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Orient (Transitional) Period (4000 – 3000 years ago)


Named from a burial site on eastern Long Island, the Orient culture was transitional into the Early Woodland stage. It made abundant use of stone cooking pots and limited use of pottery which usually reproduced the form of the soapstone vessel.

While the Orient culture reached its climax on Long Island, it seems to have been present also in the Hudson Valley, on Staten Island, and elsewhere. All the major known sites, however, are on Long Island. They comprise of four extraordinary burial sites at the eastern end and a large habitation site at Stony Brook in north-central Long Island. Here the typical artifacts of this culture were found in a deep shellfish midden and in large pits used as earth ovens for cooking shellfish and other animal foods. While locally gathered shellfish, hard and soft shell clams, oysters, scallops, etc; provided much of the subsistence of the Orient people, considerable hunting, chiefly of the deer, was done with the javelin, or short throwing spear tipped with a distinctive form of projectile point (Orient Fishtail) hurled with an atlatl or throwing stick weighted with simple varieties of the banner stone. There is no evidence for the use of fish. 1

Burial Practices

orient-burial-gaynell-map Orient (Transitional) Period (4000 - 3000 years ago) Jeremy Dennis On This Site

Transitional Period ceremonial burial, found at Browns Hills, Orient and Sugarloaf Hill, Shinnecock. From Gaynell Stone’s Native Long Island Thematic Map, 1991.

The Orient culture is most remarkable for its burial ceremonialism. Large and deep pits were dug, in high sand knolls in which interment of cremated bodies or of corpses in various states of disintegration on removal from a charnel house were periodically interred in an elaborate mortuary ritual, which involved the use of fire, food offerings, symbolic red ochre, and grave goods of various kinds, including stone pots, “killed” by intentional breaking. 1

Connecticut Culture

There is firm evidence of visits to Shelter Island by Connecticut occupants3 during the Terminal Archaic (Transitional) period. Twenty basalt Susquehanna tradition preforms resemble preforms discovered in South Windsor, Connecticut4 and elswhere in New England5.

Orient Sites

S7A1022-Pano-Edit-300x90 Orient (Transitional) Period (4000 - 3000 years ago) Jeremy Dennis On This Site

Sugar Loaf Hill

Located on the southeastern slope, Sugar Loaf Hill is an Orient Period burial site, the only Orient burial site known outside of the North Fork of Long Island.

5I5A5588-300x200 Orient (Transitional) Period (4000 - 3000 years ago) Jeremy Dennis On This Site


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.

5I5A5588-300x200 Orient (Transitional) Period (4000 - 3000 years ago) Jeremy Dennis On This Site

Stony Brook Site

The Stony Brook Site is a prehistoric Indian Village located in the town of Stony Brook, New York, often described as an area on the North Store of "Aunt Amy's Creek." Found in 1956 and later excavated by William A. Ritchie in 1959, Ritchie describes the component as "Indians [who] are believed to be of the pre-ceramic archaic group who wandered from one semi-permanent camp to the next from c. 3000 B.C to 1000 B.C." In 1981, Edward Johannemann, director of the Long Island Archaeological Project at the State University at Stony Brook, described the site as a 3,000 year old weapons factory. [1. Tracing L.I. Life 3,000 Years Ago. NY Times Judi Culbertson 1981]The written report of this site describes the contemporary landscape as an "Area possibly destroyed by housing development."

  1.  Ritchie, William A. Indian History of New York State. Part I: Pre-Iroquoian Cultures. N.p.: New York State Museum, 1969. Print.
  2.  Ritchie, William A. Indian History of New York State. Part I: Pre-Iroquoian Cultures. N.p.: New York State Museum, 1969. Print.
  3. John Charles Witek, Bulletin of the Archaeological Society of Connecticut, Nm 53, 1990, pp. 43
  4. Vibert 1970
  5. Hadlock 1948


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