Saturday, July 21, 2012

SRAC Assists in NYS Archaeology Research

Some of the latest research concerning a little known prehistoric artifact called a "birdstone" has been published in the recent volume New York State's archaeological journal, "The Bulletin." The article, "Birdstones: New Inferences Based on Examples From  the Area Around Waverly, New York" was written by Dr. Marshall Joseph Becker, West Chester University, West Chester Pennsylvania and uses information supplied to him by the Susquehanna River Archaeological Center to show that this rare artifact mostly found around the areas of the Great Lakes and Ohio has a significant existence in the region surrounding Waverly, NY.

The author states, "Birdstones are rare in Pennsylvania, and their presence at this location provides insights into ancient trade along the Susquehanna River... Townsend's distribution map reveals a significant scattering in the New York - Pennsylvania border area near Waverly, NY. This concentration is reinforced by recent observations by Deb Twigg (2006:3) that a number of examples remain in private as well as public hands in the area near Spanish Hill."

The article continues by using 7 specific birdstones reported by SRAC in their own collections as well as SRAC member private collections. Some of the birdstones were reported as early as 1921, by Tioga Point Museum founder, Louise Welles Murray.

Becker goes on to state, "Of particular note is the finding that these seven examples are the only birdstones known from Tioga County, NY...The information ...merits further attention. These numbers reflect a seemingly high incidence..."

What were birdstones used for remain to be a mystery, but the most common theories are that they were used as an atlatl weight, a flute ornament, or even a piece to a headdress. Since they were used by a people that lived approximately 3 - 4,000 years ago in a prehistoric time period that is referred to as the "Late Archaic" period, the item(s) that they were associated with have simply rotted away long ago.

Dr. Becker concluded the article, "The finds of seven birdstones clustered in the area of Waverly, NY within and extensive area from which no other examples are known, suggests the presence of special activities at or around the location. These finds may reveal an important transit point in the Susquehanna River Trade route from central New York down to the Chesapeake Bay during the Late Archaic to Early Woodland period."

SRAC is proud to be able to use their collections and research materials to assist further research by the scientists of Pennsylvania and New York, and want to thank Dr. Becker and so many other professionals that have used our resources to further the understanding of our prehistoric past.

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