Site hosted by Build your free website today!


A new tool kit, the Susquehanna Tradition, made it's appearance in New England during the Terminal Archaic and archaeologists are still debating what this meant. The debate is centered on whether this phenomenon indicates migration, minor cultural change or major cultural change. The Susquehanna Tradition was the last major tradition of the Archaic period in the northeast and was recognized chiefly by carved steatite bowls, crude ceramics, ground stone tools and a variety of Broadspear points (Pagoulatos 1988 : 71). The tradition first appeared between 4100 and 3600 years ago (Dincauze 1972 : 40), and lasted until approximately 2700 B.P., although there are instances of sites with dates of 2400B.P. (Pagoulatos 1988 : 72) from the Connecticut River valley. It is believed that the people of the Susquehanna tradition were oriented towards coastal and riverine locales and possibly basing their subsistence strategies on wild plants foods, fish, and other estuarine resources (Pagoulatos 1988 : 32). The indicators of this tradition are mainly the large bifacially flaked stone tools with large shoulders and tapered or straight stems. These blades were manufactured along the same technological guidelines that are trademark of the Susquehanna tradition (Dincauze 1975 : 55). The raw material was reduced by percussion with a hard hammer of stone or antler until it was a biface approximately the size of the proposed artifact. The biface was further worked with a smaller hammerstone or antler to thin and shape it. At this point the attention was turned to the stem and shoulders which were further shaped and reduced through direct pressure flaking. The next step, which was recognized on blades from Maine to Georgia, was completed through the use of indirect percussive force applied by a blunt punch to create a single stem to shoulder curve (Dincauze 1975 : 41). The choice of raw materials for these blades was similar also from the Carolina Piedmont to Maine. The preference was chert but when it was not available fine grained igneous and metamorphic rocks would do. In New England there was wide spread use of rhyolites, andesites, and trachytes, while to the north it appears that Kineo rhyolites and felsite were popular. But to the south on Cape Cod and the Islands there was predominate use of quartzites and slates (Dincauze 1975 : 42). The use of these broad blades creates a controversy itself, and Jay Custer in his paper "Notes on Broadspear Functions" tries to address that smaller controversy. He states that " combined data on broadspear widths show that large number of broadspears fall outside the size range for optimum penetration on the high side and would not have been efficient projectile points due to their large size." (Custer 1991 : 65) It was also pointed out that there is an effective point of separation at 30mm. Anything more would create a bouncer or non-penetrating point, and 65% of all studied blades fall into that category(Custer 1991 : 65). Also studied was breakage patterns and through the studying of large assemblages it was confirmed that large numbers of the fractures were transverse fractures, evidence of knife use, while only a small minority had impact fractures. This seems to suggest that the blades were being used more for knives than as projectile points. The Susquehanna tradition in New England appears to have coexisted with the narrow point traditions (Dincauze 1975 : 27; Pfieffer 1990 : 102; Pagoulatos 1988 : 91), while on the other hand in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and southern New York it appears to have displaced the narrow point tradition (Dincauze 1975 : 27). In the southern states the single dominant culture was divided into four stylistic phases: Lehigh, Perkiomen, Susquehanna, and Dry Brook, all dating between 3800 - 3200B.P.. In New England there is only major representation of three, the Atlantic or Snook Kill complex, the Watertown phase and the Coburn phase (Dincauze 1975 : 29). The earliest dates for the Snook Kill and Atlantic complexes are 3430B.P.and between 4100 and 3600 B.P. respectively. The Atlantic complex of Southeastern New England gave way to the Watertown phase. The Watertown phase appeared to be a period of cultural consolidation, establishment of trade routes, and central based territoriality (Dincauze 1975 : 27). This new phase is represented by three dates of 3470 B.P., at the Vincent site in Sudbury MA, 3430 B.P., at the Flat River site in Washington RI, and 3620 B.P. at the Litchfield site in Litchfield NH (Dincauze 1972 : 57). To these people steatite became more important and their subsistence strategies became more selective and focused on local resources (Dincauze 1975 : 27). The Coburn phase emerged after the Watertown phase and is represented by dates of 3200 from a site in Rhode Island It seems to represent a further intensification of "social and cultural amalgamation" (Dincauze 1975 : 27) and the use of steatite grew. By 3000 B.P. the Susquehanna tradition had