Archaeology is “the study of human history and prehistory through the excavation of sites and the analysis of artifacts and other physical remains.” Within the Byway corridor moisture and the changing seasons within our climate slowly rot, oxidize and/or decay anything iron, even limestone over the centuries. Materials buried by flood sediment and held in anoxic state can survive longer, but finding and documenting these artifacts is a meticulous science and a bit of art.
It is said that Native People grew maize in the floodplain along the Mohawk River. Local farmers have pointed out that each time they plow the rich river valley soils they are apt to discover flint arrow heads. When first laid out many of the present day local roads followed well established routes used by Native Americans. A local historian claims that there are mortars along a tributary to the Mohawk as it cascades over “Buttermilk Falls” east of Rexford where Native Americans are said to have ground maize.
Archaeology is not one of the intrinsic qualities that was used when the Mohawk Towpath Byway’s Corridor Management Plan was put together, edited or published. Perhaps as times evolve and as more funding become available this intrinsic quality could be researched and more fully appreciated.
Many areas in the older sections of our historic communities where archaeologic investigations could be fruitful. These might include:
A number of these areas have been studied, most notably are the investigation of early Dutch settlement within Schenectady’s Stockade. Other potential sites have not been studied, and some have been buried under years of flood deposition. Each has it’s own story related to others and all supporting, in a small way, the story of the waterway west.
As we investigate more recent history some of the most interesting resources are the original maps and engineering drawings of the Erie Canal construction through the City of Cohoes. Copies of these plans are framed and mounted in Cohoes City Hall. The originals are in the State Archives in the New York State Library. Another interesting advancement in the field of archaeology is the use of such tools as ground penetrating radar. I was introduced to this technology in my previous profession. In the hands of a highly qualified professional this can be a helpful tool for screening a potential archaeological site.