Monday, April 19, 2010

Friends of Wickers Creek

I worked on the Wickers Creek Site in Dobbs Ferry, NY on an east-side Hudson River terrace, next to Mercy College and a former nunnery (Sisters of Mercy) that was sold to developers, the first one, in a real estate market "collapse" the second developer had his own personal helicopter, he flew in from his estate. The property had belonged to railroad "tycoon" Jay Gould whose wife, a Catholic, when she died, caused him to donate it to the "Sisters of Mercy". Many local protests were conducted against its development. Also a targeted "right-to-life" protest town, law enforcement in the small village, with a wonderful Tiffany stained-glass church was almost bankrupted.

Interestingly, a published avocational archaeologist from the Bronx, also the head of the college maintenance at Mercy College, (used the property for grounds-keeping dumping), related that the route of many dump trucks full of large stone to build Mercy College lower parking, compacted the dirt road so. It eventually required the rental of a small tracked backhoe to scrape through the first 20 cm to further test outside what the avocational archaeologist and friends had collected on weekends on the river terrace. The second developer had archaeologists watching his on-site archaeologists as the prior politicization of the overlook and archaeology ("Friends of Wickers Creek") and the large trees became an issue, as well as the need for campus dormitories, many students there stay in local houses. There had also been the rumor that "bodies" had been there excavated there, which was true, the nuns removed.

William I. Roberts, IV, M.Phil, RPA became the PI after the first developer read that Stuart Fiedel, PhD., whom he had hired, was quoted in the local paper as if he thought the site, evaluated for the National Register as most of the work done in public archaeology is, misunderstood, that it would be so, and thereby stopping the development. Mr. Fiedel had published a book, a prehistory of  the Americas, at Oxford University Press. Greenhouse Consultants, Inc. was called, and I worked as the crew chief for most of that stage of the work, no federal or state monies involved, a "courtesy" review was being done by a well known but anonymous archaeologist for the Dobbs Ferry Historian, who had heard and the town council, at the "eleventh hour" (actually five minutes before the vote) on the steps of their city hall, that then about to be approved development, should be held up, to excavate and document the five millennia of artifacts, for the village of Dobbs Ferry, which it was no longer, a Hudson River crossing.

We processed 12 c14 dates on the multi-component site, a new pottery type was discovered ("Wickers Creek") and a few thousands of artifacts found and curated in the vicinity of what a Westchester County monument cites as the "Last village of the Weckqueskeck" ( or see "Weckquaesgeek”) who were historically known to have lived in the Bronx and Westchester. They were reported trapped in an arranged ambush in nearby New Jersey, there for "protection from the Mohawk" during the "Indian wars" poorly overseen by then Governor Kieft, who was recalled back to the Netherlands and replaced by the former governor of Curacao, Peter Stuyvesant. The account of the "massacre" (or perhaps "atrocity") was published in "The American Heritage Book of Indians". It's thought one of the first treaties resulted thereby, between the English and the Dutch, and what remained of the Weckqueskeck were moved to perhaps the "first reservation" in New York, on the Nissequogue on the North Shore of Long Island, between Smithtown and Stony Brook, NY. A theory also goes along with that, moved in the search for better agricultural land, they may have settled on the Forge River on the Great South Bay, and then were a part of the current Unkechogue, Long Island natives, surviving, along with the Shinnecock, today further east in Southampton, NY.

The last features shown in profile, into the surface of the site, were a number of pointed postmolds which were interpreted by Mr. Roberts as "fish drying racks" just like he had read in the Ontario research of a site in Canada. I however, considering the former terrain and also the history of the American Revolution, a bayonet scabbard found, think they might have been perhaps part of some sort of camouflage, too small for large fish, hidden from the river before the lower parking lot was constructed. I think that because an interpretation is not necessarily right and should be left open, without proof. But perhaps the only postmolds to then yet be found in Westchester County, we might agree to disagree but agree they were there.

I understand Mr. Roberts has written an article on the site in a book edited by Herb Kraft, of Seton Hall University in New Jersey. You might find that reference there or call the Greenhouse Consultant's office off Wall St. on Exchange Place or use this email address of Mr. Roberts:

Note: This NAGPRA could be wrong:

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