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Research :: ARCHAEOLOGY LABORATORY :: Current Research :: John Lothrop

Late Pleistocene Adaptations

Fluted Points
Fluted Points in NYSM collections,
circa 13-12,000 years ago

New Yorkers today would barely recognize their state when it was first colonized by Native Americans about 13,000 years ago. As the Pleistocene era was ending, northward-retreating glaciers and catastrophic meltwater floods had scoured the state, the Atlantic coastline was retreating before rising sea levels, a vast inland sea flooded the St. Lawrence Valley and Champlain basin, and spruce parklands covered much of New York.  Known to archaeologists as Paleoindians, these peoples probably immigrated into New York along river valleys from the west or south, perhaps drawn by resources of the Hudson Valley and the Champlain Sea. Today, we are trying to understand the adaptations of these Paleoindian peoples on several fronts. 

Perhaps most importantly, we are actively recording and studying Paleoindian sites and artifact collections.  Documenting the locations of these discoveries tells us how they were using the landscape: mining toolstone at outcrops in the Hudson Valley, trekking the Ontario Lake Plain, and visiting Late Pleistocene dune fields on proglacial lake beds west of Albany. 

For chronological control, in the absence of radiocarbon dating, we devote special study to stone weapons tips (known as fluted points) as time-sensitive age indicators.  Other analyses of Paleoindian stone tool collections provide glimpses of life at their small campsites, and reveal adaptive qualities of their stone tool kit.

Mapping the geologic sources of cherts that Paleoindians quarried to fashion tools suggests these people often traveled widely within and outside New York.  In collaboration with geologists, we expect to soon apply petrographic and geochemical techniques to source these cherts more securely.

Shortly, we also hope to begin building a state-wide comparative database on Paleoindian point finds and sites, and encourage professional and avocational archaeologists to join us in this effort.  In the long view, such databases will be key to advancing our understanding of this unique Late Pleistocene lifeway.

Selected Publications
Lothrop, Jonathan C., James W. Bradley, and David L. Cremeens
In preparation.  Aspects of Early Paleoindian Settlement in the Ohio and Hudson Valleys. In Early Paleoindian Colonization of the North American Mid-Continent, edited by Daniel Amick.  State University of New York Press, Albany. 

Lothrop, Jonathan C.
2008 A New Look at Paleoindian Lifeways in the Ice Age.  Legacy 4(2): 8.

Lothrop, Jonathan C.
1996 Review of The Leavitt Site: A Parkhill Phase Paleoindian Occupation in Central Michigan. Lithic Technology 21(2): 160-163.

Lothrop, Jonathan C.
1989 The Organization of Paleoindian Lithic Technology at the Potts Site.  In Eastern Paleoindian Lithic Resource Use, edited by Christopher Ellis and Jonathan C. Lothrop, Pp.119-138.  Westview Press, Boulder.

Ellis, Christopher and Jonathan C. Lothrop
1989 Eastern Paleoindian Lithic Resource Use.  Westview Press, Boulder.

Gramly, R. Michael and Jonathan C. Lothrop
1984 Archaeological Investigations of the Potts Site, Oswego County, New York, 1982 and 1983 (with R.M. Gramly).  Archaeology of Eastern North America 12:122-158.

Lothrop, Jonathan C. and R. Michael Gramly
1982 Pieces Esquillees from the Vail Site (with R.M. Gramly).  Archaeology of Eastern North America 10:1-22

 

 

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