Saratoga County

Early town man didn’t hang around area

Thousands of years ago, ancient humans hunted for food in what is now Clifton Park.


Thousands of years ago, ancient humans hunted for food in what is now Clifton Park.

Fred Stevens, who serves on the board of the Iroquois Indian Museum, said after the Ice Age subsided 16,000 years ago and a large sheet of ice melted, it created the river and the landscape that make up the Mohawk River Valley. The runoff from that glacier melt created a lot of underground water and natural springs and streams, Stevens said. These rivers attracted animals and people.

“That’s what drew the first Native Americas to the area,” he said Sunday at a talk at Grooms Tavern. About 50 people attended the lecture, which was sponsored by the Friends of Historic Grooms Tavern.

Stevens said people have speculated that the first humans possibly came from Europe and crossed Bering Strait between eastern Russia and what is now Alaska. This may have been frozen over during the Ice Age and created a land bridge.

Stevens said there has not been any archaeological evidence to suggest that there were any settlers in Clifton Park before 12,000 years ago. However, the evidence suggests that there were people as far back as 10,000 years ago.

“Clifton Park was richly settled by very early bands of hunter and gatherers,” he said.

However, these settlers did not put down very deep roots and quickly moved on to other areas. Stevens said there are no signs of long-term occupation, for example, chippings that would have resulted from them making “projectile points” — or arrowheads. Instead, they found whole arrowheads that could have been dropped when hunters were passing through the area.

Stevens showed some arrowheads that have different shapes and other distinguishing features that can be used to determine their age.

“The Native Americans tended to change designs the way we change designs on cars,” he said.

If there is the presence of carbon in these artifacts, Stevens said they can use carbon dating to determine the age.

He said apparently 3,500 years was the height of this movement of people. Starting about 3,000 years ago, stone pottery artifacts began appearing. He said in the Clifton Commons site, people have found some projectile points dating to 2,000 years ago.

Most of the artifacts found in Clifton Park dates to the “Archaic” period between 10,000 and 3,000 years ago.

Stevens said he first became interested in collecting artifacts when he was 8 or 9 years old.

“It was like a treasure hunt,” he said.

Herman Finkbeiner of Clifton Park said he enjoyed learning about ancient history and how Clifton Park was settled.

“The thing that I didn’t realize is the sites that have been discovered don’t seem to be providing any sort of a pattern,” he said.

Alex Verrigni , chairwoman of the Friends of Historic Grooms Tavern, said this lecture was part of an effort to host historical talks about the town. On Oct. 3 at 7 p.m., Town Historian John Scherer will give a talk about the Clifton Park riverfront.

Categories: Schenectady County

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