The Paul J. Higgins Site

The Paul J. Higgins site is a lithic site in the Town of Cortlandt, northwestern Westchester County. The initial identification of the site was made in the early fall of 2007 in advance of future roadwork by the Department of Transportation. The following two summers, archaeologists returned to the Paul J. Higgins site to complete Phase II and Phase III excavations, to mitigate deposits prior to impact. The site was determined to be a small lithic production site due to several factors: primarily on the amount of stone tool remains, lack of prehistoric architecture, and the lack of features relating to food storage and preparation.

Some 1,733 prehistoric and historic artifacts were recovered. The overwhelming majority of artifacts recovered (88%) were prehistoric, and of those, 99% related to stone tool production/refining, with less than 1% of those prehistoric artifacts relating to food preparation and storage. Included with the types of stone tools recovered include: projectile points, bifaces, hammerstones, choppers, and a drill. The lack of architecture or architectural elements merely means that was no evidence of a formal structure, which would include postholes. The lack of food preparation and storage refers to the fact that no features relating to the making and storing of food was found, which includes features such as hearths or storage pits. A few fragments of prehistoric pottery were recovered, but they were greatly overshadowed by the stone tools.

About 57 square meters, approximately 13%, of the total area of the site was excavated at the end of our study, most of which occurred during the last phase of excavation in 2009. It was at this time that archaeologists were able to date the site useing both relative and absolute dating methods. Two periods of prehistory were represented: the Late Archaic (4000-1400 BC) and Late Woodland (AD 700-Contact) Periods. The radiocarbon dates taken from samples associated with diagnostic projectile points all fit within these date ranges. 

The Late Archaic Period, which was concentrated in the southwestern portion of the site was comprised of mainly lithic debitage (or the stone material produced while making a tool or projectile point), as well as projectile points. Three Lamoka or Lamoka-like stemmed projectile points were recovered which date the site to as early as the Late Archaic Period. These projectile points were all made of quartz, which is a material that is very difficult to shape and is primarily seen at sites further to the south. 

The Late Woodland deposits were found to the north and east of the Late Archaic deposits, and were much thinner in comparison. Like the Late Archaic deposits, most of the remains were lithic debitage, as well as projectile points. Unlike the Late Archaic Period artifacts, prehistoric pottery was recovered, which first begins to appear during the Woodland Period. Two Jack’s Reef Pentagonal projectile points were recovered. One of these was made of quartz, and the other of chert. 

Through analysis of the artifacts recovered, and the comparison with known archaeological sites both in the Lower Hudson Valley as well as elsewhere in New York State, archaeologists can paint a more complete and clearer picture of the prehistoric environment of the areas in which we live.

Project Manager