Tag Archives: Archaeology

John Wolcott: Pinpointing Fort Nassau 1614


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dutchalbanymapFort Nassau: the first Dutch trading house built in North America, was constructed on Castle (Westerlo) Island on the Upper Hudson where Albany is. It was but a small redoubt, yet deemed the acorn from which sprouted the American Middle States. This trading post lasted only three years and was badly damaged by a spring freshet and abandoned. Eventually even its ruins were silted over and forgotten.

In 1796, Albany contemplated a plan to acquire patents for water lots and extend South End streets opposite the north end of Castle Island, out into the Hudson River. It was similar, on a smaller scale, to the way Manhattan expanded out into the Hudson and East Rivers. In the course of finally implementing this in the 1840s, dredging was found necessary to adjust the upper end of Castle Island and Island Creek to accommodate the plan. Continue reading

Researcher Pinpoints 1614 Albany Fort Location


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dutchalbanymapA local historian believes he has pinpointed the exact location of a 1614 colonial fort in Albany.

“Fort Nassau” was North America’s oldest Dutch trading house, built in 1614 near the present-day Port of Albany. But the precise location of the ruined structure has been largely forgotten over time as the natural and built environment changed during four centuries.

“Fort Nassau is very significant to American, Dutch and Indian history,” said John Wolcott, the researcher who identified the location. “But its exact location had been lost over the years. Not only has the geography changed, but the latitude readings provided by early maps have to be adjusted for problems caused by being inland using instruments of the time.” Continue reading

New Exhibit: Archeological Explorations of Waterford


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History underfootThe Waterford Historical Museum and Cultural Center (WHMCC) announces the opening of its 2014 exhibit, History Underfoot: Archeological Explorations of Waterford at the Museum on June 6, 2014 from 6pm to 8pm.

WHMCC’s latest exhibit goes underground to explore Waterford’s recent and not-so-recent past. With the help of experts in the field including exhibit consultant Matthew Kirk from Hartgen Archeological Associates, Inc. and exhibit designer Paul G. Schneider, Jr., the Museum has created an exhibit which features objects from WHMCC’s collection as well as the collections of private individuals, the New York State Museum, and the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Continue reading

Volunteers Sought For Lake George Excavation


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excavatingVolunteers are being sought to help excavate at Wiawaka Holiday House at the southern end of Lake George to help document the early years of the Holiday House by looking at the materials the visitors, staff, and organizers left behind. Wiawaka Holiday House was founded in 1903 to provide affordable vacations for the working women in the factories of Troy and Cohoes, New York. The work is being directed by Megan Springate, a PhD candidate at the University of Maryland working on her dissertation looking at the intersections of class and gender in the early twentieth century.

No previous archaeological experience is necessary. Participants will learn archaeological techniques hands-on at the site. All equipment will be provided. Accommodation and meals are available at Wiawaka Holiday House for a fee.* There is no charge to volunteer. Those without previous archaeological experience are asked to volunteer for three or more days. You must be 18 years of age or older. Excavation Dates: Monday to Friday, June 16 through July 11, 2014. Continue reading

98th Annual NYS Archaeological Association Meeting


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NYS Archaeological AssociationThe New York State Archaeological Association (NYSAA) has issued a Call for Papers for its 98th Annual Meeting on April 11-13th, 2014. The deadline for submissions is March 1, 2014.

The Annual Meeting will be held in the Susquehanna Valley at the Holiday Inn Hotel and Conference Center in Oneonta, NY. The keynote speaker will be David Starbuck, Professor of Anthropology, Plymouth State University. Continue reading

Jay Heritage Center Celebrates Black History Month


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freedoms gardener 001The Jay Heritage Center invites you to celebrate Black History Month with two exceptional speakers who will talk about the free African American experience in antebellum New York on Saturday, February 8, 2014 10:00am – 12:30pm.

Author, Dr. Myra Young Armstead, Professor of History, Director of Africana Studies at Bard will talk about her book Freedom’s Gardener: James F. Brown, Horticulture and the Hudson Valley in Antebellum America. She will share insights from her research about the free black experience in 19th century New York as revealed in a handwritten diary kept for almost four decades by James F. Brown. Continue reading

Archaeology: Why Dig at a Cemetery?


