Chris Wolff, an assistant Professor of Anthropology at SUNY Plattsburgh and an archaeologist with a research focus on the prehistory of North America was the guest speaker for this lecture. This is only his second year in the North County, and he has become fascinated with finding out more about the prehistoric and early Native American peoples who lived in the area.
Wolff has been involved with work at an excavation site in Peru, NY. He spoke much about this site and the findings there and a lot about his hopes once further testing and study is done on what has been found.
Early Native American Archeology
We know much less about prehistoric peoples than we do about later historic Native Americans. However, the North Country was covered in a glacier until about 13,ooo years ago, which makes is easier to hypothesis when it would have been possible for people to begin living here. With the land covered by a glacier it was inhospitable, but as the glacier retreated that would change.
The earliest dated fossils show us when game would have migrated to the area and was available to hunt. Other (human-made) artifacts need to be found to better understand when and how people lived here.
The earliest dated evidence found to suggest human presence in the region are some fluted points that date to about 11,000 years ago! There have been some ancient cemeteries found that date from 4,000 to 10,000 years ago.
Local Native American Excavation Site
In Peru, NY, there is an ongoing excavation at what is believed to be a middens (ie a trash site). There is still hope for finding signs of a settlement nearby.
Many types of animal remains were found at the site that can help tell us what was eaten by past peoples, and the remains of the tools/objects made from animals can tell us how (and what parts of) those remains were used. Pieces of weapons, tools, and pottery have been found.
One piece of pottery has been dated to between 1388-1444, which dates a specific style to pottery to a date earlier than previously recorded–meaning this style is older than once thought! Though more definitive testing must be done.
St. Lawrence Iroquoian pottery was also found at the site. This tribe no longer exists, and what happened to make it disappear is unknown. History ignores some stories, and I agree with Wolff when he says that “other parts of stories need to be told.” That’s why it’s important to document and study archaeological discoveries so we can piece them together to learn the full stories.
Future Archeological Finds
Wolff is creating a network to attempt to catalog any archaeological finds in the area called the North Country Community Archeology Network (NCCAN). Check it out on Facebook.
Wolff has several hopes for the future of North Country archeology including:
- Increased survey and student involvement
- Work with native communities
- Systematic excavation of sites
- Increased community collaboration
NCCAN is where the community involvement comes in! If you find an object or potential site it would be ideal if you take the following steps:
- Do NOT move the object
- Take photos
- Mark the area or get GPS coordinates to enable you (& archeologists) to find the way back
- Contact NCCAN
Information not the ownership of objects is number one. It is important for historical/archeological finds to be studied and catalogued. NCCAN is not out to take objects, but to ensure that we can learn from artifacts and use what is learned to better understand the past.