Greetings! Nate, Sarah, Emma, and I are students at Vassar College participating in the Undergraduate Summer Research Institute (URSI). Our archaeology project is led by Professor Lucy Johnson, who has conducted a number of excavations in the Shawangunks as well as the Rat Islands, part of the Aleutian Island chain, in Alaska. Our main excavation this summer is in a rock shelter located in the Shawangunks, which we call the Cuddeback site.
We started digging last week and have found a number of lithic debitage flakes as well as one preform. Emma has found the most lithic debitage in her test pit within the cave, which is very promising and exciting!
The 4N1E test pit that Emma has been digging at the Cuddeback site. Most of the lithic debitage we have so far was found in this pit
The main stone material we are interested in is chert and flint
Nate diligently taking notes at the 4N4.5W test pit
When we take a break from digging we like to explore the area, spotting critters, checking out beautiful views, and spelunking “crystal caves!” We’ve also had a number of guest archaeologists who helped us dig our pit and screen the dirt in hopes of finding a point or flake.
Emma screening the dirt from her pit with one of our lovely helpers!
Copes Lookout at Mohonk
Nate looking out onto the world at Copes Lookout
Days like today, when we are in the lab, we analyze artifacts from an excavation in New Hampton, NY. Nate and Emma are focusing on analyzing lithic debitage and flint flakes, which are the small flakes that are produced when making tools like arrowheads, spearheads, blades etc… To better understand the shape and form of flakes, Lucy taught a flint-knapping class during which we made (or failed to make!) arrowheads and other relevant tools.
Some of the assorted decorated pottery from the New Hampton collection
We hit the core stone, obsidian, with a hammerstone to create a variety of tools
This is an example of the kind of tools we made in the flint-knapping class and the kinds of tools we are looking for at the Cuddeback site. This piece of obsidian is an example of a blade.
Sarah and I are focusing on analyzing a collected of decorated pearlware, whiteware, creamware and porcelain. We are mainly in the beginning stage of the research at this point, but hopefully we will have more to report fairly soon!