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1(3)Every archaeological excavation breaks new ground. Even sites like Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England – one of the most extensively studied archaeological sites in the world – continually yield fresh discoveries. The 20th-century excavators of Stonehenge, William Hawley and Richard Atkinson, recognized the value of earth that had not been disturbed by archaeologists. As a result, they purposefully excavated only half of the stone circle and the surrounding earthworks. The other half they left untouched, and it is mostly untouched to this day, for the sake of preserving the privilege of “breaking new ground” for future archaeologists.

It is worth noting that archaeologists do not always break new ground in the literal sense. Even sites that have been completely excavated or destroyed can yield new information through new interpretations or new scientific testing of the evidence. However, as Hawley and Atkinson knew, the experience of excavating untouched ground is incredibly powerful. Even with extensive documentation, it can never be replicated. That is why archaeologists must be careful, focused, and above all, conservative in their approach to a site. Continue reading

Dutchess County:
Digging For An Underground Railroad Station


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3(2)No one knows when African Americans first settled at Baxtertown, but in 1848 the Zion Pilgrim Methodist Episcopal Church was built. The church burned and its roof collapsed in 1930; all that remains visible is a grove of trees on the property of Ron Greene.

Greene, a retired social worker, began researching the history of his land in 2010. “I’ve been hearing about a church here for years.” he said. What he discovered inspired him to lead the effort to get the site recognized as historically important. Continue reading

Westchester County: Religion, Gravestones and Archaeology


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1(2)Gravestones represent some of the most valuable evidence available to archaeologists currently working on the St. George’s/St. Mark’s Church site in Mount Kisco, New York. Once occupied by two Episcopal churches – St. George’s (1761–1819) and St. Mark’s (1850–1916) – the site is also the final resting place of over 400 people, all buried between the 1760s and 1940. The area where the churches once stood was excavated this fall. The artifacts and information they uncovered is now undergoing analysis, and the excavation is planned to resume in the spring.

As co-directors of the excavation, Laurie Kimsal and I have discovered just how essential gravestones are to our understanding of the site. To begin with, gravestones offer clues to the location and orientation of the 18th-century St. George’s Church. Secondly, the gravestones provide insights into the values and beliefs of the people who erected them, as well as the social, religious, and economic worlds of the 18th and 19th centuries. Continue reading

New Exhibit Features Mount Kisco Dig Artifacts


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1(1)A new exhibit, presented by the Mount Kisco Historical Society and the Lower Hudson Chapter of the New York Archaeological Association (NYSAA) has opened at the Mount Kisco Town Hall, 104 Main Street, Mount Kisco, New York (Monday to Friday, 8:30 am to 4:30 pm).

The exhibit features dozens of artifacts unearthed from an archaeological excavation
undertaken this fall at the St. George’s/St. Mark’s Cemetery, the oldest historic site in Mount Kisco, a suburban town thirty miles north of Manhattan in Westchester County. Continue reading

Archaeology in Westchester County:
An Excavation at St. George’s – St. Mark’s Church


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ExcavationIn the town of Mount Kisco in Westchester County, there is a small graveyard known as the St. George’s/St. Mark’s Cemetery, after the two successive Episcopal churches that once stood there. Established in the 1760s, the site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places for its role in the American Revolution. In the late 18th century, the small wooden St. George’s Church was one of the few man-made structures in a sparsely populated area that was transformed into a hostile wilderness with the onset of war.

Accordingly, the church was used by American, British, and French armies as a landmark in their journeys through Westchester County. General Washington’s troops retreated to the church to tend to the wounded and bury the slain after the Battle of White Plains in 1776; Colonel Tarleton brought his army to the church on the eve of the Burning of Bedford in 1779; and in the summer of 1781 the Comte de Rochambeau’s army camped near the church prior to the meeting with Washington that would ultimately bring their combined forces to victory at Yorktown. Continue reading

Grant Will Support Battle of Fort Anne Archeology Survey


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Fort Anne Battle Hiill MarkerThe Raymond W. Harvey American Legion Post 703 has received a grant of $47,700 from the National Park Service’s American Battlefield Protection Program to perform primary source research and conduct an archeological survey for the Revolutionary War Battle of Fort Anne. The battlefield is currently under the threat of being mined by a local company.

