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38 Three Mahican Places Sites, Subsistence, and Settlements Archaeological sites reflecting contact and postcontact period Native lifeways in the upper Hudson Valley, while present in some number, have been inadequately or incompletely studied. Moreover , descriptions of artifact assemblages, along with settlement and subsistence data, in the few instances where they have been examined and interpreted, remain largely unpublished. Reflecting something of this inattention is the fact that there is but a single though authoritative syntheses of the region’s archaeology from 1600 forward.1 It is also noteworthy that the association of these sites with Mahican people is based almost exclusively on their location in what is believed to have been Mahican territory , a nonetheless credible assumption given the supporting historical documentation, to which some limitations must apply.2 There are more than thirty reported late precontact sites in the upper Hudson Valley believed to be Mahican.3 Most are in proximity to the Hudson River or are found along tributary streams. They form three geographical clusters, two of which are on the Hudson (map 6). Here the more northerly cluster of the two is on both sides of the river, from just above Albany, south to the Schodack Islands. The other, also on both sides, extends from Four Mile Point at the mouth of Stockport Creek south to the vicinity of the Roelof Jansens Kill below Germantown (maps 1 and 2). The six sites comprising the third cluster are to the north of the previous two, in the southern two-thirds of Saratoga County. Whether this last cluster encompasses lands map 6. Mahican Site Clusters, 1600. After Bradley, Before Albany. 40 Mahican Places that were once part of Mahican aboriginal territory is contestable . From the outset it is not possible to tie artifacts or any other evidence recovered from these sites to ethnic Mahicans or, for that matter, to other nearby, historically known Native groups. The lack of cultural specificity of site assemblages in the region , especially along the boundary between Mahicans and Mohawks , has long been recognized.4 That is, most archaeologists agree that the means to determine whether the occupants of a precontact or contact period site were unambiguously Mahicans or Mohawks through an analysis of artifacts—in particular, ceramics —does not presently exist, although there are other voices .5 Moreover, historical documentation for Mahican occupancy or even nominal control of the lands within which lies the third cluster and beyond is generally lacking or, where present, has been accorded undue probative value.6 A consensus interpretation of Mahican settlement and subsistence patterns for the late precontact period, where sites are found near prime fishing areas and arable lands close to the river , is one reflecting the activities of foragers, fishermen, and, to a somewhat lesser extent, horticulturalists. Although corn and other crops were grown, routinely requiring a semisedentary people, these Indians appear to have been relatively mobile , their dispersed homesteads and camps suggesting seasonal occupations and adaptive flexibility and opportunism. Of the makeup of their settlements, however, little is known. The first and, to date, only Mahican dwellings known archaeologically are from the Goldkrest site, a small riverside camp on the east bank of the Hudson near Papscanee Island, south of Albany . Discovered in 1993, site excavations uncovered the outlines of an oval structure twenty-six by thirty-six feet and another, rectangular in floor plan, thirteen by thirty-six feet.7 The former presents a house form common to Algonquian-speakers resident throughout southern New England—the wigwam. The latter more closely resembles a typical Iroquois house, although it is much Mahican Places 41 smaller.8 Still, it is recognized that rectangular pole-framed and bark structures were common to Native groups in the mid-Hudson Valley and the adjacent Housatonic Valley, to the east, from at least the early eighteenth century and perhaps before.9 There are seven sites attributed to Mahican occupancy for the early postcontact period, circa 1600 to 1624.10 As with the previous set of sites, all are located on the Hudson River or its tributaries stretching the considerable distance from Fish Creek south to the Schodack Islands (maps 1, 2, and 6). Although these sites have been subject to relatively little archaeological examination, they do not appear to differ in any significant degree from the previous settlement pattern of small, seasonal camps. In what survives of Hudson’s journal is the only known description of a Mahican dwelling for the period. At the place where he had been taken...


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