© Connecticut Post ContributedTim Chaucer, director of the Milford Marine Institute, holds a stone axe believed to be more than 2,000 years old, that he found this summer in river silt in Milford. Chaucer will speak to the Milford Historical Society on Monday Sept. 19, 2011 about the Paugussett Indians who inhabited the area before the European settlers.
Tim Chaucer really does leave no stone unturned and no mudhole unexamined. That dedication has led the archaeologist to several significant finds, including a stone ax head estimated to be more than 2,000 years old.

Chaucer will bring that item and several other Paugussett Indian artifacts to his presentation to the Milford Historical Society at 7 p.m. Monday night in the basement of the Mary Taylor Methodist Church. Through the years the retired science teacher has given several presentations on the birds, marine life and environment of Milford, along with Indian lore and history.

The ax he and a friend found alongside the river this summer appears to date to the Late Archaic Period, generally given as 4000 B.C. to 2000 B.C., but that is still not the oldest artifact found here, collectors say.

A counterweight, a stone used to balance a throwing spear, was found a few years ago on Land Trust property near Milford Point.

"It may be older than the ax, and a woman found a spear point, that certainly predates (the use of) a bow and arrow, while working in her garden last year," Chaucer said. "It amazes me that you can still find artifacts that old in 2011, but when they dredge the (downtown) duck ponds, it's likely we'll find lots of items.

"I wouldn't be surprised (if) 10 or 12 feet down in the harbor there are wooden dugout canoes," he said. "They'd sometimes bury canoes in the riverbed to keep them out of the freeze-thaw cycle, and the lack of oxygen in the muck would preserve them."

Chaucer said the Pequot War battle in Fairfield's Sasco Swamp in 1637 saw the Paugussetts allied with their more warlike neighbors against the European settlers. That battle led indirectly to the founding of Milford after Thomas Tibbals surveyed the harbor on his way back to New Haven. It also led to closer relations between the colonists and the Paugussetts, including trade, he said.

"Tim is an avid amateur archaeologist. I am always amazed by what he and his students at the Milford Marine Institute discover," said Susan Carroll-Dwyer, the historical society spokesman. "His hands-on programs give people the opportunity to touch items that can be thousands of years old."

While he was growing up in Fairfield, Chaucer found his first projectile point in woods near his house.

"I was maybe 9 or 10 and that got me interested in the people who lived in those woods."

The director of the Milford Marine Institute, Chaucer now runs summer camps for area children, including an archaeology dig, that doubtless will inspire a future archaeologist.

Campers this year dug through piles of silt near the banks of what the director calls "The River of the Lost Name." All of the watercourses that flow through Milford have their original Paugussett names, except the one that flows on the eastern end of downtown, he noted.