Troy Topsoil has purchased a part of Battle Hill, the site of the Battle of Fort Anne. The company hopes to mine the area, where an estimated 100 to 200 men were killed, wounded, or captured. The site has never been listed on state or national registers of historic places, although the Town of Fort Anne installed a plaque at the site in 1929 and the American Legion places flowers on one of the graves each year. Continue reading

Local Documentary Filmmakers’ New Book Published


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Pepe_Filmmaking300dpi_CoverLeft Coast Press, a nationally renowned California publishing company, has released their new book, Documentary Filmmaking for Archaeologists, written by two New York documentarians, Peter Pepe and Joseph W. Zarzynski.

Peter Pepe, President of Pepe Productions, a Glens Falls video production company, and Joseph W. Zarzynski, a Wilton-based underwater archaeologist and author, teamed up to write the book. Previously, Pepe and Zarzynski collaborated on producing three feature-length award-winning documentaries about historic shipwrecks as well as creating several “mini-docs” for screening in museums, art galleries, and visitor centers. Continue reading

The NY Real Estate Board’s 50-Year War on Landmarks


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New-York-US-Open-533_thumbYou may have noticed that the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) have been making some noise lately about how much of Lower Manhattan has landmark protection. This is really no surprise to anyone who has been paying any attention for the past 50 years – Lower Manhattan includes some of New York City’s oldest concentrations of historic architecture and strong communities who have invested a lot of time, energy and money in maintaining, protecting and revitalizing them.

What’s strange is that the folks at REBNY think this is a bad thing: “We think the city’s future is tied to growth. We think we need to generate new housing, generate new jobs, that generates new tax dollars. If we start landmarking more and more of the city, we are landmarking away the city’s future economic growth” REBNY President Steven Spinola recently told NY1. Continue reading

Guided History Tour Across Lake Champlain Bridge Planned


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Crown Point Bridge 2If you’ve wanted to learn more about what you see as you walk or drive over the new Lake Champlain Bridge, join the managers of the Chimney Point, VT, and Crown Point, NY, State Historic Sites for a guided walk on Sunday, July 28, 2013, at 1:00 p.m. Tom Hughes and Elsa Gilbertson will leaders a walk across and back on the bridge, and will discuss the 9,000 years of human history at this important location on Lake Champlain.

At this narrow passage on Lake Champlain humans have crossed here, as well as traveled north and south on the lake since glacial waters receded over 9,000 years ago. The channel with its peninsulas, or points, on each side made this one of the most strategic spots on Lake Champlain for the Native Americans, and French, British, and early Americans in the 17th and 18th centuries. Continue reading

Mohican, Algonquin Peoples Seminar Seeks Presentations


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algonquin peoplesThe Native American Institute of the Hudson River Valley and the New York State Museum invite you to submit a paper or other presentation to be given at the 13th Mohican/Algonquian Peoples Seminar held at the New York State Museum in Albany on Saturday, September 28, 2013.

Topics can involve any aspect of Northeastern Native American culture from prehistory to the present. The seminar attracts attendees from Native American enthusiasts, local historians, as well as from academia. In general presentations are allotted 20 minutes speaking time followed by a brief Q & A period. Sessions will be held in the morning and afternoon (between 9:30 AM and 4:00 PM, with a break for lunch). Continue reading

Cayuga Museum Returns Iroquois Sacred Objects


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The Cayuga Museum of History and Art, in Auburn, New York, has announced the return of 21 objects of spiritual significance to the custody of the Onondaga Nation. Nineteen masks and two wampum articles associated with burials were transferred from the Museum collection to the Onondaga Nation.

The 1990 Federal Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) mandates that federally funded museums return Native American “cultural items” to the lineal descendants or culturally-affiliated groups of the people who created them. The cultural objects covered include human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, and items of cultural patrimony. Continue reading

Lecture: The Excavations of Fort Orange


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Dr. Paul Huey, now retired as archeologist for the New York State Historic Sites system (Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation) who will present a talk on the history of Fort Orange and the excavation in 1970 and 1971 of archeological remains of the fort ahead of the construction of Interstate 787, an event which inspired a revival of interest in the history of Albany in the Dutch period.

Fort Orange was a trading center built by the Dutch West India Company in 1624. The fort was located outside of Beverwijck (present-day Albany), to the south and near the river bank. In 1647, Petrus Stuyvesant, representing the West India Company as director of New Netherland, began to allow private traders to build houses inside the fort. Other traders built houses close to and outside the fort, which Stuyvesant considered to be illegal.