started to give way to the Orient phase of Long Island (Ritchie 1969 : 222) which marked the end of the tradition. The appearance of the Broad blades and related lithic assemblages of the Susquehanna tradition has created much debate between Northeast archaeologists. There are some who view the Susquehanna blades as an expansion of the Late Archaic tool kit for specialized cutting and scraping of maritime resources. They believe that this new Broad blade was an adaptation by the local populations whose tool kits were dominated by narrow stemmed points (Cook 1976 : 353). On the other hand there are some who believe the Broad blades indicate a migration of new cultural groups northward along the eastern seaboard. The new people moved into areas that were populated by narrow stemmed peoples and coexisted creating a new culture in the region (Dincauze 1972 : 133; Turnbaugh 1975 : 62). In order for this to be true there must be evidence that there were two distinctly different groups of people subsiding in the same geographical area. It is on this assumption that Pagoulatos bases his tests in his report on the Terminal Archaic sites along the southern end of the Connecticut River. In "Terminal Archaic Settlement and Subsistence in the Connecticut River Valley" Pagoulatos puts forth the evidence of two different groups living in Connecticut River Valley and tests two competing hypotheses, major cultural change and migration versus minor cultural change. The Salmon Cove phase which is a local manifestation of the Susquehanna tradition dates from 3800 - 2400 B.P. and is characterized by Snook Kill, Susquehanna Broad, and Orient Fishtail blades, steatite bowls, cord marked ceramics, cremations and riverine settlement pattern (Pagoulatos 1988 : 72). Pagoulatos started by analyzing the sites, mainly because he believed that if the Susquehanna sites represent a new cultural system then one would expect to find a full range of sites with a wide range of activities taking place at each. On the other hand if the sites represent a maritime technology subsystem of the Late Archaic narrow stemmed people then the sites where Broad blades were found would be limited to a few artifacts that would point to tasks of the specialized nature Pagoulatos 1988 : 73). Pagoulatos went on further to separate the Salmon Cove sites into three groups, residential, field camp, and special purpose locations. The residential sites should be large in size and provide evidence for a wide range of manufacturing, maintenance, and procurement activities. This was the case as the residential camps contained the following indicators of a complete cultural system there such as hearths, storage pits, trash pits, activity area and post molds. There was also a highly variable tool assemblages which implicitly implies that a wide range of activities took place such as hide working, tool manufacturing, woodworking and food processing (Pagoulatos 1988 : 74). The field camps were smaller in size, 50m to 300m; while locations were even smaller, 10m to 50m. The field camps and locations were characterized by limited range of artifacts and features. The field camps and locations show much less intrasite variability and more intersite variability. These sites were probably primary animal and plant processing stations located away from the larger residential camps (Pagoulatos 1988 : 75). His second hypothesis necessitated an analysis of the single component internal sites of the Salmon Cove phase. If occupants assigned to the Susquehanna tradition represent a separate complete cultural system, the area should yield only Broad blades and there should not be a sign of narrow points (Pagoulatos 1988 : 75), and the opposite would be true if it was the case that this tradition was just a specialized activity. But in fact Timothy Steven's (54-25) 2740 B.P., a residential camp found near the Connecticut River, yielded large amounts of hearths, flaking stations, storage pits, trash pits, post molds, manufacturing debris, retouched tools, Broadspear points, steatite bowl fragments and food remains. (Pagoulatos 1988 : 76). The same could be said of other residential camps such as the Blashick site (6MD40), Parkos site (41-18) 2200 B.P., and the Horse Barn site (54-24). By contrast the residential camps of the narrow stemmed people such as Bear Swamp Knoll (1-1), Rufus Brook (32-47) 3620 B.P., and the Last site (12-17) 3740 B.P. tend to be smaller and do contain narrow stemmed point but no Broad blades (Pagoulatos 1988 : 78). Pagoulatos goes on to further test his hypothesis a third time to determine whether or not the Susquehanna tradition did in fact represent a new separate culture. He believed that if sites of the Susquehanna tradition did in fact represent a complete cultural system then it should be expected to have the full range of sites, in regard to seasonal function and location. But if these sites represented a specialized activity of the narrow stemmed tradition then one would expect to find these blades only in specialized sites (Pagoulatos 1988 : 