Friday, May 22, 2009

SRAC Journals - Available Online!

The Susquehanna River Archeological Center of Native Indian Studies (SRAC) is committed to preservation and education concerning the Native Indian archaeology and prehistory within the Twin Tier Region of New York and Pennsylvania.

The SRAC Journal is proud to produce educational articles that enhance our understanding of the region's prehistory and local archaeology. Authors include anthropologists, archaeologists, collectors, and historians. We also share information about upcoming and past events as well as other noteworthy news in each publication.

The most recent Journals will not be available online until the next quarter, but all past Journals are available now by visiting

To view the latest online issue of the SRAC Journal - click the image below:

To receive your own hard copy of SRAC Journal each quarter, please consider joining SRAC.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Pottery by Angela Cartwright at SRAC's Gift Shop

SRAC's gift shop continues to grow and I am excited to announce that we have just added 100 pieces of hand made pottery by artist, Angela Cartwright, from Watkins Glen, NY.

From mugs to crocks to planters and mixing bowls, we have stocked our shelves with some very high quality pottery at VERY low prices, in fact, I am sure they will become one of our most popular items quickly!

The pottery is a nice addition to the eclectic array of art and jewelry that fills the gift shop and makes SRAC not only popular for housing thousands of local Native American artifacts in our exhibit hall which brings in people from hundreds of miles each month to see, but is a notable store in it's own right as well!

We also have a wide assortment of uncut and sliced geodes and minerals and gems as well as educational toys for children that are priced low and easy on your budget.

We also have a huge collection of books to include some by local authors as well as many hard cover historical books from Wennawoods Publishing. We also have cookbooks !

So please consider stopping in at 345 Broad Street Waverly, and seeing what SRAC has to offer!

We are open from 1-5pm Tuesdays through Fridays and Saturdays from 11-4pm as well as during any event!

Hope to see you soon!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

SRAC Discoidal Stones

Discoid: having a flat circular shape

As I have been reading through many old reports on sites in our region of NY and PA, the term "discoidal stone" keeps reappearing. After walking throughout the SRAC exhibit hall, packed with thousands of artifacts, I found many of these artifacts on display, and I thought it was worth posting an article about the term and the artifacts referred to as "discoidal stones."

Today, Ted Keir loaned me an old book compiled by Warren K. Moorehead in 1905, called "Prehistoric Relics" where the author explains the problem with these artifacts:

"The urgent need of the science of archaeology at the present time is a revision of its nomenclature; especially of the classification of prehistoric stone implements. Such uncouth and meaningless names...vague and indefinite terms...should be discarded from our archaeological vocabulary, and replaced with names conveying some specific idea of form, dimensions, or use of the objects....The term "discoidal stone is equally ambiguous and confusing; for among aboriginal stone relics, disc-like, or circular stones of almost every size and variety occur...each serving perhaps a distinct and different purpose."

The best known type of so-called discoidal stones is circular and has concave depressions on each lateral surface which vary in degree and depth, and sometimes a hole occurs in the center. These are most often explained as game pieces for an ancient Native American game called "Chungke."

"The warriors practice a diversion which they call the game of the pole, at which only two play at a time. Each pole is about eight feet long resembling a Roman f, and the game consists in rolling a flat round stone, about three inches in diameter and one inch thick, with the edges somewhat sloping, and throwing the pole in such a manner that when the stone rests, the pole may be at or near it. Both antagonists throw their pole at the same time, and he whose pole is nearest the stone counts one, and has the right of rolling the stone." -Antoine Simon Le Page Du Pratz, "History of Louisiana"(1758)

However, as Moorehead states above, the varying sizes and shapes under the one generalized term, "discoidal stone" most assuredly makes most people think that there are probably different shapes and sizes of disc-shaped stones that were made for different purposes.

Interestingly the most comon disc-shaped stones among the thousands of artifacts from Bradford County PA, and Tioga, Chemung, and Steuben counties in NY found at SRAC are flat sided or have convex shape to one side. In fact, Ellsworth Cowles and William Ritchie referred to these shapes as "muller stones" ... or basically a grinding tool...

But I have to ask why they are so perfectly round and many are so polished...some in fact do not show wear on the edges like other grinding tools.

I also think that it is important to note that in 1883 and 1916 respectively, the Murray Garden and the Murray Farm in Athens, PA had burials((Susquehannock) that included discoidal stones much like the ones found in the images included here, and I have to ask if they were just grinding tools, why would they be included in burials?

