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Historical Archaeology

Historical Archaeology is a multidisciplinary field combining written historical records with archaeological data to study the past since the fifteenth century. North American historical archaeology begins with European colonization and aims to understand the development of the modern world within a variety of local contexts. New York contains a wide range of historical sites including Dutch settlements, farmsteads, Erie Canal structures, Industrial sites, ship wrecks, battlefields and fortifications, and many different types of urban sites across the state. The goal of historical archaeology at the New York State Museum is to preserve, study, and disseminate information about New York’s rich heritage through fieldwork and archaeological collections at the museum.

News Articles

Painting: "Still Life with Fruit" by Pieter Claesz (1644)
Published November 17, 2020 | Historical Archaeology

Archaeologists can glean a tremendous amount of information from soil sediments collected at archaeological sites. Pollen grains, phytoliths, seeds, and other remnant plant material can survive for thousands of years below ground under the right conditions. These data allow for the...

19th-century wine bottle fragment excavated at the Shaker Settlement, Watervliet, NY
Published July 14, 2020 | Historical Archaeology

Ann Lee founded the first communal settlement of the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing, commonly known as the Shakers, in Watervliet New York in 1776. Lee died in 1784 but the community she established continued until 1915. Archaeological excavations at the...

A piece of grape shot (left) and an exploded mortar bomb (right) recovered during scientific excavation at the Lake George Battlefield Park
Published June 24, 2020 | Historical Archaeology

The NYSM Historical Archaeology Collections now includes artifacts from the 2014, 2015 and 2016 excavations at the Lake George Battlefield Park in Lake George, New York. David Starbuck, who conducted the first professional archaeology in the park in 2000 and 2001 (the artifacts recovered during...

Magnetic susceptibility results overlaid with surface artifact locations show a strong correlation between finds and MS "hot spots"
Published April 6, 2020 | Historical Archaeology

The New York State Museum, in collaboration with the Open Space Institute and Stockbridge Munsee Mohican Tribal Preservation Office, recently completed a controlled surface artifact collection and a magnetic susceptibility survey (MS) at the location of a tenant house owned by former Albany...

Published December 19, 2019 | Historical Archaeology

Archaeologists from the New York State Museum and the University of Albany completed two collaborative field schools in Historical Archaeology at the Ten Broeck Mansion, located in Albany, NY's Arbor Hill neighborhood during the summers of 2017 and 2018. These excavations concentrated on...

Dr. Michael Lucas, Curator of Historical Archaeology (left) and Marty Pickands, retired museum archaeologist (right) overlooking excavation by SUNY Albany field school students -- photo by Derek J. Healey
Published December 21, 2018 | Historical Archaeology

The museum's curator of historical archaeology, Michael Lucas, and project manager of The Archaeology of Slavery in the Hudson Valley, is featured in the Winter 2018-19 issue of...

Lafayette Plate
Published December 20, 2018 | Historical Archaeology

Historical archaeology is a multidisciplinary field combining written historical records with archaeological data to study places, objects and issues of the past. In North America, historical archaeology begins with European colonization. One of the issues -- highly relevant to present day North...

Man in collection area
Published January 14, 2016 | Historical Archaeology

Jordon Loucks is a Ph.D student at SUNY Albany and works at the Museum to conduct research for his doctoral program.

Jordon's research is focused on early 19th century immigrants in the Northeast United States, with a particular emphasis on Irish immigrants. "A typical day for me at the...

Hicks-Seaman Ceramics
Published June 26, 2015 | Historical Archaeology

The State Museum recently acquired an archaeological collection from the former Institute for Long Island Archaeology at Stony Brook University. This collection consists of artifacts from 47 significant archaeological sites, including both prehistoric Native American and historic Euro-American...