1914: Archaeology a Century Ago at Lake George
The 2013-2014 New York State Museum archaeological excavation conducted near the Million Dollar Beach parking lot is a reminder that several millennia ago, Lake George had prehistoric Native American visitation. The archaeological survey was required because state and federal funds were being spent on road construction at the Million Dollar Beach complex. However, a century ago, an out-of-state college professor undertook one of the area’s earliest archaeological studies near the same site.
The July 11, 1914 issue of the Lake George Mirror published a news story entitled—“Indian Relics at Snug Harbor.” According to the account, also carried in Troy and Warrensburg newspapers, Professor Edward Clark, an expert in “Indian lore,” discovered an assemblage of Native American artifacts at the head of the lake. Snug Harbor is where Million Dollar Beach is today located and should not be confused with Snug Harbor Marina at the lake’s north end.
Clark was from Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, founded in 1837.
Among the cultural objects Clark reportedly unearthed was a “small hammer-like” stone instrument probably used to fashion arrowheads, today called “projectile points” by archaeologists. Pieces of Native American pottery were uncovered, too. Clark theorized these were made on this locale rather than being imported by early Native Americans.
Clark believed that due to the sharp-edged lithic (stone) flakes discovered at Snug Harbor and also the finished chert (flint) artifacts that were collected, that there was an arrow manufactory near the waterway’s southeast corner. The chert probably came from the adjacent hill, where Fort George, a French & Indian War (1755-1763) and Revolutionary War (1775-1783) military site, is found.
Fort George chert would have been ideal to create projectile points and other stone tools made by a process known today as lithic reduction. This is where Native Americans used hammer-type stones, bones, and even wood to strike chert cores to fashion these objects. Clark thought these lithic-making centers and encampments were in a perfect location. It was along a Native American thoroughfare that ran from the upper Hudson River, along the waters of Lake George, and into the Champlain Valley.
Professor Clark’s 1914 finds came from the land of Benjamin Green. His shorefront property was just northeast of Fort George. Green’s parcel had a market, picnic area, tents, and cottages. The store burned in 1923. Green’s land was later acquired by the State. Over 1949-1951, the State constructed a public beach on the property. It cost $935,000 to build, thus its name—Million Dollar Beach.
The 2013-2014 archaeological fieldwork on the Dept. of Environmental Conservation (DEC)-administered Million Dollar Beach parking lot and picnic grounds will shed new light on the life ways of prehistoric Native Americans at Lake George.
Reports from State Museum and DEC archaeologists indicate that some of the numerous Native American lithic artifacts recently excavated at the Million Dollar Beach site are several thousand years old.
Prehistoric and historic artifacts found on state lands are protected and should not be disturbed by the public. It is illegal to collect artifacts from state lands without a State permit.