This month as I drive down narrow country roads on my way to work, the sunlight shines at low angles through the tree canopies ahead, reminding me of an earlier time when I walked through October light in Albany, New York’s Washington Park on my way to the State Museum. It was the late 1970s, and I had come to Albany from Binghamton to study with State Archaeologist Bob Funk, supported by a SUNY pre-doctoral research fellowship.
Because history gives meaning to places, I have looked closely at reconstructing the history of Frontenac Island. This appears to be a very long and eventful history.
If history is the process of human life experienced, symbolized, and remembered, then Frontenac Island must be one of the oldest and most significant historic places in New York State.
Arthur Parker had long suspected that New York State’s prehistoric past featured a very ancient era before the invention of pottery and agriculture. By the early 1920s, he referred to this poorly-documented period as the Archaic Algonkian (Parker 1922). He also recognized another early culture that he called Eskimo-like due to the presence in artifact assemblages of polished stone (especially slate) items similar to those used historically by Inuit people. The Eskimo-like artifacts included ground and polished ulus (a.k.a. semi-lunar knives) and projectile points or knife blades, which in some places were found with other polished stone types such as plummets and gouges (these later were grouped together as diagnostic types of Laurentian Archaic assemblages; Ritchie 1944). Parker (1922) was not sure which was earlier, the Archaic Algonkian or Eskimo-like culture.