Bio Archaeology across New York State

By Chris

I Presented a study for the annualNYSAA Meeting that involved bioarchaeology at two sites separated by a couple hundred miles but both associated to the earliest settlement families in Delaware and Jefferson County, respectively.
This study involves specialty archaeological analyses of the remains of individuals accidentally exhumed during quarrying near Roxbury, New York. The remians were investigated as the unmarked Person Cemetery, an early 19th century family plot associated to the daughter-in-law of county & town founder John More
The analysis of animal bone from the midden located behind the Sacket Mansion in Sacket’s Harbour, New York. The sample was derived from ten test units excavated by the TIC of NYSAA and is associated to the town founder Augustus Sacket and the proceeding Vaughn Family.
This pair of bioarchaeology studies involve forensic osteology and paleopathology at the Person Cemetery and faunal analysis at the Sacket Mansion.

The Person Cemetery is located on the north edge of the village of Roxbury along Hardscrabble Road (a mile below the childhood home of naturalist John Burroughs) within an active gravel quarry. The cemetery is identified by historic accounts of the Person Home across the street from their family plot. This home later became the More Family Homestead. A few years ago the town accidentally truncated five burials. The displaced remains were reunited during the present analysis with the insitu remains uncovered this past summer.
In addition to uniting over a score of individual elements of human remains with the undisturbed burials, this analysis also explored disease and lives of this early settler community and attempted to identify individuals (John Burroughs describes many local characters later in the 19th century. We hoped that these burials may have been late enough to be among his local cast) by facial or other diverse traits expressed on bone.
Pathologies included fractures and chronic infection. The individual traits and chronic diseases opened the possibility of find historic documents to identify the people of the Persons Cemetery. The search for historic records describing such people continues.

The Sacket Mansion is located in Sacket Harbor along the east shore of Lake Ontario. Sacket was important to the development of the North Country and considered to be an affluent landowner. The Mansion was also used as a hosiptal during the War of 1812.

The Thousand Islands Chapter (TIC)of the NYSAA who excavated this site are continuing the investigations of the history of this important center of the community. Investigations started by the NYSM in the 90’s. The TIC and former president Tim Abel have confirmed that specific strata within test units conform to the Sacket Family occupation and a later Vaughn Family occupation. The analysis of faunal remains permits an exploration the differences in the diet, occupation, and economy of the households.
The TIC were also particularly interested in identfying any human remains associated to emergency surgery from the war.

Faunal analysis showed changes between strata including variation in the frequency of wild game such as rabbit and squirrel, the presence of draft animals (oxen with an arthritic lesion) in the diet and the exploitation of fur-bearing animals (muskrat and marten). The analysis of evidence for methods of processing continue as well as the exposure of the deposits to rodent and dog chewing.

Four fragments of cranial bone were recovered from TU3 at the Level 3 associated to the midden. The bone, originally mis-identified as human remains, were correctly idenfied as from the vault of a domestic pig.

The value of these two separate studies is greatly magnified by the community involvement with and among vocational and professional archaeologists. The Person Cemetery analysis continued with the volunteer research by students form the Roxbury Central School. The cemetery had marble gravestones in place in the early 20th century. These stones were pulled in the 1950’s. Some of them were used as foundation stones for a farmhouse downhill from the quarry. These stones are currently underneath two feet of fill and a concrete porch. The students spent a day surveying foundations, dikes and rock piles in the vicinity. Though currently unsuccessful, they continue to search the area and have authored a epitaph for this unmarked cemetery.

The faunal analysis is a small part of the complex and important TIC investigations of two Jefferson County households and the continuation of TIC continued commitment to quality volunteer archaeology involving professionals as well. Their efforts continue to fill in the missing pieces.
Thank you for visiting my blog and you can also send any comments to me at Chris@HAZExplorations.com

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