Museum Moment – The Paleoindian Database Project


I’m Jon Lothrop, I’m the curator of archaeology
here at the New York State Museum and I’m starting a new research project called the
New York Paleoindian Database Project. This research tries to track how the first inhabitance
of New York known as Paleoindians colonized the region at the end of the ice age 13,000
years ago. We’re doing this by studying the locations of discovery and characteristics
of the these artifacts called fluted points. The most distinctive feature of these artifacts
is what archeologists call the channel scar or flute that you see on both sides of this
stone point tip and archeologists believe that that was important for hafting these
artifacts on a spear or lance that was used for hunting caribou and mastodon. When we look at these different Paleoindian
point forms across New York what we see is that the earliest forms are all fluted and
date between 12,900 and 11,600 years ago. And then very suddenly at 11,600 years ago
the point forms change, they’re not fluted anymore, they’re just these distinctive lance
shaped forms. What we’ve come to realize is this sudden
change in the point technology coincides with an abrupt climate change at the end of the
iceage when the environment rapidly warmed probably over one person’s lifetime. And this
led to changes from a spruce parkland across New York State to a closed forest. Mastodons
went extinct, caribou migrated out of the New York region and these people had to adapt
to hunting different types of animals like moose and deer. I think this research is important because
it provides us with one example of how peoples in the prehistoric past dealt with abrupt
climate change, something that we are all facing today. For more information visit the NYPID website.

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