History Program at the New York State Museum

Upcoming Great Places and Spaces history event in Albany this Saturday. From the press release:

Representatives from state historic sites and cultural institutions will provide educational hands-on activities, unique artifacts to explore, and information about upcoming events during the annual “New York State’s Great Places and Spaces” program on Saturday, January 14 from noon to 4:00 p.m. at the New York State Museum. 

Visitors can learn about New York State history through activities and information provided by over 20 state historic sites, museums, and libraries. In addition, The Iron Jacks, a singing group that specializes in songs about U.S. sailors of the Civil War era, will perform at noon and 2:00 p.m. There will also be a guided tour of the Hudson Valley Ruins exhibition at 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. and a “hands-on” cart of Native Peoples reproduction objects where visitors can get first-hand experience with materials used by the Iroquois in the past and present.

Participating institutions include the Adirondack Museum, Albany Institute of History & Art, Albany Pine Bush, Burden Iron Works, Civil War Round Table, Crailo State Historic Site, Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library & Museum, Historic Cherry Hill, Guilderland Historical Society, Johnson Hall State Historic Site, Knox’s Headquarters State Historic Sites, New Windsor Cantonment, NYS Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation, Olana State Historic Site, Saratoga National Historical Park, Saratoga Racing & Hall of Fame, Schenectady Historical Society, Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site, U.S. Grant Cottage Historic Site, and U.S. Naval Landing Party.

Admission is free. Further information about programs and events can be obtained by calling (518) 474-5877 or visiting the Museum website at www.nysm.nysed.gov.

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.

 

Human Effigy on Ceramic Pot from New York

Ceramic sherd from New York state. Source: Beauchamp 1898.
Ceramic sherd from New York state. Source: Beauchamp 1898.

Human effigy on ceramic sherd found in Montgomery County, New York. The horizontal grooves across the torso are found on similar effigies on other Iroquoian pots.  Illustrated and described by William Beauchamp, who thought that the long grooves behind the body are suggestive of feathered wings. Undated by Beauchamp, but may postdate European contact.

Reference:

Beauchamp, William M.

1898       Earthenware of the New York Aborigines. Bulletin of the New York State Museum Volume 5, No. 22. Albany. Figure 41.

Seneca Subsistence and Trade in the Eighteenth Century

A recent study of bones from an early historic Iroquois site includes a comparison with the much earlier animal bones from the Lamoka Lake site as well as some interesting passenger pigeon finds.

Adam Watson and Stephen Cox Thomas studied animal bones from the early 18th century Townley-Read site in the Finger Lakes region of New York State. The Seneca who lived at the site may have hunted deer year-round. Deer hides, as well as furs from other animals, would have been traded with European colonists. The detailed taphonomic analysis also indicates that deer bones were likely processed to extract the fat-rich grease from the spongy portions of the bones. This is usually considered to be evidence of nutritional stress, but they make the case that processing for bone grease was “a planned accumulation of resources rather than an ad hoc response to seasonal food shortfalls.” (p. 115)

Also of interest is the identification of passenger pigeon bones from one feature at the site. Passenger pigeon, of course, tends to be present at prehistoric archaeological sites in the region with good bone preservation, but in this case, four of the bones are from immature pigeons, providing good evidence specifically for the procurement of squabs in the springtime.

A small number of American eel bones, in contrast, are more likely to indicate fishing in the fall, when eels are heading downstream to spawn.

As a whole, the assemblage has some interesting differences from both earlier and later archaeological sites in New York.  The authors provide a detailed and well-researched analysis of the animal bones from this Iroquois site to make the point that “the evidence for economic resilience and stability at Townley-Read contradicts a narrative of pervasive and unimpeded decline, and reinforces the importance of continuing to build and test empirical models grounded in both local and regional archaeological and historical data.” (p. 115)

Watson, Adam S. and Stephen Cox Thomas

2013The Lower Great Lakes Fur Trade, Local Economic Sustainability and the Bone Grease Buffer: Vertebrate Faunal Remains from the Eighteenth Century Seneca Iroquois Townley-Read Site. Northeast Anthropology 79-80: 81–123.

 

New Passenger Pigeon Exhibit at Granville Museum

Looks like the Pember Museum in Granville, New York has a lovely new exhibit on the passenger pigeon. The museum, located near the Vermont border, has two mounted passenger pigeons and a clutch of eggs (a third specimen is on loan to the Adirondack Museum).

The Manchester Newspapers has just published an article by Derek Liebig on the exhibit, and you can also visit the museum’s website.

Northeast Historical Archaeology Open Access Articles

CNEHA, the Council for Northeast Historical Archaeology, has recently made most articles in their journal, Northeast Historical Archaeology, freely available. The most recent articles (2010 and newer) are still restricted to members, but that leaves almost forty years of articles available for download.
From the first issue, you can read Dick Pin Hsu’s “The Joys of Urban Archaeology” on the excavation of the Revolutionary War period Fort Stanwix in New York. There’s also Rebecca Yamin’s early article on Raritan Landing in New Jersey  and a personal favorite, a guide to agricultural drainage systems by Sherene Baugher, from which the following figure is taken.Baugher drainage