News & Events

Archaeology Students Dig Up Pine Lake's History

June 11, 2009

Four thousand years ago, Iroquois ancestors gathered along the banks of Charlotte Creek to share information, arrange marriages between groups, and hunt and gather food. With time, the artifacts they left behind became a lesson in archaeology, waiting to be unearthed by students from Hartwick College and SUNY Oneonta.

Through July 3, nine Hartwick students and five Oneonta students are taking part in a summer archaeological field school at Hartwick’s Pine Lake Environmental Campus. On June 10, the college students were joined by 6th-graders from Riverside Elementary, who learned about items already discovered and helped work on this year’s dig.

Set up in Pine Lake’s back field, the group is working along what used to be the Charlotte Creek bank, where the course’s directors, Cynthia Klink from Hartwick and Renee Walker from Oneonta, believe several groups of Iroquois ancestors gathered at least 4,000—and possibly as many as 8,000—years ago.

“I imagine this really bustling place where women are pounding nuts and the men are making tools,” Walker said, adding that the school’s findings two years ago point to the site likely once housing several large hearths that were used as a drying area for fish and deer meat.

This year’s dig site—about 100 feet farther from the creek—has uncovered arrowheads and the outlines of structures, including round houses and smaller hearths. Walker and Klink believe the groups spent two or three months at the location each year, from late summer through fall, before continuing to follow the Susquehanna River basin.

The archaeological field school was started in 2003 as a joint venture between Hartwick and Oneonta. Run every other year, the school continues work that Professor of Anthropology David Anthony and Dorcas Brown conducted in 1989 and 1991, investigating a prehistoric site in Pine Lake's back field. Today, Klink and Walker give students a quick lesson in identifying artifacts before beginning hands-on work in the field. The class meets Monday through Friday, spending eight hours in the field and two hours each night cleaning and identifying artifacts. Most of the students live at Pine Lake for the month. It’s experience Klink says they’ll be able to take with them, whether or not they’re planning to continue their archaeology studies.

Run every other year, it gives students a quick lesson in identifying artifacts before beginning hands-on work in the field. The class meets Monday through Friday, spending eight hours in the field and two hours each night cleaning and identifying artifacts. Most of the students live at Pine Lake for the month. It’s experience Klink says they’ll be able to take with them, whether or not they’re planning to continue their archaeology studies.

“They’re learning an appreciation for archaeological resources and what they can tell us about things,” Klink said. “The field school encourages preservation and is building a respect for all of the work that’s invested in finding things and recording where they are.”

Emma Jacobson ’09, who minored in Anthropology, is taking the course to hone her skills while looking for a job in archaeology or research. She hopes to take her hands-on learning at Hartwick and find a career that lets her stay just as connected to what she’s working on.

“You come into this knowing nothing about anthropology or excavating,” she said. “In college, you get a lot of theory, but you also get to do your own research. This is the most hands-on you can get with a history perspective. You dive in head-first and you learn right away.”

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Hartwick College is a private liberal arts and sciences college of 1,480 students, located in Oneonta, NY, in the northern foothills of the Catskill Mountains. Hartwick’s expansive Liberal Arts in Practice curriculum merges traditional liberal arts study, personalized teaching, and experiential learning approaches to emphasize Connecting the Classroom to the World. Add to that a wide range of off-campus internships, collaborative research, study-abroad opportunities, and a unique January Term, and Hartwick prepares students for the world ahead. Strong financial aid and scholarship programs keep a Hartwick education affordable.

Contact: Jennifer Moritz
E-mail: moritzj@hartwick.edu
Phone: 607-431-4038