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Late Woodland (1,200 – 350 years ago)

Introduction

Most Late Woodland habitation sites, in contrast to earlier settlements, represent single-components. This is a consequence of the Indians’ selection of locations, motivated by two factors: the requirements and possibilities of an agricultural economy, and the need for defense against hostile neighbors. Thus, most sites are well back from major streams, generally near small creeks and brooks, and on high hills and knolls. 1

The transition to the Late Woodland Period is marked by the introduction of such domesticated plants as corn, (maize) beans, squash, and tobacco. These plants were first domesticated in Central America and gradually found their way into the Northeast. Plant domestication, as we have seen, had been practiced widely long before these more familiar plants arrived. In spite of their understanding of plant domestication, the people on Long Island were slow to adopt corn horticulture. They were doing fine without it.

In fact, there has been no evidence of maize cultivation found in any of the sites excavated in the Town of East Hampton. We do know, however, that by 1648 when the Montauketts negotiated the first deed to land in East Hampton, the Indians were growing corn because they asked for twenty-four hoes, among the other goods, in exchange for the land.2

Classification

Our fundamental classification of Late Woodland sites includes the following:

  1. Villages; two or more houses (semipermanent occupation)
    a. Undefended
    b. Palisaded ( A continuous wall or fence of stakes, especially for defense. )
  2. Hamlets; usually one house (semipermanent occupation)
  3. Camps, recurrent (spring-summer fishing stations)
  4. Camps, temporary (fall-winter hunting posts)
  5. Ceremonial dumps
  6. Cemeteries and Ossuaries
  7. Workshops

Village Settlements

The limited archaeological and ethnographic data from Long Island and adjacent areas suggest that the native people of Long Island may have lived in settlements with populations which ranged from Jess than twenty to as many as five hundred inhabitants. Two very general settlement “types” have been identified, based on population and the presence of features indicating levels of social complexity. The smallest and least complex are the campsites which served as hunting or fishing stations or workshops located near the sources of shell or clay. These sites may have consisted of only one or two structures where ten or twenty people resided. The larger settlements may have been occupied by one hundred to five hundred or more people, with a communal building large enough to hold twenty or thirty people, a burial place, planting grounds ,menstrual houses, a small palisaded enclosure, sweat houses, and winter storage areas for surplus food (Ceci 1990: 19; Sears 1956, Callahan 1981: 136-36) 3

Roy Latham and Selah Lester’s nephew Thomas identified thirteen sites from this period around Three Mile Harbor. Several of these sites were located on Ashawag meadows.

The Ashawag villagers were quite innovative. They protected their fresh water supply by placing hollow logs upright into the ground around the spring. Lester and Latham found two of these prehistoric wells. They also found the remains of domestic activities. There were hearths filled with ash, animal bones, a large sandstone mortar weighing about 50 pounds and a nine pound pestle.

Along with these materials, they discovered the remains of pottery vessels. The pots were decorated in a variety of ways, including scallop shell stamping, cord marking, and punctated designs made with a sharp implement. Two of the pots were large enough to hold several gallons of liquid. The rims of two of these communal pots were decorated with four human faces looking out at the four cardinal points of the compass. Each face has a shell stamped diamond design around it. The size of the pots suggests that they were used to prepare communal meals.2

Stockade Forts

Near the end of the Late Woodland Period, perhaps a century or so before the arrival of the first Europeans, the Native peoples here began to build stockade forts.

The earliest one mentioned in the colonial records stood on the western crest of the Nominick hills overlooking Napeague Bay. No excavation was done there, so the exact site is not known.

A second fort, which may have been in use at the time the English arrived, stood on top of Fort hill, overlooking Fort Pond near the present-day village of Montauk. This site was examined by William Wallace Tooker, who reported finding 134 graves there. Unfortunately, the site has been vandalized over the years. Several graves were robbed and there were reports that one person was seen carrying a bushel basket full of human bones from Fort hill. In 1983, Edward Johannemann, an archaeologist from The State University at Stony Brook, excavated the site and confirmed Tooker’s description of a stockade enclosing an area 180 feet square.2

Material Culture and Tools

Johannemann also found evidence of tool making, several stone artifacts, and some broken pottery. Along with these materials, he found remains of clams, oysters, whelks, bluefish, and sturgeon.2

Wampum Manufacturing

Johannemann noted with some surprise that there was no wampum and no evidence of wampum manufacture anywhere on the Montauk fort site. He was surprised because Fort Corchaug, a contemporary Late Woodland site on the North Fork, contained broken whelk and quahog shells along with drilling tools, indicating that wampum manufacturing was a major activity there. The early colonial records are full of references to the abundance of wampum on the east end of Long Island. The absence of any such evidence at Montauk is puzzling.2

Late-Woodland Sites

 

Duke-Site-II-300x144 Late Woodland (1,200 - 350 years ago) Jeremy Dennis On This Site

Duke Site

The Duke site, named after Anthony Drexel Duke, is a site that was excavated by the New York State Archaeological Association, L.I. Chapter in 1974.  On this site, a shell midden was found, suggesting the presence of indigenous occupation in the area.Nearby is the well-document Ashawagh settlement site, located on the shore of Hand's Creek, west of Three Mile Harbor.

