By Jackie Rocheleau

Most visitors to New York State begin and end their trips in New York City. But those traveling outside the urban center can experience the rich history of the region across the millennia.
The best place to start would be the state capital, Albany, at the New York State Museum, home to exhibits of the state’s history from the Pleistocene to the present. One of the museum’s larger exhibits, “First Peoples,” chronicles human existence in the area beginning with the last ice age. Among the artifacts on display are stone tools from 7000–5000 B.C., excavated from a rare, largely undisturbed site in the Susquehanna Valley. Through this collection of net sinkers, milling stones, scrapers, knives, and drills used for hunting and gathering, coupled with detailed dioramas, you can readily imagine a day in the life of Archaic period people. The Iroquois portion of the exhibit recounts their history and features a collection of smoking pipes shaped into human and animal figures, intricately decorated bone combs, and clay pots from an Iroquois longhouse dated to A.D. 1450-1600.
More recent finds shed light on life since the European arrival in what is now Albany. When the Dutch first arrived in 1624, they christened the area Fort Orange. The museum houses 36,000 artifacts from that period, including tobacco pipes stamped with a maker’s mark of a tulip, sherds of Dutch majolica dishes, and an ornate bronze cannon. The museum also features stories and artifacts from New York City, both before and after it became the metropolis it is today.

The blacksmith's shop at the Chittenango Landing Canal Boat Museum.
Credit: CLCBM

Fort William Henry has been reconstructed. The original fort was destroyed in 1757.
Credit Courtesy Fort William Henry Museum

Eighteenth century military and domestic artifacts recovered from Saratoga Battlefield.
Credit: NPS / Chris Valosin

The Iroquois Museum building is a work of art designed in the shape and spirit of the traditional longhouses that once graced the valleys of Upstate New York. Archaeology and history exhibits focus on the ancestors of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois). The museum represents the world’s most comprehensive collection of contemporary Haudenosaunee art work. | Credit: Stephanie Shultes

This elk tooth dress is displayed in the Plains and Southwestern section of the Saint Kateri Tekakwitha National Shrine & Historic Site’s museum. Noted hunters in Plains societies often have such dresses made for young women in the family.
Credit: Saint Kateri Tekakwitha National Shrine & Historic Site

This is an article excerpt from the Summer 2022 edition of American Archaeology Magazine.  Become a member of The Archaeological Conservancy for your complimentary subscription!


| The Archaeological Conservancy 2022


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