Local Students Shown Lake George’s Pre-Historic Encampment
Every fourth grader in New York studies the state’s history, but few can find traces of the nomadic people who roamed the state eight thousand years ago, and in their own back yard at that.
Lake George students are among those lucky few. Last week, archaeologists gave Paul Kelly’s fourth graders a guided tour of a pre-historic encampment discovered last fall near Million Dollar Beach.
“To see an archaeological dig in process, as artifacts are being found, is a great opportunity for these kids,” said Elementary School principal James Conway.
“We’re going to show you what we’ve found and tell you about the people who lived here as they passed through the region,” New York State’s chief archaeologist and the director of its Cultural Resource Survey Program, Christina Reith, told the students.
“This is a very special site. The density of artifacts, and the fact that the site is relatively intact,” made the discovery an important one not only for Lake George but for New York State, Reith said.
Random, scattered pre-historic artifacts have been found near Lake George in the past, but never within an intact site, said Steve Moragne, an archaeologist with the New York State Museum.
“This is the oldest site I’ve ever worked on, and at sites as old as this, at most you’ll come across surface finds, artifacts turned up by a plow, for instance. Here we have an opportunity to study a complete site that exhibits a wide range of activity and behavior,” said Moragne.
Moragne, whose specialty is pre-historic archaeology, said he expected to find artifacts related to the site’s eighteenth century military history, and was surprised to discover evidence of pre-historic encampments.
“I was super excited,” he said.
Among the artifacts discovered were arrowheads, other projectile points and pieces of stone tools, said Reith.
The location at the head of Lake George must have been an ideal site to camp as the pre-historic people pursued game like caribou and elk, said Moragne.
“It was a one-stop shopping site. Wildlife was plentiful, there was a diversity of fish and the wetlands were a salad bowl,” said Moragne.
Artifacts from the excavation indicate that the site was occupied continuously for thousands of years, said Moragne.
Reith explained to the students how the site was discovered, noting that “it was given to us.”
A routine archaeological survey, conducted on state-owned lands near Million Dollar Beach in advance of roadwork, led to the discovery, she said.
The students’ field trip was hosted by Board of Regents member James Dawson and State Museum Director Mark Schaming as well as the staff archeaologists.
“We invited the students here because it puts their classroom studies about New York State and Native American culture in a local context,” said Reith.
The State Museum has installed a display case featuring some of the artifacts uncovered at the site at the Lake George Village Visitors’ Center, where they will remain on view throughout the summer.