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Anthropology
Completed Project

Excavation and Analysis of Paint Mine Rock Shelter on the Shawangunk Ridge, New York State

Penelope Duus, Vassar College ’17, Stephanie Tapolsky, Vassar College ’17, Alaina Wilson, Vassar College ’16 and Prof. Lucy Johnson 

The Paint Mine Rock Shelter site is one of many prehistoric shelters located on the Shawangunk Ridge in New York State. The site is composed of both a large rock shelter and a terrace area below. Historically, looters have disturbed the site, and in the summer of 2013 Professor Lucy Johnson and a team of URSI students opened excavations. The 2013 findings led us to focus further excavations on specific areas both inside the shelter and on the terrace. Inside the shelter, the areas excavated by our team over this summer contained unlooted deposits, most  of which had been protected under large rocks which were moved prior to starting this summer’s excavations.  Our goal was to continue assessment of the nature and time period of usage at the site. Like other Native American sites in the Shawangunk Ridge, this site seems to show periodic occupation from its first use until close to European contact. Thus far, projectile points recovered from the shelter  mostly date from the Late Archaic Period (3500-1723 BCE), with one point each from the Archaic to Woodland Transitional Period (1275-850 BCE) and Mid-Late Woodland Period (700-1350 CE). The one point found on the terrace dates to the Mid-Late Woodland Period. Fragments of a soapstone bowl (1750 BCE-700 CE) found inside the shelter suggest a more extended occupation than is seen at similar sites in the region. This find contradicts the proposal made based on the 2013 excavations, which indicated short-term occupation. Future excavations and analysis will provide a more comprehensive look at the usage of the site. Once a more complete picture of the site has been formed, data will be compared with those from other large shelters, such as the Cuddeback and Peterskill shelters, and small shelters such as Trapps Gap and Ski Minni, to gain a greater understanding of Native American occupation in the Shawangunk Ridge.