 

 

5I5A7096-Pano-300x132 Late Woodland (1,200 - 350 years ago) Jeremy Dennis On This Site

Konkhunganik

The Fort Pond site, once known as Konkhunganik in the 1800s for it's south shore and Quanuntowunk as it's north shore. This eastern shore site represents a seasonally recurrent base camp for nomadic hunter-gatherers and their extended families. The site was utilized during the early portion of the Late woodland during the winter and fall. In archaeological context, the site is known as the Payne site.

 

 

5I5A5588-300x200 Late Woodland (1,200 - 350 years ago) Jeremy Dennis On This Site

Nissaquogues

The territory of this chieftaincy was adjoined by the Matinecocks on the west and extended eastward from the Nissequogue River to Stony Brook and south to the center of the Island. Apparently, there was a disagreement for a time between the Nissequogue and Matinecock Indians concerning their boundary and, as a consequence, they did not always enjoy friendly relations. They had extensive villages at Smithtown and at several other places near the shore within the bounds of their territory.

 

 

S7A0959-Pano-Edit-300x163 Late Woodland (1,200 - 350 years ago) Jeremy Dennis On This Site

Sebonac Creek Settlement

The Sebonac Creek Site is a Shinnecock settlement occupied from the Late Woodland period until the contact period. A stone pottery fragment resembling a Thunderbird design was found along with evidence of a large wigwam ( 15 by 20 feet ), accompanied by another smaller wigwam (15 by 10 feet) southeast. In the center was a fireplace. Also to the east, a burial was discovered, containing one body.Today, the Sebonac Creek site is situated directly between the Shinnecock Golf Course and National Golf Links of America in Southampton, New York.

 

 

5I5A4888-Edit-300x99 Late Woodland (1,200 - 350 years ago) Jeremy Dennis On This Site

Weckatuck

The indigenous peoples who inhabited the general area of Noyack were a small segment of the Shinnecock, known as the Weckatuck (meaning "end of the woods or trees, or end of the cove or creek." Sometimes spelled Wickatuck, Wecutake, Wecatuck, Weckatuck, Weeckatuck) . Described by Southampton in a 1964 publication, they were peace loving Indians who settled in isolated groups and lived off shellfish and game. They farmed to a limited degree. Six or eight families lived on one site until the farming land was exhausted, or until collection of refuse became a serious problem. The largest known encampment of Noyack Indians was beside the Mill Pond, now known as the Trout Pond. The last known Weckatucks lived in a teepee back of Mill Pond shortly before the end of the nineteenth century. [1. Southampton, Long Island 325th Anniversary 1640/1965 pp 33]

5I5A4884-Pano-Edit-1024x300 Late Woodland (1,200 - 350 years ago) Jeremy Dennis On This Site

Trout Pond from the southern edge

 

 

5I5A4792-300x200 Late Woodland (1,200 - 350 years ago) Jeremy Dennis On This Site

Poquahoc Ruhtuk

Poquahoc Ruhtuk 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.

 

 

5I5A6568-Edit-300x212 Late Woodland (1,200 - 350 years ago) Jeremy Dennis On This Site

Parrish Pond Site

Parrish Pond is the site of a former Shinnecock wampum-manufacturing site. Through protest, the Shinnecock tribe and Southampton town allocated $900,000 from the Community Preservation Fund to preserve the cultural site.

 

 

5I5A6123-Pano-300x128 Late Woodland (1,200 - 350 years ago) Jeremy Dennis On This Site

Springy Banks Pow Wow Grounds

The Springy Banks site has been described as a favorite summer camping grounds of the Montauk.It receives its name from numerous delicious flowing springs of water that flow from the base of the cliffs here. Many an East Hampton and Three Mile Harbor residents speak with nostalgia of the sweet draughts of water that they enjoyed from Springy Banks when it was Town Property.

 

  1. William A. Ritchie and Robert E. Funk, Aboriginal Settlement Patterns in the Northeast 1973  (pg 323)
  2.  John Strong, from Transcript of Indians of Eastern Long Island Lecture, 2002
  3. John Strong, The Algonquian Peoples of Long Island From Earliest Times to 1700, pg 70., 1997
  4.  John Strong, from Transcript of Indians of Eastern Long Island Lecture, 2002
  5.  John Strong, from Transcript of Indians of Eastern Long Island Lecture, 2002
  6.  John Strong, from Transcript of Indians of Eastern Long Island Lecture, 2002
  7.  John Strong, from Transcript of Indians of Eastern Long Island Lecture, 2002

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