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Pethick Site: Archaeological Excavations in Schoharie, NY

The Pethick site is located in the Town of Schoharie, Schoharie County, New York. The site has produced more than 350,000 artifacts associated with four major cultural occupations. The earliest occupation dates between 4,000-3,000 B.C. and consists of the remains of a small camp occupied by hunter-gatherers who used the site during forays into the valley. Artifacts recovered from this occupation include small projectile points, debris from the manufacture of stone tools, food remains (including nutshell, seeds, and white-tailed deer) as well as net weights used to catch fish from the Schoharie Creek. 

The second occupation dates between 1000 B.C. and A.D. 300 and has produced evidence of a more lengthy occupation of the site for a season or two. Artifacts recovered from this occupation point to the use of the site as a long term camp with several post molds suggesting one or more temporary structures may have been present. Pottery decorated with cord marked designs, projectile points, and pieces of stone (or steatite) bowls have been recovered. Other stone tools include drills, bifaces, scrapers, and hammerstones. The recovery of non-local stone materials suggests that these groups interacted with other groups in southern and central New York, New England, and other parts of the Mid-Atlantic Region.  

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    Pethick Site - Flakes
    Pethick Site - Flakes

    Utilized flakes from the Pethick site recovered in 2013

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    Pethick Site - Sherd
    Pethick Site - Sherd

    Ceramic cordmarked rim sherd

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    Pethick Site - Storage Pit
    Pethick Site - Storage Pit

    Shallow storage pit identified at the site

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    Pethick Site - Wall
    Pethick Site - Wall

    Wall of historic cabin identified at the site in 2014

The third occupation dates between A.D. 1300 and 1400 and is associated with the occupation of the site as a long-term settlement. The site is currently believed to be a small village or horticultural hamlet and contains evidence of three different residential structures. Excavation of portions of these houses suggests they may have had a central row of hearths running the length of the structure. Deep storage pits containing charred seeds and animal bone, incised pottery, smoking pipe fragments, net sinkers, as well as bone awls and other pieces of worked stone have been identified. An analysis of the stone and clay artifacts from this occupation suggest that the site’s occupants may have interacted with groups living in or near the Adirondacks. 

The final occupation dates to the mid-19th century and is associated with the occupation of the site by local farmers. Evidence of a small cabin has been identified and offers a view into the lives of farmers at the site. Historic pottery, kaolin smoking pipe fragments, architectural debris, and other farming tools have been recovered. 

A number of publications have been produced documenting the excavations at the  Pethick site. These include the following:

Rieth, C.B., Rafferty, S., and Saputo, D. 2007. A Trace Element Analysis of Ceramics from the Pethick Site, Schoharie County, New York. North American Archaeologist 28(1):59-80. 

Rafferty, S., Wood, C., and Rieth, C.B. 2007. Archaeometric Analysis of Lithic outcrops from Eastern New York. North American Archaeologist 28(2):167-186. 

Rafferty, S., Rieth, C.B., and Moragne, S. 2014. Prehistoric Occupations at the Pethick Site, Schoharie County, New York. Archaeology of Eastern North America 42:177-199.