Consequently, Stuyvesant established the settlement of Beverwijck as a town at what he considered a satisfactory distance away from the fort. The fort and all of New Netherland were taken by the English in 1664 during peacetime. The fort was retaken briefly by the Dutch who then returned it to the English, and it was finally abandoned in 1676 by the English. The English then built a new fort on the State Street hill in Albany.

The event is hosted by The Friends of the New York State Library and will take place on September 26 2012 from 12:15pm – 1:15pm at the 7th floor Librarians Room, at the New York State Library, Madison Avenue, Albany, NY. To register for the program, go to: http://www.forms2.nysed.gov/nysl/trngreg.cfm

Illustration: Location of Fort Orange on today’s Albany’s riverfront from Len Tantillo’s Visions of New York State. Digital copy courtesy The People of Colonial Albany Project.

New York’s NPS Battlefield Grants Announced


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New York State battlefield will benefit from some of the more than $1.3 million in National Park Service grants recently awarded to help preserve, protect, document, and interpret America’s significant battlefield lands. The funding from the National Park Service’s American Battlefield Protection Program (ABPP) will support 27 projects at more than 75 battlefields nationwide.

This year’s grants provide funding for projects at endangered battlefields from the Pequot War, King William’s War, the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, Civil War, World War II and various Indian Wars. Awards were given to projects in 17 states or territories entailing archeology, mapping, cultural resource survey work, documentation, planning, education and interpretation.

The Park Service also announced the award of an additional $1.3 million in grants to help with land acquisition at four Civil War battlefields. Grant projects include fee simple purchases at Averasborough, North Carolina ($103,380); Bentonville, North Carolina ($60, 380); Cool Springs, Virginia ($800,000) and Ware Bottom Church, Virginia ($367,263). The grant funds were made available under the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2012 (Public Law 112-74), which appropriated $8,985,600 for the Civil War battlefield land acquisition grants program.

Federal, state, local and Tribal governments, nonprofit organizations, and educational institutions are eligible for the battlefield grants, which are awarded annually. Since 1996, the ABPP has awarded more than $13 million to help preserve significant historic battlefields associated with wars on American soil. More information is available online at www.nps.gov/hps/abpp.

New York State Grantees

Natural Heritage Trust (New York) $80,000
Long before the American Revolution, the colonies fought with the British in a series of colonial wars,
including King William’s War and King George’s War. These conflicts, though changing little of the
political landscapes of the time, would have a significant impact on future French and English
relations and the position of American Indians in those relations. Working with its partner, Saratoga
National Historical Park, the Natural Heritage Trust intends to develop a cultural resource inventory
for the overlapping battlefields of these two wars that are near Saratoga. This information is crucial
to developing an archeological research design for each of the battlefields.

The Public Broadcasting Council of Central New York, Inc. (New York) $67,744
In conjunction with the Bicentennial of the War of 1812, Public Broadcasting Council of Central New
York hopes to raise awareness about New York’s unique role in the conflict with a series of
documentaries about the state’s battlefields. The broadcasts will not only be looking at the well
known battlefields of New York, but also several of the lesser known battlefields. It is hoped that
these documentaries will not only educate but also help spur preservation for the War of 1812
battlefields of New York.

The Research Foundation of State University of New York (New York) $56,194
One of only two major engagements of the Revolutionary War’s Sullivan-Clinton Campaign, the
Battle of Chemung was fought two weeks before the better known Battle of Newtown. This ambush
on Continental forces would produce more casualties than Newtown, while the burning of New
Chemung would become an example of how Continental forces would deal with American Indians in
the future. An archeological survey will be used to help better determine the battlefields defining
features as well as assess their condition. This information will be compiled into a GIS map for
support of a future National Register nomination.

Saratoga Preserving Land and Nature (New York) $21,425
The Battles of Saratoga culminated in the fall of 1777 with the surrender of British forces under
General John Burgoyne. This American victory reinvigorated the war effort and is seen as a turning
point in the Revolution. The Saratoga P.L.A.N. looks to interpret the fighting at one of the Saratoga
campaign battles, that of Fish Creek, and wishes to do this with a number of interpretive kiosks.
Working with the National Park Service, the interpretive trail would also integrate with other
interpretive trails in the area.

For a full list of the grantees, click here.