Archaeology on the Pastoral Islands of Lake Champlain

Suzanne Carmick writes in the New York Times Travel Section about visiting the Pastoral Islands of Lake Champlain.  The Vermont islands of South Hero, North Hero, and Isle La Motte, are on the border of New York and just south of Canada.

Carmick mentions the long history of Isle La Motte, which was occupied by Native Americans long before Samuel Champlain first recorded it in 1609.  In A.D. 1666, the French built Fort St. Anne on Isle La Motte. The fort was occupied for as little as two years before being abandoned. In the late 1800s, the Catholic Church purchased the land, which became St. Anne’s Shrine.  A Vermont priest, Father Joseph Kerlidou excavated the remains of the French fort.

In 1917, archaeologist Warren Moorehead conducted excavations near the shrine, finding Woodland period ceramics. At another location, Reynolds Point, he found artifacts from the earlier Archaic period. In the early 1960s, a cremation burial site attributed to the Archaic Glacial Kame culture was accidentally uncovered by workers on the island. New York State Archaeologist William Ritchie examined the artifacts found with the ochre-stained human bones. The grave goods included Native copper adzes, copper beads, shell gorgets and beads, and over 100 pieces of galena.

For more on Fort St. Anne, see Enshrining the Past: The Early Archaeology of Fort St. Anne, Isle La Motte, Vermont 

The Late Archaic Site by the Parking Garage: More on Coralville, Iowa

Hotel and plantings near the Edgewater Park Site, Iowa.

The redevelopment of that Coralville, Iowa wetland park/restaurant/hotel complex uncovered a prehistoric archaeological site officially known as the Edgewater Park Site (13JH1132). The initial survey by archaeologists prior to construction discovered that artifacts were present about one meter below the ground surface. Therefore, the upper meter of soil was removed over a 10 x 10 meter area (near the current parking garage) to expose the artifact-bearing layers.

Edgewater Park
Excavation at the Edgewater Park Site, Iowa. Source: The Office of the State Archaeologist, Iowa.

The dig recovered about 15,000 artifacts. Most of these are stone flakes, but there are also 17 projectile points. Ten of these are Table Rock points, a side-notched biface similar to the widespread Late Archaic Durst, Dustin, and Lamoka points found elsewhere. The only other diagnostic point is a Stone Square Stemmed point that also dates to the Late Archaic.

Concentrations of fire-cracked rock likely are the remains of several hearths, and the distribution of the stone debitage (primarily Maynes Creek chert, which is found naturally about 100km away from the site) may reveal areas where individuals were creating stone tools between 3,500 and 3,900 years ago. Three types of plants found at the site, barnyard grass, little barley, and knotweed, could possibly have been cultivated there. Archaeologists think that the Edgewater Park site was a warm-weather camp temporarily used by hunter-gatherers who may have also been beginning to use domesticated plants.

The Office of the State Archaeologist of Iowa has more information on the Edgewater Park Site, and photos of the excavation can be seen on Flickr.

Reference:

William E. Whittaker, Michael T. Dunne, Joe Alan Artz, Sarah E. Horgen and Mark L. Anderson

2007       Edgewater Park: A Late Archaic Campsite along the Iowa River. Midcontinental Journal of Archaeology 32 (1):5-45.

 

The First Dig at Frontenac Island

Bone Deer Head Effigy from Frontenac Island. Source: Cadzow 1925

Bone effigy deer’s head found on Frontenac Island, NY. Source: Cadzow 1925, Figure 33.

The Frontenac Island site in Cayuga Lake, New York, was excavated by William Ritchie in 1939-1940, and then again several years later. The first professional excavations on the island, however, were conducted by Donald Cadzow for the Museum of the American Indian around the same time Ritchie was beginning to excavate the Lamoka Lake site.

“For many years Cayuga county, New York, has been a happy hunting-ground for commercial pothunters and local diggers,” Cadzow wrote,  but Frontenac Island had “been protected for many years by public-spirited citizens living nearby.” (p. 56, 58) Cadzow received permission from the island’s owners (the village of Union Springs) to dig on the island, beginning in late July 1924. Excavations were limited, but finds included pottery and human burials. Included with one of the burials were four stone plummets, one winged bannerstone, a bone animal effigy interpreted as a deer’s head, three beaver incisors, one notched point, three antler flakers, two bone “arrowpoints” (one looks harpoon-like) and the left humerus of a swan, which had been cut and polished and perforated.

Frontenac Island Bone Points. Source: Cadzow 1925

Bone “arrowpoints’ from Frontenac Island, NY. Source: Cadzow 1925, Figure 35.

Frontenac Island. Source: Cadzow 1925

Frontenac Island. Source: Cadzow 1925.

Reference:

Cadzow, Donald

1925  Prehistoric Algonkian Burial Site in Cayuga County, New York. Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation Indian Notes 2(1):56-63.

 

More Details of the Lamoka Diorama

Lamoka diorama interiorHere’s a photo showing part of the interior of the house in the Lamoka diorama at the New York State Museum. The lodge itself is based on Ritchie’s interpretation of the numerous post molds and features he described as floors at the site, as detailed in his book The Archaeology of New York State. The contents of the interior of the lodge are more speculative. Some items are based on actual artifacts found at the site, like the antlers seen hanging from one of the wooden supports. Others are undoubtedly inferred from more recent Native Americans, ethnographic hunter-gatherers, and other archaeological evidence. The textiles in particular are beautifully done.

Especially interesting is the bow seen hanging on the left side of the photo. Most archaeologists would probably doubt that bows and arrows were used during the Late Archaic in New York. Instead, atlatls (spear throwers) are considered the primary projectile weapon of the time (although bannerstones/atlatl weights are rare to nonexistent at Lamoka). The issue is unresolved however, and several archaeologists have argued for the presence of bows and arrows by this time period (see, for example, Evidence for Bow and Arrow Use in the Small Point Late Archaic of Southwestern Ontario
by Kristen Snarey and Christopher Ellis).

Recreating Lamoka at the New York State Museum

Lamoka Diorama at NYSMAlways love seeing the life-size diorama of the Lamoka Lake site, representing the Archaic Period, at the New York State Museum in Albany. Based, of course, on Ritchie’s excavations at the site, the man in the center is wearing one of the enigmatic antler pendants from the site as, yes, a pendant. He also has a bone-handled knife at his waist, is carrying a fishing net with netsinkers, and wears a shell bead necklace (Ritchie actually thought the shell beads found at the site were associated with the later Woodland occupation). In the background, you can see a fish weir across the narrow channel between the two lakes (there is no direct evidence for weirs at the site) and fish drying racks (some post molds from the site were interpreted this way).

Worked Antler Artifact from Lamoka Lake

Information provided with the permission of the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, 10th and Constitution Ave. N.W., Washington, DC 20560-0193. (http://www.nmnh.si.edu/)
Information provided with the permission of the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, 10th and Constitution Ave. N.W., Washington, DC 20560-0193. (http://www.nmnh.si.edu/)

 

In 1950, the Rochester Museum of Arts and Sciences donated several modified bone and antler artifacts from the Lamoka Lake Site to the Smithsonian Institution. One of them was the artifact above (Accession No. A397991), made from a white-tailed deer or possibly elk (wapiti) antler.

William Ritchie, in his 1932 report, considered this and other artifacts like it as possible pendants, amulets, or tally sticks. They may also have had a more practical use. Some antler artifacts from the site were also decorated with red ochre stripes.  To my knowledge, these artifacts have not been studied by anyone else since the original analysis by Ritchie in the 1920s.