Monday, August 11, 2014


 Donald A. Windsor, Secretary

The Chenango Chapter of the New York State Archaeological Association held its annual picnic on Thursday evening 7 August 2014 at the Rogers Environmental Education Center in Sherburne.  Here are some photos I took.

Dave  Susan  Monte  Tyree

Kevin  Helen  Charlene

Lucy  Marin  Susan  Rentha  Monte

Michael  Buck  John  with atlatls

Monte Vicky Rentha Helen Marin Lucy Tyree Charlene Kevin Dave Barbara Susan John Michael Bob


Saturday, August 17, 2013


Robert D. Mason

I found this coin Monday 12 August 2013 while field surface hunting.  I won't say exactly where or what field.  However, it was in the Town of Norwich.  I was surely startled when I picked it up.

1774 Silver Spanish 2 Reale coin.  Reale coins came in different sizes and
values.  1/2 reale, 1 reale, 2 reale, 4 and 8 reales.

Dei Gratia Carlous III   -   God Graces Charles III
Hispan Etind Rex         -   Hence the King of Spain

There is a mint mark indicating this was made in Bolivia.  The same coins
were made in many different Spanish colonies at the time.  The Assayer's
mark is J.R.

The shield and coat of arms has two lions, indicating Spain.

I have done some reading on the Internet and found that Spanish silver was commonly
used as currency in the American colonies and even into the early to mid

Too bad it has a hole in it, but that was a common practice, especially
during the Civil War.  It might be given to a girlfriend for a necklace and
remembrance piece when a young fellow went off to war.  I have also read
that sometimes farmers would carry their coins on a string so not to lose
them.  Sometimes they had no pockets, for that might be something more for
a wealthier man to have.

Charles III was King of Spain 1759 - 1788


Thursday, August 8, 2013


Donald A. Windsor

The Chenango Chapter of the New York State Archaeological Association held its annual picnic at the Rogers Center in Sherburne on Thursday evening 1 August 2013.  It started around 6:00 and ended around 7:45.

I do not have a group photo, so someone please send me one.  Here are the photos I took.

We had 19 participants; they were, in alphabetic order:  John Antonowicz, Leon Carlson, Barbara De Angelo, Marin Bennett, Monte Bennent, Rentha Bennett, Kevin DeSha, Vicky Jane, Bob Mason, A. Gail Merian, Charlene Moulton, Dave Moyer, Dan Noble,  Michael Raphael, Helen Tanner, Tyree Tanner, Don Windsor, Lila X, and Susan Avery Young.

Here is an action shot that Helen Tanner captured.


Friday, March 15, 2013


David Moyer  [Responding to the previous post.]

Don,  Yes, there are some who believe that stones were used to boil maple sap in big dugouts. You should know that most professional archaeologists and historians tend to agree that while possible there is no evidence that people did this in the prehistoric past. There is no ethnohistoric sources from the 17th century that talk about Indians making maple sugar including the entire Jesuit Relations.

This is a big topic, and there's a lot of evidence on both sides. People first began to recognize that Indians probably didn't make sugar before kettles beginning in the 1890s, so it's a long running debate. There is also excellent biological evidence that Natives did not eat sugar in their diets (think diabetes), and a lot of this debate for early sugaring has moved from the anthropology journals to the Journal of Ethnobiology- see bibliography.

That said, there have been many who have done experimental work on boiling maple sap with stones. In fact, if you want to see someone boiling sap in a dugout NOW is the time. My friend Barry Keegan has been doing experiments on prehistoric sap boiling for many years, and every Sunday in March he demonstrates it at the Farmer's Museum as part of their Pancake Breakfast fund raisers (They also demonstrate early historic sugaring techniques, but the prehistoric stuff is a real attention-getter). It's not a bad breakfast, and while not all the buildings at the museum are open to walk through you can wander the museum grounds and enter some of the buildings, even visit the Cardiff Giant without paying any admission charge- just breakfast.You could definitely get good pics for your blog and ask him a lot of questions. Barry published on his sap experiments in a brief article which I can make a copy of for you. I've also attached a short bibliography to get you started.

Barry believes that prehistoric people probably did boil sap, although he's told me as an aside that he hasn't ever produced a batch which you would consider edible. A big problem is that when you dump the stones into the sap the sap immediately adjacent to the stone becomes thicker and sticks to the stones, creating sticky hot rocks, which he ends up having to scrape with a stick or paddle. Dirt, silt and quartz granules from the granite leach out of the stones as well, and while the result impresses museum visitors, it would not impress Julia Child. Impressive but not effective. He's told me they definitely didn't use pots, and that all the pots he's ever tried have broken as part of the process, hence the the dugout. Last we spoke he said he was thinking of trying soapstone pots directly in the fire, but this is even less supported ethnohistorically...

BTW you can also condense sap by leaving it out to freeze...

BTW- dugouts were used as gutters adjacent to long houses to keep the ground dry, collect water in case of fire, etc.. Bill Engelbrect talked about this a little bit at a state meeting a few years ago.    Dave

Thursday, March 14, 2013


Donald A. Windsor

On Maple Sunday, 10 March 2013, at the Chenango County Historical Society's Museum campus, Reggie Card of Earlville told me that dugout logs were used by Native Americans to evaporate maple sap.  They put the sap into the log and then dropped in hot stones to heat it.  The model resembled a dugout canoe, so when I saw it, I immediately thought of Dave Walker's dugout canoe. 

Here are photos of the model that Reggie built for his presentations on the early history of maple syrup.

