Earthworks and Mortuary Sites on Lake Erie: Believe it or Not at the Ripley Site

TitleEarthworks and Mortuary Sites on Lake Erie: Believe it or Not at the Ripley Site
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1995
AuthorsSullivan, LP, Neusius, SW, Neusius, PD
JournalMidcontinental Journal of Archaeology
Keywordsearthworks, Iroquoian archaeology, mortuary sites, New York
Models of cultural dynamics for southwestern New York depend heavily on the long-standing assumption that the region's earthworks are defensive fortifications associated with late prehistoric/protohistoric villages. This assumption rests largely on analogy with the historic stockaded villages of various Iroquoian groups. We suggest an alternate interpretation for some earthwork sites. Evidence from older collections and recent test excavations of the Ripley site in Chautauqua County, New York, does not correspond with Parker's (1907) interpretation of this earthwork site as a fortified village and cemetery complex. Instead, mortuary activities may have been the primary site function. We are testing this preliminary reinterpretation through analyses of materials from controlled, large-scale excavations. Our work to date demonstrates the need for systematic study to assess assumptions about the earthworks of southwestern New York and their context in the Great Lakes region. There is urgency for undertaking such investigations, since few of these sites survive and there is no plan for their preservation.