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Feature Article

The Lamoka Lake Site
A Major Site In New York State Archaeology

By Jan Summers-Duffy

The Lamoka point takes its name from the Lamoka Lake village site, one of the major key sites in New York State archaeology. Lying in south-central New York State, the site has been designated as Archaic Algonkin (Ritchie, 1932). The offspring of a glacial lake, consisting of hilly, rocky cores and wooded lands, it was readily adapted to early aboriginal man in New York. With bountiful game, and plenty of lakes and streams filled with fish, the site provided major sustenance to the aboriginal people living there.

Travel was mainly by canoe, and open forests afforded some protection from severe climate. The 1,000+ Native American village and burial sites that have been recorded in upstate New York verify this. Identified in this Lamoka region are two distinct cultures, each with a wide distribution within the state. The two cultures, separate physical types, are well represented at the site as being in hostile contact with each other. One was apparently expelled by the other.

The site was first discovered in 1905 when NYS museum archaeologist Arthur Parker learned of plowed up objects. Over the years, collectors and surface hunters have gleaned many points, celts, mortars, pestles, awls and other objects made of bone and antler. Later on, in 1924, an Algonquin skeleton was exhumed reposing in a contracted position, with burial artifacts consisting of a small green celt and various points buried around the body. Not until 1925 was an official investigation by the NYS museum undertaken and the site entirely excavated and documented.
The Lamoka Point
The Lamoka point is described as being small, narrow, and thick, less than 1” to 2-1/2” in length, sometimes with a spike point and a triangular blade. It has a varying stem from expanding to straight to sloping and sometimes as thick as the blade portion itself. The stem can be found both side notched and stemmed, occurring together at the same ground levels in the Lamoka complex. The Lamoka is quite typical in New York State Museum collections, dating from Middle Archaic, down through Middle Woodland. Material used was local, mostly flint and quartz.
The Lamoka Site Location and its Artifacts
The site itself consists of about one acre on the east bank of a marshy stream connecting Wauneta and Lamoka lakes in Tyrone Township, Schuyler Co., New York, just east of the Steuben County line. Lying on a narrow bench terrace about 850’ long and 250’ wide, flanked on the east by a long sand ridge. The area of the site presents a low, long median ridge about 18” in height showing everywhere beneath black earth mixed with bone and shell, suggesting refuse pits and fire beds of a larger village site.

“Less than mile west of the site on a group of sandy knolls, notched and bathed spearheads have been found with “perforation”, highly polished adzes, celts, potsherds, mullers, hammcrstones, a slate gorget and a bannerstone of gray slate with notches on each wing. A cache of leaf-blades, some more than 10” in length, of brown flint, were plowed up and several more found on the surface.” (Ritchie, 1932).

Artifacts Description
The artifacts excavated at the site asre of rough, chipped, polished stone, and include bone and antlers interspersed throughout the site refuse pits, lodge floors and fire beds. Projectile points, knives and perforators, used in hunting, warfare and domestic activity, occurs in large quantities. Projectile points, totaling more than 600+, range from ” to 1-3/4”. The material is mostly gray flint and gray argillite. Every phase of the manufacture of the points is represented, and it appears that a pebble industry was practiced. New York State also has other sites with similar stone industries like the Lamoka.

Javelin heads (large points) were rare on the site overall, about 80 being found. The longest was 3”. Five points were made of a dense, black chat, with narrow stems and sloping shoulders. The largest measured 5-3/8”. Knives were small in quantity and size, being oval or rounded on both ends. Some were leaf shaped with long, straight edges, pointed at one end.

About 40 perforators were excavated in at least five forms. Most were made of gray chert, argillite, and red jasper. They measured 1-3/8” to 2-3/4”.

Netweights were the usual type. A flat sandstone tablet notched on both sides, they numbered over 6,000. Numerous hammerstones were found. Most were ovate, water-worn cobbles with both ends battered, or pitted stones with used edges. The majority was made of sandstone, granite and quartzite.

Long cylindrical pestles occurred at all depths of excavation and numbered over 100, the longest being 17” in length. Numbers of mullers, made of quartzite and granite, round or ovate, exceeded the number of pestles.

Mortars and metates numbered over 200. All were made of sandstone, some were bi-concave, the largest weighed upwards of 40 lbs. Crude, chipped celt-like tools made of sandstone, thought to be choppers or digging instruments, numbered about 20. Of the polished stone implements, celts dominate. Most were made of green slate, limestone, or basalt and numbered 260+, measuring from 2-1/2” to 8”. The Lamoka celt is rectangular in outline.

Adzes numbered about 150. Made of the same materials as the celts, they were beveled or faceted in form. They were found in clear association with the narrow bladed arrow point and antler pendant objects from the lower to middle part of deposit. 

Grooved axes were found on the surface of the site, made of fine-grained granite. At a depth of 10”, a bannerstone was excavated, but only half of it was found. It was made of a black slate, well fashioned and 2-1/4” in length.

Bone, Antler, Pottery and Shell
The Lamoka village people were obviously superior workman in bone, manufacturing mostly awls, splintered and made from the fractured sections of long bones. Scapula of deer was used for knives, scrapers and punches. Cups were fashioned from the carapace of the box turtle. Fish stringers or pendants of unknown use were plentiful.

Antler implements were found abundantly in the site including four entire antlers, including some pendant-like implements with chisel and pointed tops with traces of red paint, including unusual perforated specimens.

Of particular interest was an antler pendant made from a whole antler with six incised circles and small-drilled pits, probably filled once with paint. This unique pendant resembles several Neolithic specimens from Switzerland in Rochester Museum collections. Another unique antler artifact is cut and scraped from a pronghorned antler, bearing 45 deep notches. Found 12” from the top surface, a protruding collar beneath. No complete piece came to light, but parts of others were recovered, two having animal effigies on them. The Lamoka site is known as one of only a few sites where painted bone has ever been found in New York.

Ocean shell objects consisted of beads and pendants from conch, mostly from excavated graves. Some skeletons had shell necklaces or beads scattered on their bodies and around the grave.

Pottery was almost completely absent from the deposits, with the exception of a few shallow refuse pits or on the lodge floor. Fabric marks incised on some shards belonging to basic ceramic type of the Middle and North Atlantic region. The only traces of vegetable food were acorns and nuts.
The Human Remains
Agriculture was apparently unknown as was a complex pottery. Shelter was most likely a bark house, with each hut floor showing occupation through sand, ash, and refuse.

No cemetery being discovered, the burials were found in sporadic layers of the village site. Some were purposeful, prepared ritual burials, others random disposal in refuse pits. The importance to the site is the two distinct types represented. They were a well marked(long-headed) gracile skull and an equally broad headed skull, showing the two as differing greatly in physical attributes. Mutilated skeletons, infants exhumed from refuse pits, and distinct artifacts
testify to the two as hostile enemies and as victor (broad-headed) recovered from graves with burial offerings, to the vanquished, (long-headed) recovered from graves with burial offerings, to the vanquished (long-headed) burial from refuse pits and shallow graves.

The Lamoka is interesting in that the artifacts recovered represent a great variety of stone and bone implements and constitutes a living village of two distinct cultures and the human remains found at the site, which were extensively excavated, represent two well-defined cranial types and cultures. The earliest villagers, tall and slender, strong but not massive, were in marked contrast to their conquerors.