For whatever reason, it would seem that these stones were valued by the Susquehannocks in our region as much as they were in other parts of the country.

Lastly, we also have bi-pitted hammerstones that are disc-like that may fit the broad term of "discoidal stones" as well, and would seem to fit Ritchie's definition of "muller stones" more than the more polished versions shown above. As you can see below - they are round, but show the wear and tear of usage and have pits on each side to make them fit into your hand easily - - these are much more easily handled for grinding than the ones without the pitted sides.

So were these "discoidal stones" shown above all game stones? Were they tools? Were they ceremonial? I'd like to know what you think!

I ask that anyone that has more information about these stones to please add your information by clicking the comments link below this post so that others that want to learn more about them can use your information as well. Thanks in advance for your help!

SRAC Native American Pottery Roundup and Symposium

Native American Pottery Roundup and Symposium
Saturday, August 15, 2009 from 1pm – 4pm
At SRAC, 345 Broad Street, Waverly, NY

(download flier here)

SRAC’s unique ability to bring collectors and professionals together to create the region’s largest Native American exhibit for a day is back! The Native American Pottery Roundup and Symposium invites collectors , professionals and museums of the region to roundup all of the region’s Native American pottery for a one day event that includes the following educational presentations:

What Can We Learn from Pottery?
By NYSAA President, William Engelbre
Remains of ceramic vessels are often the most common artifact on Iroquoian village sites and are certainly the most studied in New York State. The methods used to study ceramics vary depending on the purpose of the study. This talk will discuss some of the different types of ceramic studies that have been done in New York and will suggest avenues for future research.

Dr. Engelbrecht received his Ph. D. from the University of Michigan 1971 and retired in 2003 after teaching for 30 years at Buffalo State. He received the Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Teaching in 1990. His publications
include Iroquoia: The Development of a Native World (Syracuse, 2003). He is currently president of the New York State Archaeological Association.

Pottery, Maize and Long Houses By NYS Museum Research & Collections Director, John P. Hart, PhD
In this presentation Dr. John P. Hart reviews new evidence, much of it obtained from cooking residues adhering to pottery, that demonstrates northern Iroquoians practiced agricultural systems based around three crops: maize (Indian corn), common bean, and squash that each have a separate history in central New York. Also reviewed is recent research that indicates long-term trends in pottery technology are associated with increased importance of agricultural crops in the diet.

Dr. Hart received his Ph.D. in Anthropology from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. He regularly publishes articles on the results of his research in professional journals such as American Antiquity, Journal of Archaeological Science, and Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory, among others.

COLLECTORS: Doors open at noon for secure setup. Please call Ted Keir at (570) 888-2718 to reserve space for your pottery display. Admission is free for all who share their pottery for the event!

ADMISSION: Adults - $5, SRAC Members and Students - $4, Kids under 12 - $2

Monday, May 11, 2009

Head Pots and Ritual Suicide

“Head Pots and Ritual Suicide”
By Don Straub of the
Tri-Cities Chapter - NY Archaeology
May 18, 2009 – 6:30pm – 7:30pm
At SRAC, 345 Broad St., Waverly, NY

The next installment of the SRAC and Andaste Chapter of Society of PA Archaeology Joint Meeting will be “Head Pots and Ritual Suicide” by Donald Straub, member of the NYSAA Tri-Cities Chapter.

This presentation will explore the late Mississippian cultures in the Southern Unites States such as Arkansas and Mississippi. Straub will also share new information on an earlier site, called the Coles Creek culture Mound Site currently being excavated.

Admission is free to the public!
Doors open at 6pm !

Hope to see you there!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Some Odd Artifacts to Ponder...

As many of you would guess I check the stats on all of my websites frequently. As a result, I can tell you that when I post artifacts, there are many people in search of answers about there own artifacts and have used this blog to try to find some answers.

The neat thing is that I don't always have the answers, and instead, it is you the readers that send comments to these posts that are there to help others who visit the page the next day, or the next year after we have discussed it. Here is a good example of one of those postings.

Although many see a blog only from the last posting or or "front page" at the time and as a running journal of sorts, it is actually an archive of every posting I have made for the last two years. And this one in particular is connected to search engines such as Google and because of that, ANY ONE OF THE POSTINGS can be accessed by someone searching for items we have discussed at anytime.

