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Fort Ninigret

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Early 17th century; pre-European-contact archaeology site, 700–1300. End of Ninigret Rd.

Slightly west of the village center and on a low bluff overlooking Fort Neck Pond and Block Island Sound is this earthworks, originally constructed with vertical wood walls set into long ditches. Probably a fortified trading center for early-seventeenth-century seasonal inhabitants, the Niantics, the “fort” contains numerous utilitarian metal, glass, and clay artifacts (tools, fish hooks, brass vessels, beads, buttons, and pipes)—relics of indigenous life as well as of frequent visits of Dutch and other European traders, which provide a cosmopolitan picture of life along the New England coast even as early as the 1630s. (About the earlier, pre-European-contact phase of settlement, little is known except that it predates the use of metal axes.) About a half dozen other such “forts” exist in eastern Long Island and Connecticut, but this is the only example in Rhode Island.

Today the most visible feature of the polygonal fort are the earthen and stonework embankments. Within the enclosure, a boulder with commemorative text was installed in 1883, when the site was officially named Fort Ninigret. The iron rail fence replaces an earlier stone wall, elements of which can still be seen along the perimeter. The site is now maintained as a state park.

Writing Credits

William H. Jordy et al.

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