Named after unique burial sites on the North Fork of 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
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
Exemplified by the Sugar Loaf Hill archaeological site; there were multiple body burial pits, human remains put in bundles, signifying fires create on site. There were also large amounts of ceremonial red-ochre, deer remains, large quantities of broken pottery, and evidence of transition from steatite pottery to ceramic pottery – all on the eastern slopes of the high hill.
Similar burials were found at Orient Point and the Great Neck from the same period. It has been interpreted that the different lines of sight between the archaeological site locations correspond with the position of the sun and the equinoxes.3
There is firm evidence of visits to Shelter Island by Connecticut occupants4 during the Terminal Archaic (Transitional) period. Twenty basalt Susquehanna tradition preforms resemble preforms discovered in South Windsor, Connecticut5 and elswhere in New England6.
Ronkonkoma was once a fresh water pond with a prehistoric village settlement.Many nineteenth and twentieth century legends are associated with this site.Today, the water of Lake Ronkonkoma has been deemed too toxic for swimming.
Manhansack-aqua-quash-awamock, the traditional Algonquian name for Shelter Island by the Manhanset group who lived there from pre-historic time until the seventeenth century; is approximately 7907 acres in area. This island is unique for having the largest glacial erratic boulders on Long Island, resulting from the Wisconsonian glacier.[1. Englebright, 1982]
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.
Sugar Loaf Hill is an Orient Period burial site facing south eastern, the only Orient burial site known outside of the North Fork of Long Island. During the 20th century, despite being known and marked on maps as early as 1797, the burial grounds were desecrated and developed for contemporary residence.
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."
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