James A. Tuck has traveled through the centuries on the Vineyard, not to mention in New York and Newfoundland.

Mr. Tuck, 68, is one of Canada’s top archaeologists; two weeks ago, he and his colleague Robert J. McGhee were honored by their peers at the Canadian Archaeological Association with the Gagnant du Prix Smith-Wintemberg Award. It is a prestigious award given only occasionally by the association.

Not accustomed to wearing suits, Mr. Tuck said he had to borrow one to wear at the event where he accepted his award, the association’s 42nd annual meeting, in Thunder Bay, Ontario.

This week, Mr. Tuck sat outside his house at Hines Point. His big, eight-year-old black dog Sherwood, a Newfoundland, often barked during the interview.

“We can tell the story that people didn’t write down,” Mr. Tuck said about his profession, which aims to be free from bias. “History was written by a small percentage of the population. A large portion of the population was not literate. Those who wrote, wrote what they were interested in. They weren’t interested about the daily lives of people like you and me. Documents get lost. Some writers had an axe to grind.”

In the early history of this hemisphere, Mr. Tuck said, those who wrote “were trying to encourage settlement. They might have exaggerated the resources. If they said they built a huge fort of stone and we go back as an archaeologist and you find out it was wood, who is right?”

Mr. Tuck has uncovered plenty of history, retelling the stories of the places where he has gently swept his Marshalltown trowel. He has uncovered stories of peoples who did not leave any words or letters.

On the Vineyard, in his mid-20s he was a close friend and recreational fishing colleague of William A. Ritchie, who wrote the book The Archaeology of Martha’s Vineyard, published in 1969.

“We used to fish together for a week in the fall. We were friends who happened also to be archaeologists,” Mr. Tuck said. They would go shore fishing at Squibnocket, Norton Point and other places.

Mr. Tuck worked for Mr. Ritchie, then a New York State archaeologist at the New York State Museum in Albany and helped with the research for the Vineyard book. And it was through their work together, and the work of others, that they understood what the early Native Americans of this Island ate, how they hunted, how they prepared their food, and how they lived together.

Mr. Tuck said one of the six key sites mentioned in the book, the Pratt site, is not far from Lagoon Pond Road. Mr. Tuck said: “I started to dig that site with a little help from Gale Huntington. Then Ritchie and his crew came down to the Vineyard.”

Through their efforts they discovered that the Native American site went back 1,500 years. “We found lots of ceramics, knives and scrapers that were made from stone. We found some bone needles and tools.”

As Mr. Ritchie explained in his book, Martha’s Vineyard was the perfect place to look for prehistory, to a time when southeastern Massachusetts was occupied by Native Americans. So much of the Vineyard was undisturbed back then. It was a perfect place to gain an appreciation for the history of the place prior to English settlements.

When it was published, the book made a significant contribution to the subject. It is still considered the first extensive, scientifically conducted archaeological investigation in New England.

Mr. Tuck’s relationship with the Vineyard precedes his work in archaeology.

From 1963 to 1964 he taught seventh and eighth grade at the Oak Bluffs School. He worked side by side with Harry C. Dorr, another seventh and eighth grade teacher and principal.

But it was a relationship with the New York archaeologist that sent him out into the world.

He worked for Mr. Ritchie in New York state for several summers looking into the history of another Native American nation. “I wrote my PhD on the prehistory of the Onondaga people,” he said. His work involved understanding the Iroquois.

In the fall of 1968 he sought and got a job working for Memorial University of Newfoundland at St. John’s as an assistant professor in the anthropology department. In addition to teaching archaeology, he went digging.

No sooner had he landed than there was excitement about the uncovering of Newfoundland’s greater unknown history. At Port au Choix a cemetery was uncovered.

At L’Anse Amour, archaeologists discovered the oldest known burial mound in North America, going back 7.500 years. It is believed a community lived on the coast.

Mr. Tuck’s work took him to Red Bay, where diggers like himself discovered that in 1500 there was a great whaling industry that lasted a full century. “It wasn’t like New Bedford, but for its day it was the whaling capital of the world,” Mr. Tuck said.

Through the work of Mr. Tuck and others, it became clear that the Basques who whaled in Red Bay invented what we refer to as modern day whaling. “New England whaleboats are dead ringers for what they uncovered in Red Bay and what they used 200 years earlier,” Mr. Tuck said.

The European presence in those maritime waters was driven by a need for food and energy. Mr. Tuck helped in the investigation of the history of Ferryland, a place which was one of the first permanent English settlements in this hemisphere. What attracted the Europeans to these settlements involved fish and oil.

“Codfish was important. But the whale fishery is often underrated. I have heard from some economic historians who report that more money was made and brought to Spain through the whale fishery than the finding of gold in Central and South America,” Mr. Tuck said.

History is precious. Mr. Tuck said he has concerns about the Vineyard and its history and our cultural effort to preserve it.

“Unfortunately, regulation has driven contractors underground,” Mr. Tuck said. On Martha’s Vineyard, as in many communities, houses are torn down all the time and there is no incentive for anyone to report an archaeological find, because they are expensive and delay the work.

Mr. Tuck said he understands the point of view of the builder and the home owner but history is being lost.

“Every archaeological site, whether it is European or Native, every one of those sites is unique,” Mr. Tuck said. “That site will make a certain point about the people who lived there. So when a bulldozer goes through the site, it is gone, that page is erased for all time,” Mr. Tuck said.

At the Colony of Avalon, where the community celebrates its heritage, Mr. Tuck said: “They are aware of their heritage and they are proud of it and they take every effort to preserve it.”

Some of those lessons might be learned here.

When Mr. Tuck leaves next month and goes back up North to return to Ferryland, there will still be frost on the windshield of his car in the morning. But the heat of his work will begin. “Getting my hands dirty,” as he put it. “It is really fun finding something no one has seen for thousands or tens of thousands of years. It is all pretty exciting.”