Two archaeological questions immediately pop into my mind when I gaze at land near a river. Who lived here? When?
In the photo Gail Merian is telling me the who and when of the field to which she is pointing. It is in the Town of North Norwich, about a quarter-mile east of the railroad tracks and the proposed path of the dreaded NYRI power line.
Gail is the president of the Chenango Chapter of the New York State Archaeological Association. She is holding three issues of our Chapter Bulletin in which her articles are published describing the remains left by the residents of this field (June 1999, July 2001, December 2006).
The Chenango River valley has been inhabited by Native Americans for at least 5,000 years and possibly 10,000. This field produced evidence going back to about 3500 BC. Archaeologists call this time frame the Early Archaic Period.
Our local past is divided into four major stages: Paleo 8000 - 4500 BC, Archaic 4500 - 1300 BC, Transitional 1300 - 1000 BC, and Woodland 1000 BC - 1700 AD, according to William A. Ritchie in his 1994 book, “The Archaeology of New York State,” page xxx. Most of the activity along the Chenango River occurred during the Archaic stage, according to Ted Whitney in his monumental November 1974 article, “The Indian occupations of Chenango County to 1975,” in our Chapter Bulletin, page 4. There is no evidence of any large Native American settlements along this river, just small groups passing back and forth over long stretches of time.