The focus of the Archaeology Department is using archaeological remains to interpret the nature and results of human activity in and around New York State, as well as activities in other regions that had an impact on people living in New York. Archaeological research at what would become the New York State Museum began in 1847, when the Board of Regents expanded the State Cabinet of Natural History to include an Historical and Antiquarian Collection. During the 20th century, formative research in archaeology was carried out by Museum staff members such as Arthur C. Parker, William A. Ritchie, Robert E. Funk, and William N. Fenton. Today, an active program of field and collections-based research in Native American and Euro-American archaeology, geoarchaeology, paleoethnobotany, and biological anthropology continues under staff members, museum research associates, and visiting researchers.

Research Departments

  • Bioarchaeology lab


  • black and white photo man sitting in ground

    Cultural Resource Survey Program (CRSP)

  • Historical Archaeology

    Historical Archaeology

  • Archaeologist outside photo

    Native American Archaeology

  • Christina Reith

    State Archaeologist

News Articles

Courtland Street Burial Button, drawing by Lexi DeCarlo
Published July 9, 2024 | Bioarchaeology

On February 7, 2019, a housing development excavation destroyed numerous unmarked military graves on Courtland Street in Lake George village. Following reports of exposed human remains, Lisa Anderson, curator of bioarchaeology at the New York State Museum, and archaeologist Charles Vandrei of...

Powell House Foundation
Published February 5, 2024 | Historical Archaeology

NYSM Historical Archaeologist Michael Lucas and his team were recently featured in the Times Union for their fieldwork and research leading to the identification of Albany-area farms owned and operated by African Americans during the 1800s.

Discover how the study of the artifacts...

Trash Talk
Published January 31, 2024 | Historical Archaeology


On Thursday, February 8 from 6-7:30pm, NYSM Historical Archaeologist Michael Lucas joins the New Amsterdam History Center for the online event, "Trash Talk: A Lively Discussion of 17th Century Refuse, Recycling, and the Reshaping of Manahatta's Shoreline." 

What was “trash” in...

Natasha Smoke-Santiago examines pottery rim sherds
Published January 22, 2024 | Native American Archaeology

The New York State Museum maintains its extensive material collections for the benefit of individuals and communities across the New York region and beyond. Increasingly, indigenous scholars, artists, and community members are accessing the NYSM's anthropology collections for insights into...

Archaeologists at work on a terrace above the Hudson River.
Published August 1, 2023 | CRSP

Archaeologists from the NYSM’s Cultural Resource Survey Program kicked off this year’s field season with a survey in the Hudson Highlands in an area overlooking the Hudson River not far from Manitou Mountain. This is within the traditional homeland of the Muh-he-con­neok, the People of the...

NYSM crew and volunteers sifting in late August 2019
Published May 11, 2023 | Bioarchaeology

In 2019, bones dating back to the late 18th century were uncovered at a Lake George Village construction site. For the past four years, NYSM bioarchaeology staff Lisa Anderson, Julie Weatherwax, and Alexandra DeCarlo have been working together with the DEC to learn more about the remains to help...

Cowrie Shells Moneta (left), Annulus (center), and a Reticulated Cowrie Helmet (right) from the NYSM Historical Archaeology Collection.
Published February 23, 2023 | Historical Archaeology

Billions of Moneta and Annulus cowries from the Indian Ocean were traded for enslaved people along the west coast of Africa from the 15th through 19th centuries. Much larger reticulated cowrie helmets, native to the warm waters of the Caribbean, were not traded for enslaved...

Silver spoon from the Powell Farmstead with Hannah Elizabeth Powell’s (nee Kilbourne) initials.
Published February 7, 2023 | Historical Archaeology

Agriculture has been central to the cultural history of the Hudson River Valley from the first indigenous farmers to 17th-century Dutch farms, and finally through the development of modern mechanized farming during the 19th century. Regrettably, the role of free African American farmers in the...

