. Botford, B. J. Bourque, R. Bradbury, R. Cooke, J. Erlandson, J. Estes, T. Hughes, S. Kidwell, C. Lange, H. Lenihan, J. Pandolfi, C. Peterson, R. Steneck, M. Tegner, R. Warner. “Historical Overfishing and the Recent Collapse of Coastal Ecosystems.” Science 293:629-638.

King Philip’s War—also known as the First Indian War, the Great Narragansett War or Metacom’s Rebellion—took place in southern New England from 1675 to 1676. It was the Native Americans' last-ditch effort to avoid recognizing English authority and stop English settlement on their native lands. The war is named after the Wampanoag chief Metacom, later known as Philip or King Philip, who led the fourteen-month bloody rebellion.

The Merrymeeting Bay Pioneer Project founded by Bourque, Alan Bowes, Chris Gutsher and Fred Koerber, focuses on learning more about early English settlers in or around Merrymeeting Bay during this turbulent time of the 17th century, as well as later English and Scots-Irish (Ulster Scots) pioneers who settled in the area during the first three-quarters of the 18th century, when the Pejepscot Proprietors were a primary influence in the settlement and development of the Bay area.

English settlement in Maine during the 1600s is sparsely documented and poorly understood. Only a few of the sites where the pioneers lived and worked have been located and studied. The exact locations of most of the others have been lost over the centuries. Carrying out a careful, systematic investigation of these forgotten sites could yield a wealth of information about the lives of those earliest English pioneers, their interactions with the local Indians, and the effects they had upon the area’s ecosystem over time.

There are also gaps in our knowledge about subsequent area settlement efforts taking place in the 1700s. Many English and Scots-Irish settled in the Bay area under the auspices of the Pejepscot Proprietors and their massive land development activities. The Pejepscot Proprietors were a key factor in the area's development, particularly during the period from 1714 and into the 1760s. A large number of pioneer sites from this period still remain to be discovered and studied, which should also provide valuable data relating to the area's history and ecology within this time frame.

Watercolors by
Sarah Stapler