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Poquahoc Uhtuk

Clam Fire

Table of Contents
Introduction
History
Artifacts
Translation

Introduction

Poquahoc Uhtuk is a place that was used prehistorically as a summer and fall “clambake” site. Food remains, shell heaps, fire pits, and ceramics were found in the area, showing evidence of indigenous occupation.

History

Appearing undeveloped, oral and documentary sources have indicated that Native American and / or African populations may have lived there at one time.

One isolated post-contact pit feature is interpreted as being afield or garden. Late 19th century documents relating to observations of this peninsula may identify the site as a “Negro Garden.” Further evidence in 2005 revealed the possibility of a plow being used. 1

2004-2005

The area described as the Northern Peninsula of Sylvester Manor was studied in 2004, particularly regarding the Manhasset use of the site before the contact period.

Shell middens were found in the area, along with cooking pits used during the summer and fall months. The discoveries were viewed as similar to a modern day “clambake,” as the shellfish were slowly cooked. The site also featured deer remains, corn, and vegetables in a single pit.

Most of the food found during this study were shell-fish, including soft and hard clams, quahog, oysters, and shallow and deep water fish. Plant remains for corn and hickory nuts were also recovered.

The archaeologists suggest that this was a site of a communal eating event.

In addition to the food remains and woods used to heat the pits, stone tool and a large collection of cermaics were found. The ceramics were decorated in a style associate with the 1000-600 before-present period.

Based on the dates of the ceramics, archaeologists believe that the peninsula was used over several generations, and these people were the ancestors of the Manhasset who lived on Shelter Island thousands of years before and during the establishment of Sylvester Manor in 1652.2

  1. Katherine Howelett Hayes, The Historical Archaeology of Sylvester Manor pp 40.
  2. Stephen Mrozowski, Summary of the Archaeology of the North Peninsula, Sylvester Manor, Shelter Island NY

Artifacts

Researchers have recovered indigenous ceramics in this area, connecting to later historic Native ceramic found near Sylvester Manor and the past Sebonac and Late Windsor tradition.

Additional material culture range from pre-contact lithics and ceramics through early 19th-century ceramics.

Translation

Poquahoc Uhtuk translates to “clam fire,” based on a recorded vocabulary of ‘Unquachog / Puspatuck[sic]’ collected by Thomas Jefferson at Brookhaven, Long Island on June 13, 1791.1

Although this site has been used for a long period of time as a clam baking and fish smoking site, it did not have a historical name.

Ruht was the original spelling recorded by Jefferson, however modern scholars suggest ‘r’ was silent or not pronounced generally.

  1. Gaynell Stone, Languages and Lore of the Long Island Indians pp.17

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