|12 December 2005
Prehistoric boat-building site found in New York state
The newest discovery at the northern New York Army post is a prehistoric boat-building site near what would have been the shoreline of Glacial Lake Iroquois. A team of Fort Drum archaeologists surveying a wooded hillside near where the Army is putting a new training site unearthed an unusual looking stone tool. With the help of a U.S. Marine archaeologist, the team was able to identify it as a triangular-pointed reamer, a typical prehistoric boat-building tool. They also found a punch and other three-dimensional blade tools.
The discovery was made half way down on a sloping wooded hillside that ended with a sharp 100-foot plunge. "At that time, it would have been a bay or inlet. It would have been a perfect beach for building and launching boats," said Dr. Laurie Rush, Fort Drum's chief archaeologist. With the help of other experts, Rush has estimated the site is about 11,000 years old - about the time Indians first arrived in what is now upstate New York.
Rush has found two other sites to strengthen the theory of a prehistoric maritime culture in upstate New York. Two hills - once islands in Lake Iroquois - have also yielded stone boat-building tools. Rush will present her findings on the islands in the spring at an annual archaeology conference.
Near the boat-building site, Rush and her colleagues have marked out a 5,000-year-old Indian village. Here, numerous groupings of fire-cracked rocks indicate cooking areas. Two important discoveries were a grindstone and a clay-fired storage pit in the ground that was littered with burnt phenopodium seeds (a grain resembling a poppy seed). There also were tools made from stone found in Ohio, indicating an expansive trading network, Rush said.
In the middle of dense underbrush and a thickly packed forest, one of Rush's crews came across a sandy, rock-strewn clearing that appears to have been a French Jesuit trading site with the Iroquois from the 1600s. "The clearing was likely on a prehistoric trail. It looks like it was an encampment for traders. However, because the Army currently has no development plans for the site, there's no reason for any further study, one of Rush's few frustrations. So the site will remain a mystery - unless Rush can get some of her summer help interested in investigating it in their spare time.
Sources: Associated Press, Newsday.com (10 December 2005)
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