College of Management and Human Service

USM archaeology professor 'unearths' Smuttynose secrets in new exhibit

A new exhibit, "Under the Isles of Shoals," is currently on exhibit at the Discover Portsmouth Center, featuring Smuttynose Island artifacts unearthed by Dr. Nathan Hamilton, associate professor of archaeology, and his USM students.

Featuring 250,000 artifacts spanning 6,000 years, the exhibit brings life to an area entrenched in legend. TMS Architects describes the Isles of Shoals:

"The Isles of Shoals are a small group of islands, approximately 6 miles off the coast of New England, straddling the borders of New Hampshire and Maine.  Smuttynose, the 3rd largest of these islands, has a colorful history.  Known as the site for Blackbeard’s honeymoon and a shipwreck of the Spanish ship Sagunto in 1813, it is most famous for the 1873 murders of two young women; the subject of Anita Shreve’s 1997 novel, The Weight of Water."

Throughout the years, Hamilton and his team have unearthed a wide spectrum of treasures, including:

  • evidence of six prehistoric occupations dating as far back as 6,000 years
  • an ancient tavern littered with thousands of clay pipe fragments dating to the 1620s
  • remains of "great cod" that once weighed 120 pounds
  • rare coins, early glassware and Native American stone tools

Additionally, a new book by award-winning author J. Dennis Robinson, Under the Isles of Shoals: Archaeology & Discovery on Smuttynose Island tracks the progress of Hamilton and his researchers and contain 180 images from the Smuttynose digs.

Visit the USM Geography-Anthropology website: Geo-Anthro at USM

Exhibit sponsors include Smuttynose Brewing Company,, Optima Bank, Shoals Marine Lab, Treehouse Toys,, Speedpro Imaging, Isles of Shoals Steamship Company, Martha Fuller Clark and Jeff Clark, Island Cruises, Independent Archaeological Consulting and Portsmouth Harbor Cruises.