Tag Archives: Pre-History

NYS Museum Research in Archaeology Lectures

Research findings on a 200-300-year-old skull found in a wall in Coeymans – the subject of recent news accounts – will be one of the topics discussed during a series of lectures on “Research in Archaeology” at the New York State Museum. The lectures will be held Wednesday through March 28 at 12:10 p.m. in the Huxley Theater. Lecture topics and dates are:

? March 14 – “Learning from Pottery.” Broken pieces of pottery, or sherds, are one of the most common artifacts recovered from archaeological sites younger than 3,000 years old. Dr. John P. Hart, director of the State Museum’s Research & Collections division, will
discuss recently completed research on sherds that provides information on how Native Americans interacted across what is now New York state.

? March 21 – “The Skull in the Wall: The Case of the Coeymans Lady.” The discovery of a human skull during repairs to the stone foundation at the historic Coeymans House in southern Albany County raised many questions about the person’s identity and manner of death.
Lisa Anderson, curator of bioarchaeology, will take a closer look at the skeletal evidence and historical context of the case.

? March 28 – “Cache and Carry: New Insights on Ice Age Technology of New York Paleoindians.” New York’s first people colonized the state at the end of the Ice Age. Ranging widely across New York and beyond, many have wondered how these hunter gatherers
created a portable stone technology compatible with their mobile way of life. Dr. Jonathan Lothrop, curator of archaeology, describes new insights from the study of a Paleoindian stone tool cache discovered in the upper Susquehanna Valley.

Founded in 1836, the State Museum is a program of the New York State Education Department’s Office of Cultural Education. Located on Madison Avenue in Albany, the Museum is open Monday through Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New
Year’s Day. Admission is free. Further information can be obtained by calling (518) 474-5877 or visiting the museum website at www.nysm.nysed.gov.

Photo: Coeymans House from LOC Historic American Building Survey Digital Collection.

Mastodon Tusk May Be Largest Ever Uncovered in NYS

Research under way at the New York State Museum indicates that a huge mastodon tusk, recently excavated by Museum scientists in Orange County, may be the largest tusk ever found in New York State. The nearly complete but fragmented tusk, measuring more than nine feet long, was one of two excavated this past summer in the Black Dirt area of Orange County at the confluence of Tunkamoose Creek and the Wallkill River, on the property of Lester Lain of Westtown. Museum scientists believe that the other less complete tusk, about 5-6 feet long, came from the same mastodon, which has been named the Tunkamoose mastodon.

Glen Keeton of Mount Hope, N.Y. and Chris Connallon of Hampton, N.J. came across the tusks in November 2008 as they were canoeing down the Wallkill River. Keeton contacted the Orange County chapter of the New York State Archeological Association, which then contacted the State Museum. Weather conditions delayed the excavation until this past
summer.

Since then, Dr. Robert Feranec, the Museum’s curator of vertebrate paleontology, has been researching other mastodon excavations in New York State. Feranec believes that the Warren Mastodon tusk, which is 8 feet, 8 inches long, is the longest one uncovered to date. It was discovered in New York State in the 1800s and is on exhibit at the
American Museum of Natural History in New York City. The tusk of the Cohoes Mastodon, on display at the State Museum, is about 4-5 feet long.

Based on the age of similar fossils, Feranec suspects that the tusks are about 13,000 years old. However, carbon dating results to determine the exact age, will not be available until later this year. In the meantime, the tusks have been taken apart to be cleaned and conserved for their long-term survival. It is hoped that eventually the tusks can be made available for scientific research and exhibits at the State
Museum and at a museum in the area where the tusks were found.

Abundant mastodon fossils have been found in Orange County, especially in the rich Black Dirt area which Keeton calls “a gold mine for these fossils.” Other fossils have also been found including those of giant beavers, stag moose, ground sloths, peccaries and reindeer. Several Museum scientists will be involved in an integrative research
project in the Black Dirt area where they will investigate the ancient environment in which the mastodon lived, as well as how that environment changed over the last 13,000 years.

“From my perspective, this is a significant find,” said Feranec. “These fossils will tell us more about the ancient history of New York. We hope to be able to reconstruct the environment in which the mastodon lived, as well as to try to understand why they went extinct.”

In 2007, Feranec oversaw the relocation of the Cohoes Mastodon from the State Museum lobby window to its new location in the Museum’s Exhibition Hall, where temperature and humidity levels are more stable and more conducive to the skeleton’s long-term preservation. The iconic Museum treasure is now the centerpiece of an expanded exhibition.

Discovered in 1866 near Cohoes Falls, the Mastodon once stood about 8 ? feet tall, was about 15 feet long, and weighed between 8-10,000 pounds. Its tusk weighs 50 pounds.