I now wonder if our Dave Walker canoe, which does not look as if it could safely transport anyone, could have been used for maple syrup.  We suspect it was used for harvesting wild rice. Background on this canoe is on this blog posting of Tuesday August 16, 2011.  Also, its shallow dugout and wide area would enhance concentration by freezing. 

Google has a lot on dugout logs for sap, but so far it seems to be all anecdotal comments.  I am searching for a real archaeological paper. Scientific papers on Google are usually not readable by nonsubscribers, so I may have to rely on interlibrary loans.

I asked David Moyer for his comments.  They appear on the next posting.


Friday, August 31, 2012


Donald A. Windsor

Black Ash Bog is in Otsego County, Town of Butternuts, north of Ideuma Road (which is in the Town of Unadilla) and west of County Road 3.  It is on private land.

The name Black Ash Bog appears on the US Geological Service topographical map Gilbertsville, NY, 1943, 7.5 minutes.  A road sign on Ideuma Road proclaims a dead-end road as Black Ash Swamp.

On a visit, with landowner permission, on Thursday morning 30 August 2012, 5 of us hiked through the northern portion of the wetland.  It is indeed a swamp, a forested wetland, with no evidence of being a bog, that is, no bog plants.  Among the vegetation were these notables:  Hemlock, Black Ash, Spice Bush, Creeping Snowberry, Cinnamon Fern, and Royal Fern.  Sphagnum covers everything except dark areas of mud, but no floating mat was seen.

On adjacent higher ground are Red Oak, White Oak, Chestnut Oak, and American Chestnut, in with White Ash, Sugar Maple, Red Maple, American Beech, and White Pine.

We encountered at least two dozen Black Ash.  The smallest had a diameter of about 2 inches and the largest about 8 inches.  We found one large dead Black Ash that had a diameter of about 17 inches (from circumference = 54 inches).  We did not find any samaras on the ground, nor did we see any in the trees.  Most surprising to me was the absence of Black Ash seedlings.  However, we hiked for 3.5 hours.  Perhaps a longer search would have revealed some seedlings.  The ferns were waist to chest high, so visibility was obstructed.

This was the first visit for all of us, so we did not know exactly what to expect.  Prior to the visit, I suspected that we would not find a bog because this area is a valley perched between two ridges.  It sits at 1720 feet elevation with its western ridge reaching 1860 feet and its eastern counterpart topping at 2020.  The "bog" area has two streams draining it, one flowing south and the other flowing north.  A typical bog has no inlet, no outlet, and is a nutrient-poor (1).  Sandwiched between two steep watersheds, this peaty wetland gets plenty of nutrients.

Therefore, unless we find evidence to the contrary, I conclude that Black Ash Bog is really Black Ash Swamp.

Reference cited:
Johnson, Charles W.  Basic terms and definitions.  In: Bogs of the Northeast.  Hanover, NH: University Press of New England. 1985. Pages 7-18.


Monday, August 6, 2012


Donald A. Windsor

Was Fort Hill in Oxford merely a fort?  Or was it a sacred site?

Fort Hill is the hill east of the Chenango River where the bridge crosses in the Village.  This is where the library, fire station, Behe Funeral Home, and the United Church stand today on the aptly named Fort Hill Park. 

The first Euro-Americans in this area called things using their European vocabulary.  A stockade was called a "fort" or a "castle".  Fort Hill had no stockade (a perimeter of closely spaced vertical logs).  Nevertheless, it looked as if it should have, so it was called a fort.

The earliest description is by DeWitt Clinton (1769-1828) in an 1817 letter to Doctor Samuel L. Mitchell.  Part of this letter is quoted in Clark's 1850 History of Chenango County (1) on page 6. It is too long to reproduce here, its essence follows.

Clinton called it a "fort" and said it was on the east side of the Chenango River in the Village of Oxford.  About 2 or 3 acres of land was about 30 feet higher than the flat land around it.  This land stretched for about 50 rods (825 feet) along the riverbank.  The fort was situated at the southwesterly end, covering about 3 rods (49.5 feet) of a straight, almost perpendicular riverbank.  Clinton included a drawing, which resembles a capital D.  The straight vertical line is the riverbank and the curve is a ditch, 4 feet deep; at both corners are entrances which he called "gateways".  This area is now where the library is located.

A large, dead pine tree trunk stood 50 or 60 feet tall.  When cut, it had 195 annual rings.  Because the tree was dead, Clinton estimated that the tree much was much older, perhaps 300 or 400 years old.  Its roots were shaped to the ditch, indicating that the ditch was older.  Decorated potsherds were found.

Clinton did not say when this tree was first found, but the first settler was General Benjamin Hovey who built a cabin on Fort Hill in 1790(2).  That would place the fort in 1400-1500 AD.  He mentions that no wood structures were found and he does not mention stone structures.

Smith's History of Chenango County 1880 also describes Fort Hill (3, page 254) but he merely repeats some of Clark.

I write about Fort Hill because it has some similarities with the Sacred Site I described on this blog in my post of 27 June 2012.  Fort Hill is about 4.2 direct miles from that site.  It is about 6.6 direct miles from the Castle, also described by Clark on pages 6, 8, 17 (1).  Perhaps these sites are somehow related.  Remarkably, they are on an almost straight line!

1.  Clark, Hiram C.  History of Chenango County.  1850.  122 pages.
2.  Stafford, Charlotte.  A Chronology of Oxford Happenings 1788-1950.
3.  Smith, James H.  History of Chenango County.  1880.  488 pages.