Another way that this blog has become useful is for instances like when recently I had a guy who lives more than a hundred miles away, email me and ask me what an artifact that he sent me a picture of was...Immediately I could reply with an email link - this one was in fact to the bannerstones discussion, where he could see a bunch of other artifacts that looked just like what he had sent to me.

The point I am trying to make is that by continuing to post items and their images on the blog, I really believe that we are able to help other collectors out there that might be running acrossed the same artifacts, and you the readers can make sure the post any ideas you have about them as well.

For this reason, I thought it was about time that I posted another one of those "What is the heck are these?" postings for all of us to ponder and share ideas and theories about. The following are a mish-mash of artifacts that make me wonder what they were used for, and as always we welcome comments by having you click the comments link at the bottom of the posting here.

Here goes:

1.) The first is from a site we call "Spanish Hill" in South Waverly, PA. Many believe the flat top of this hill that once had ten acres enclosed by embankments with interior ditches was a ceremonial space. This particular specimen below came from this place.

It seems to have two ears and a grid type incision on it and more incised lines on each side.

And when you turn it over, it has been hollowed out to for something else, possibly....

My guess is that it is 1/2 half of ceremonial piece that was fitted onto a staff or something like it - something like my diagram below:But I am interested to know if any of you might have other ideas for this..

2.) The second artifact I wanted to share is what the person who donated this called a "turtle effigy" - made by some great green banded slate and does actually resemble a turtle in many ways:

It is approximately 1 1/2 inches long, and this picture is an enlarged image for you to see the details of it. I wonder if anyone thinks it might have been a tool of some sort instead?

3.) Ted Keir's collection has a few of these next artifacts and we have seem many others over the years in other collections, that always seem to have a nice polish to them:

We wonder if they were possibly used for sewing. Inparticular because the early people would have used bone needles and hard to penetrate leather hides for many things like clothing and shoes. Would they have used something like these artifacts to hold on the other side of the leather as they forced their needles through it? The middle one, Ted believes could have been used to be a form for a children's leather moccasin or shoe. Tell us what you think!

4.) Lastly, we have what many refer to as a "wooden shovel" and at first glance, that is what you'd think! This is about 2 1/2 feet or so long.

One usage is thought to be that it could have been used more like a spatula in putting pottery into the ovens and retrieving them...

But again - - we'd like to hear from you and what you think! So go ahead and click that comments link below this article and share your ideas and or knowledge with us!

We'd also like to know if you have artifacts like these as well!

Thanks in advance for taking part!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Tuesday - May 5th! - MYSTERY ROCKS!

Bob McGuire

The next installment of SRAC's History's Mysteries will be “Mystery Rocks” by “UV-BOB” McGuire, President of the CheHanna Rock and Mineral Club, on Tuesday, May 5th from 6:30pm – 7:30pm. The presentation will take place at SRAC, located at 345 Broad St. Waverly, NY.

At the age of eight, in a schoolroom with three classes, Bob McGuire was presented with the opportunity to see a page with pictures of rocks and minerals in an old dictionary. As unbelievable as it would seem, this started his interest in them. At age ten, he started collecting (1953) and the second mineral given to him was one of nature's finest mysteries, a fluorescent one. The rest is history.

Bob McGuire is now the President of the CheHanna Rock and Mineral club and his fluorescent rocks and minerals show is actually viewed by many as magic. Amazingly, nature is the only magician he will need as he shows the audience these unusual creations of Mother Nature. Bob explains, "Some really unattractive rocks will transform into a rainbow of lovely colors simply by turning off the lights and exposing them to Ultra Violet illumination." The attendance will also view some of the uses of this phenomena in today's world.

The same shelf as above under UV light

McGuire will also share a slide show of the now closed zinc mines in Franklin New Jersey and show photos from one of the last digs that took place there.

Sure to be an exciting and educational experience for all ages! Admission- Adults $4, Students and SRAC members & Students $3. KIDS UNDER !@ FREE!

Doors open at 6pm and admission to the exhibit hall filled with thousands of local Native American artifacts is included in the admission price.

For more information, call 607-727-3111, or email or stop in the Center at 345 Broad St. Waverly, NY. SRAC's gift shop and exhibit hall are open from 1 - 5pm Tuesdays through Fridays and 11-4pm Saturdays.