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The 2013 New York State Archaeological Association (NYSAA) Annual Meeting

Posted by Edward V. Curtin on May 7, 2013 in Archaeology |
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On April 26-28, 2013 NYSAA held its annual meeting in Watertown, New York, in conjunction with the New York Archaeological Council (NYAC) April 26 spring meeting.

The NYSAA meeting was well-attended and had one of the largest programs in years, with two sessions running concurrently through much of the meeting. The keynote speaker was Professor Claude Chapdelaine of Université de Montréal, who spoke about the discovery of a fluted point site in Quebec, as well as the extensive record of late Paleoindian occupation along the St. Lawrence.

A sampling of the papers presented at the NYSAA meeting includes:

• The opening paper on Saturday morning by William Engelbrecht, titled “A Point Refit Study of an Iroquois Village” (co-authored with Roderick Salisbury). Continuing Bill Engelbrecht’s long-term study of data from the Eaton Site near Buffalo, this paper provides an amazing view of the often unexpected spatial relationships between projectile point fragments.

• “Documentary Filmmaking for Archaeology: The Lake George Paradigm” by Joseph W. Zarzynski, John Farrell and Peter Pepe gave the audience a very enlightening and authoritative perspective on making archaeological documentaries, with several sunken ship sites as the subject matter.

• “The New York Paleoindian Database Project: 2013 Update” by Jonathan C. Lothrop and Meredith Younge. This well-received presentation is the latest in a series of annual updates made since 2010, and provided up-to-date information on new discoveries and interpretations involving both fluted and parallel flaked Paleoindian points.

• “Archaeological Documentation of a 1500-Year Tradition of Construction and Use of Nonmortuary Annular Mounds at Perch Lake, Jefferson County, NY” by Julieann Van Nest. Summarizing the results of a multi-year examination of the long-pondered Perch Lake Mounds, Julieann Van Nest has provided a large array of radiocarbon dates documenting the long period of use, plus detailed information about construction based upon stratigraphic data.

• “The Celts in the North Atlantic” by Denis Foley, is an intriguing paper that provides more information and fresh insights on the subject of Celtic exploration of the North Atlantic during the early medieval period, and considers the possibility of North American Irish landfalls before the Vikings.

• “The People of the Albany Almshouse” by Andrea Lain. Andrea Lain’s paper was the last in an important series of presentations on the analysis of human remains recovered from county poor farms in the Buffalo, Syracuse and Albany areas. Significantly, Andrea Lain’s paper provided a broad overview of the subject, bringing in information from a variety of almshouse/poorhouse cemetery projects. Andrea Lain integrated osteological and historic information to show how the statistics and conditions of human remains from these kinds of institutional cemeteries parallel and illustrate changes in society’s care for the poor and infirm during the 19th and early 20th centuries.

• ‘“The days are cold and the night’s much colder:” The Archaeology of Col. Zebulon Pike’s 1812-1813 Winter Encampment in Plattsburgh, New York’ by Timothy J. Abel was the lead paper in a session devoted to the archaeology of the War of 1812. This is particularly noteworthy during this period of the war’s bicentennial. The session itself included papers by Matthew Kirk on Sackett’s Harbor (New York), Susan E. Maguire on Old Fort Niagara (New York), Susan Bazely on Kingston (Ontario), and Rebecca E. Belton on the analysis of nails from Pike’s Cantonment. Tim Abel’s paper provided an account of the discovery of the long-sought site of Pike’s Cantonment, and a progress report on the research he is conducting there.

While I could go on with accounts of the papers that impressed me, let these brief mentions suffice to indicate the broad range of subjects covered at this year’s NYSAA meeting, including several summaries of significant bodies of research or interpretation that are ongoing, multi-year projects, including some that have been in the making over a period of years, even decades.

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