This summer we are surveying and testing sites on and around the Mohonk Preserve in the Shawangunk Mountains of New York State. Today, actually, we are in the lab, despite it being a beautiful day, because we are between sites, waiting for permission to work at the site we next wish to visit. Our testing at the first rockshelter we worked at this summer involved griding out the space in the shelter and then digging, very carefully, 5 50×50 centimeter squares to determine what sort of remains were in the shelter. Once this was done we decided to dig a number of additional pits in order to fill out our understanding. The cultural materials we found have been brought back here to the archaeology lab at Vassar College to be cleaned and analyzed. They will then be either a) returned to the landowner with a report, b) donated to the Daniel Smiley Research Center at Mohonk, with a report or c) donated to the NYS Museum in Albany, with the report. This will be at the discretion of the owner of the property, but we hope that he will donate them to the Mohonk research center.
Yesterday, after the excavation was complete, we returned the dirt to the squares so that the site integrity would be maintained. Today we are cleaning and recording the artifacts. Next week we will start the process all over again at another site.
Our major aim in this project is to understand how the prehistoric people of the mid-Hudson Valley used the Shawangunk Ridge in their annual round. It seems like most of the sites were used as winter hunting camps during the Archaic or pre-agricultural period in the area, around 6-3,000 years ago, but very few sites on the ridge have been professionally excavated, so we are collecting more data to verify or amend this picture.
We are me, Professor Lucy Johnson, and 4 student Undergraduate Science Research Institute interns from Vassar College. You can follow us on our blog, http://blogs.vassar.edu/ursi-archaeology/.