Photo: During the excavation process in Orange County, Dr. Robert Feranec, curator of vertebrate paleontology at the New York State Museum, poses next to part of the tusk of a mastodon. (Photo courtesy of NYS Museum)

Early American Ethnohistory 1st Book Prize Announced

SUNY Press is proud to announce a new competition for the best single-authored dissertation or first book manuscript in the field of early American Ethnohistory – The Francis Jennings First Book Manuscript Prize in Early American Ethnohistory. They welcome unpublished, nonfiction manuscripts that illuminate American Indian history or the history of Indian-European relations in what is now the United States and Canada from the time of initial contacts between American Indians and Europeans through the era of the early republic United States, ca. 1800. The competition is open to scholars who have not published a peer-reviewed book and whose work is grounded in cultural and/or cross-cultural analysis using ethnohistorical research methodology.

If a winner of the competition is selected, he or she will receive a publication contract with SUNY Press and a $3,000 advance. Non-winning manuscripts may also be considered for publication in the Ethnohistories of Early America series published by SUNY Press. All submissions must be postmarked by July 1, 2008, and should include a cover letter, C.V., proposal, including a 4-5 page overview of the scope of the project and analysis of competing titles, and a complete manuscript, at least 150 double spaced pages, Courier font.

Submissions should mention the competition in the cover letter, and also indicate if any material from the manuscript has been previously published. All submissions must be exclusive submissions to SUNY Press for the duration of the contest, and finalists will be notified by September 1, 2008.

Please send all submissions to:

Dr. Gary Dunham
Executive Director, SUNY Press
194 Washington Ave., Suite 305
Albany, NY 12210

Direct all questions to:

Dr. James T. Carson
Department of History
Queen’s University
Kingston, ON K7L 3N6 Canada

Dr. Greg O’Brien
Department of History
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro
PO Box 26170
Greensboro, NC 27402-6170

3rd Annual Pethick Archaeological Site Open House

The 3rd Annual Pethick Archaeological Site Open House will be held Monday, June 30th, and Tuesday, July 1st, 10am – 2pm on Smith Road in Central Bridge (directions below).

The Pethick Site is in its fifth season of excavation as an archaeological field school co-taught by the University of Albany, SUNY, and the New York State Museum. It is a rich and important Native American site, and to date has yielded almost 200,000 artifacts and 350 soil features. Evidence recovered in the excavations suggests that this location has been used for several thousand years by the indigenous people of the Schoharie Valley.

According to SUNY Archaeologist Sean Rafferty:

The Pethick Site is a newly discovered village and campsite located on a terrace overlooking Schoharie Creek, a major tributary of the Mohawk River. The site was discovered by the class of the 2004 summer field school based on information provided by local artifact collectors. A shovel test pit survey of the site indicated that there were extensive and rich archaeological deposits present. These were concentrated at one end of the site on a small rise in the local topography. Initial excavations were concentrated in that area.

Our excavations first uncovered a dark black organic layer, believed to represent a decomposed trash midden dating from the most recent occupations of the site. Based on artifacts recovered from the midden layer, the most recent and most extensive occupation at Pethick dates from approximately AD 1000 to AD 1400, a period archaeologists refer to as the “Late Woodland Period” in northeastern North America. The occupants of the Schoharie Valley at that time are generally believed to have been the ancestors to modern Iroquois cultures, including the Mohawk. Remains from that period at the site include numerous hearths, fire cracked rock deposits, storage pits, and post-mold patterns. Artifacts from the site include numerous chipped stone waste flakes, stone tools including projectile points, and potter sherds. Preliminary analysis suggests the presence of at least one longhouse.

While the discovery of a possible early Iroquoian village site is a major occurrence, there is more to Pethick than this. Soil stratigraphy and artifacts indicate that Pethick is a multicomponent site, which was repeatedly occupied over thousands of years of prehistory. Artifacts recovered during the 2004 season indicate occupations during the pre-agricultural Early and Middle Woodland Periods, from approximately 1,000 BC to AD 200. Also identified were artifacts indicating occupations during the preceding Transitional Period, from approximately 1,500 to 1,000 BC. During these early periods the site probably served as a seasonal encampment where occupants could take advantage of locally gathered plant and animal resources, including fishing in the nearby Schoharie Creek.

We have been informed by local collectors that the site may also contain remains from the Early Archaic Period, dating to as early as 8,000 BC. If true, this would be a very rare occupation, dating to one of the earliest periods of New York State prehistory, just following the end of the last Ice Age. Surveying the areas purported to contain this evidence will also be a priority of the next field season.

Visitors to the site will be given tours by university students, but they are welcome to explore at their own pace and stay as long as they would like. Professional archaeologists, including State Archaeologist Dr. Christina Rieth and Dr. Sean Rafferty of the University at Albany, will be on hand to look at private artifact collections, which visitors are encouraged to bring. The site is fairly easily accessed (in a farm field). For safety reasons, guests will not be allowed to excavate.

Visitors of all ages are welcome! There is no cost for this event.

For more information, email or call: Jaime Donta, jm141615@albany.edu or (413)237-2822

From Albany: Take I-88W to Exit 23– Schoharie/Central Bridge. At the end of the ramp, turn right. At the flashing red light, turn left onto 30/7A. Cross the Schoharie Creek, then take your first left onto Smith Rd. Follow to the end– the site is visible on the left.