| 3 December 2006
Ancient skull unearthed in New York state
A human skull was found at the site of the old James Hotel in Water Mill (Suffolk County, New York, USA), indicating that the land may contain an ancient Native American burial ground. After the Suffolk County medical examiner’s office certified the skull as Native American, it was given to the Shinnecock tribe for eventual reburial.
The skull was discovered on Nov. 29 and fully unearthed last Thursday by Jo-Ann McLean, an archaeologist studying the property on behalf of its developer. She said it had been in a burial pit, and she estimated its age as between between 1,000 and 3,000 years old. The county medical examiner confirmed that assessment. The skull was the first human object unearthed at the site. However, previous digs there have revealed extensive evidence of a human presence, including a midden (shell mound), the remains of a wigwam, and numerous artifacts.
Southampton Town Councilwoman Linda Kabot said it was too early to tell if the site was a burial ground that might contain additional human remains. To prevent the possibility of poaching, she said police were called to watch the area and that no such activity had been reported. No construction or development has taken place there thus far and all plans are on hold pending the outcome of further archaeological excavation.
According to Dr. John Strong, professor emeritus at Southampton College, the skull could date to the Late Woodland Period. Dr. Strong said shellfish were central to the Shinnecock diet at the time, a fact that helps explain why many sites have been discovered near Mecox Bay, as this site is. Upon learning of the discovery, a group of Shinnecocks went to the Water Mill site to perform traditional rites.
Sources: Iol.co.za (2 December 2006), The East Hampton Star (7 December 2006)
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