Tuesday, August 24, 2004


A Stony Brook field team sifts through the Hudson River in search of submerged prehistoric artifacts


August 23, 2004

CROTON-on-HUDSON, N.Y. - It was tough digging, according to archaeology students Erin Head and Matt Napolitano.

Cold seeped through wet suits. Dislodged river muck swirled through the water. Visibility was only a few inches.

"Some days you can't see your hand in front of your face," said Head, waist-deep in a Hudson River bay. So it goes in the world of underwater archaeology.

Diggers this summer at Croton Point Park donned wet suits and scuba gear as they dug up discoveries beyond the reach of landlocked archaeologists.

Daria Merwin and a team of students found buckets of submerged stone artifacts where the Croton River flows into the Hudson, about 30 miles north of New York City.

"I know it's stone tools, but it's stone tools people haven't seen in a few thousand years," said Merwin, an adjunct professor at Stony Brook University.

Creeping sea levels over thousands of years are believed to have submerged settlements that stood by the water's edge.

The dig site today is a peninsular park by a commuter train station and the suburban bustle of Westchester County. But thousands of years ago, it was a wild area with easy access to sturgeon, berries, oysters and fresh water - a great spot for hunters and gatherers, according to Merwin. She was enticed to the site by a local's man discovery of washed-up artifacts.

Merwin, whose underwater work has included shipwrecks in the Hudson, recently devoted the first half of a six-week summer course in underwater archaeology to the Croton site.

The work is typical archaeology - sites are meticulously mapped into grids and methodically dug out. Pairs of divers follow a tape line about 150 feet out, then dig exploratory holes every 15 feet as they work back to shore. They use the same type of scoops found in hotel ice machines. Metal screens are used to sift the silt. Results are logged on clipboards, though divers write on waterproof Mylar instead of paper.

Low tide allows the divers to use snorkels.More than 100 stone artifacts have been bagged and tagged in the three weeks. Many artifacts are "cores," heavy stones from which spear points or other tools were made. Some artifacts are "flakes," leftover chippings from tool-making.

Working under hazy skies, Napolitano and Head found a good example of the latter - a finger-sized gray rock with ragged edges on either side."Holy cow, that's a big flake!" Merwin said as she waded out to examine her discovery.

That find was trumped later in the day by another pair of students who found an arrowhead - the first fully formed tool found at the site. Based on the design, Merwin believes the arrowhead is roughly 2,000 years old.

Copyright © 2004, Newsday, Inc.

Boas Pedro!

O teu Blog tá cada vez melhor...dá-lhe!!!

Um abraço.

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