Little Wood Creek Archaeological Site
Fort Edward’s richest prehistoric site lies in the Little Wood Creek area on the east bank of the Hudson River. During the construction of a modern sewage treatment plant in the 1980’s a comprehensive study of the site was ordered by the Washington County Sewer District. The extensive archaeological dig that followed was directed by Dr. Joel Grossman of Grossman and Associates in New York City, who found evidence for several prehistoric settlements, as well as the southern bastion of 18th century Fort Edward. Federal funding made it possible to conduct this major rescue excavation prior to the construction of the treatment facility.
The archaeologists discovered storage pits, refuse pits and hearths from the Woodland Period (ca. A.D. 1000 – 1300), underlain by a Transitional period village (ca. 1000 B.C.) that was eight feet deep. The Transitional village dated to the Frost Island Phase and was represented by an intact living floor that contained more than 80,000 artifacts. Susquehanna Broadspears were common, there were five major hearth areas, and the distribution of artifacts suggests that both men and women lived on the site where they hunted, cooked, and made use of the river.
Since the conclusion of the excavation, the artifacts from the Little Wood Creek site have been curated by the Washington County Sewer District, and now have been made available on a long-term loan to the Rogers Island Visitors Center. A permanent exhibit telling the story of the successive Native American cultures that lived on Little Wood Creek is in the design phase.
Little Wood Creek Artifacts
Examples include projectile points such as Lamoka points, Susquehanna Broad points and Levanna points from the Late Archaic, Transitional and Woodland periods. Most are made of chert found at various New York State quarry sites, although a few were fashioned from quartzite. In addition the collection contains hammerstones, netsinkers, pestles, mullers and scrapers.
Perhaps the very best artifacts discovered at Little Wood Creek were the sherds of prehistoric pottery, including hundreds of decorated rims and shoulders dating between ca. A.D. 1000 and 1300 (the Late Woodland period). A total of 3,059 prehistoric sherds were found, either in surface excavations or in the many basin-like storage pits and trash pits that were dug. These fragments came from a minimum of 34 different pottery vessels and at least four distinct tobacco pipes.
Archaeologists use a variety of attributes to classify sherds into types, including how the surface was treated (whether smoothed, polished, cordmarked, etc.), how the decoration was done (whether incised, finger nail impressed, punctuated or stamped), the size and type of temper, and the diameter of the rim. Using these attributes, the following vessel types were identified at the Little Wood Creek site: Kelso Corded Collar, Bainbridge Collared Incised, Owasco Corded Collar, Oak Hill Collared, Chance Incised, Castle Creek Incised Neck, Sackett Corded, Owasco Horizontal, Owasco Platted, Otstungo Notched, Bainbridge Notched Lip, and Pseudo Scallop Shell. Of course, these archaeological terms would have meant little to the Native Americans of the Late Woodland who lived here on Little Wood Creek.
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11 Rogers Island Drive (off Rte. 197) – PO Box 208, Fort Edward, NY 12828
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