Projectile Points from the McVaugh Collection
Published November 28, 2022 | Native American Archaeology

Over the years, the NYSM has received donations of very large archaeological collections numbering hundreds of thousands of specimens—but small collections can also be important. One such donation, modest in size but rich in content, was made to the NYSM in 2019 by the McVaugh family.


Commeraw Stoneware
Published August 2, 2022 | Historical Archaeology

New York stoneware vessels bearing the name “Commeraw” have been included in collections for years, but more recently they have become recognized for their historical importance. Thomas Commeraw was an African American potter who worked in the Corlear’s Hook area of Manhattan from 1793 until the...

Late Stone Age Crowfield Flute Point
Published July 25, 2022 | Native American Archaeology

Located in the middle reach of the Hudson River, Magdalene Island (Dutchess County, NY) has long been known to archaeologists as a location visited by ancient indigenous peoples. Until now, stone tools and other artifacts curated at the NYSM suggested the site was first occupied about 6,000...

DeGraff Archaeological Site (credit: Andrea Becker, NYSDOT)
Published July 5, 2022 | CRSP

Staff from the Museum’s Cultural Resource Survey Program (CRSP) recently hosted staff and six student interns from the NYS Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) at the historic period DeGraff archaeological site in the Mohawk Valley of Central New York. The CRSP performs surveys and site...

Fluted Point from West Athens Hill
Published September 21, 2021 | Native American Archaeology

How old are the oldest archaeological sites in New York? Put another way, when did Native Americans first people the region that we now call New York? These questions are difficult to answer because there are no radiocarbon-dated sites of these early peoples that archaeologist call Paleoindians...

Lead Balls from Fort Franklin
Published September 7, 2021 | Historical Archaeology

In August 2021, the New York State Museum acquired 200 artifacts from the LAMAR Institute in Savannah, Georgia. These artifacts are the result of the only systematic archaeological study of three Revolutionary War battlefield sites on the north shore of Long Island. 

Fort Franklin...

Ball Clay Pipes
Published May 11, 2021 | Historical Archaeology

Ball clay tobacco pipe fragments are one of the most common artifacts found on archaeological sites from the 17th through the 19th centuries. There are many reasons for this including the fact that most people smoked, tobacco pipes were relatively cheap and broke easily, and they survive well in...

Albee Square Collection
Published May 6, 2021 | Historical Archaeology

In March of 2015, archaeologists excavated 3 wells, 3 cisterns, and one possible privy at 420 Albee Square in Brooklyn, New York. The New York State Museum acquired the resulting collection in 2020. The artifacts recovered from the excavations illustrate the changing demographics in Brooklyn at...

Artifacts from the Pierce House Collection
Published March 8, 2021 | Historical Archaeology

The NYSM Historical Archaeology Collection recently acquired the Pierce House Collection containing a wide variety of mid-nineteenth century household artifacts from a farmstead located in the town of Lewis, Essex County, New York. Documenting the transition from a tenant to owner occupied...

Small Footed Crucible
Published February 11, 2021 | Historical Archaeology

Many of the Historical Archaeology Collections at the New York State Museum were recovered during compliance work prior to the construction of roads, buildings, and other structures. Larger compliance projects can result in the recovery of 100,000 artifacts or more. Time and budget constraints...

Excavation Site
Published January 26, 2021 | CRSP

In late Fall 2020, the Museum’s Cultural Resource Survey Program (CRSP) conducted a Phase 2 site examination of a historic period archaeological site in Central New York (see the NYSM Science Tuesday post from 11/24/2020).  Among the goals of the excavation were to delineate the site’s...

Onondaga and Empire (cover)
Published January 8, 2021 | Archaeology

Just released! The NYSM has published the latest volume in the Bulletin Series entitled, Onondaga and Empire; An Iroquoian People in an Imperial Era. As author James W. Bradley notes, the publication “continues the story of the Onondaga, central nation in the League of the Five Nations...