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Old Berm Dig - July 13, 2014

Louis A. Brennan Lower Hudson Chapter of New York State Archaeological Society excavated a small test pit at the Archaeological Preserve in Croton Point Park to search for evidence of an old berm supporting a pallisade wall. NYSAA members Bill Kelleher, Pat Wilson, Scott Horecky, Marilyn Littman, Polly Midgely, John Phillips and County Parks volunteer Abby Markward participated, under the direction of archaeologist Tim Lloyd of John Milner Assoc.         

On the "model airplane field" plateau at Croton Point there is an approx 50 foot long, 4 foot wide, 4 inch tall curved and rounded rise of earth running east to west from the electric/phone distribution box on the southeast corner of the plateau. This has been portrayed as a remaining stretch of a prehistoric berm supporting a pallisaded wall once enclosing many acres.

This area has been exposed to disturbance from the "Bungalow Colony" habitations (circa 1930-1960), decades of occasional foot and vehicular traffic and erosion and compression during Hurricane Sandy cleanup and continuing landfill methane vent repair work. Recent efforts to protect the landform have had varying success although it is not technically in a high traffic area. 

The excavation on Sunday was an effort to determine if the landform was verifiable as a prehistoric structure; a contemporary historic structure; or undetermined. If prehistoric it is unique in this area: an important cultural landmark which should be agressively preserved and interpreted. If contemporary we could safely abandon efforts to preserve it. If undetermined it should be preserved in the short term while research and inquiry continue. 

NYSAA excavated a 1 meter by .5 meter test pit to a depth of 43 cm (17 inches) in 10 cm increments (or upon encountering a change in soil horizon). All soil was screened through 1/4 inch mesh. At 33 cm deep (13 inches) we encountered a sandy subsoil where evidence of prehistoric post holes would be found- if posts were left to rot in place and the soil chemistry was conducive to preservation. No post hole traces were found in this test pit. The top 13 inches of soil had a few historic artifacts (two round nails, six small pieces of clear broken glass, seven small pieces of plaster or asbestos tile, one 5.5 inch long cotter pin. This is random debris scatter and does not indicate the location of a structure, instead it may indicate spreading of 20th century fill over a wider area, including on top of a berm.

The finding's from the dig were inconclusive. We should make best efforts to preserve the structure in the immediate future and come up with a plan and schedule for further inquiry. 

Hope to see you at the next dig! John Phillips

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