78). It was found that Salmon Cove residential camps were located along terraces and in wooded areas where there was high woodland resource potential. The smaller camps were located along upland streams. The opposite could be said for the narrow point people who moved between wetland areas, residential camps, and uplands areas (Pagoulatos 1988 : 85). In the Pagoulatos study there are three conclusions that are suggested. First, the people of the narrow point tradition were in the Connecticut River Valley when the Broad blade people arrived around 3600 B.P.. Secondly between 3600 B.P. and 2700 B.P. the Broad blade people occupied the riverine sites, and third these two distinctly different people coexisted in the same area due to different subsistence patterns (Pagoulatos 1988 : 89). While major cultural change is one of the beliefs of archaeologists concerning the Susquehanna tradition it's major competitor is the migration theory of which Turnbaugh is a major promoter. Turnbaugh puts forth the hypothesis that a new intensive maritime economy based on shad, alewife and shellfish originated along the southeastern coast of the United States around 4500 B.P.. This new technology, the Broadpoint Culture, then spread north up for the coast for three different reasons. First of all, there was a new improved technology which used dugout canoes, cooking vessels, fish weirs, nets and the Broad blade. It is believed that this new technology was devised to aid in the harvesting of maritime resources. Secondly, there was a climatic warming and rising sea level which expanded the ecosystem. Thirdly were social factors brought on by this new technology's success and further the rise in population connected to this success (Turnbaugh 1975). He states further that "the Broadpoint culture represents a cluster of traits and certainly involves lifeways that were fundamentally distinct from those they preceded and presumably displaced" (Turnbaugh 1975 : 57). This statement itself seems to represent a different point of view or interpretation because it appears that he is describing a culture change, but Turnbaugh does try to justify his claim through the use of Rouse's five criteria for migration. .. ...first, the assemblage is an intrusive unit as suggested the just cited evidence, which included interrupted cultural sequences ; second, a homeland for the manifestation has been located in the southern coastal plain; third, all occurrences of the Broadpoint units appear within a relatively short time span, taking into account the considerable distance involved; fourth, favorable conditions for occupation in the recipient areas included climate, riverine conditions, fish, and other fauna in abundance; and fifth the wholesale appearance of entire cultural units across a wide area cannot be directly accounted for by any other hypothesis. (Turnbaugh 1975 : 57) Although Turnbaugh is quick to point out migration, Cook in his report "Broadpoint: Culture, Phase, Horizon, Tradition or Knife?" is even quicker in his rebuttal of Turnbaugh's ideas. Cook believed that Turnbaugh's hypothesis had a number of elements that were not answered. On account of this he put forth his own hypothesis. Cook believed that the Broadpoint tradition was in fact a horizon and should not be misconstrued as being a major culture (Cook 1976 : 352). But instead he implied that it was a just a cultural adaptation to a subsistence strategy, with the Broad blades being used as heavy duty cleaving devices. But throughout he implies that the tradition is basically the Late Archaic people's adaptation to maritime resources. He also believes that the cultures of the Broad point people are too diverse in terms of other dimensions to allow them to all be classified as a single Broadpoint Culture. Cook summarizes the Broadpoint Culture through direct dimensional analysis: (1) the distribution of carved and incised bone pins, steatite vessels, fiber-temper pottery, and mortuary customs is so different from the distribution of broadpoints that I see little evidence for a Broadpoint Culture. (2) The technology of the proposed Broadpoint Culture is neither distinctive from other Late/Transitional groups, nor are the proposed special fishing gear, such as the fishweir, necessarily the invention of the Broadpoint Culture. (3) The proposed adaptation to anadromous fish and shellfish seems to occur along the east coast whenever local environmental conditions (sea level, water temperature, salinity, etc. ) permit, and the suggestion of a northwards migration spreading this technology is superfluous. (4) The distribution of steatite suggests that a high degree of culture contact occurred, and the dissemination of information about maritime adaptations seem easier to accept than a physical migration. (5) The available archaeological evidence suggests that the mortuary aspects of the Broadpoint Culture are derived locally from the north, rather than the south. (6) Broadpoint Culture, even if it did exist in the Southeast, did not move lock, stock, and barrel into the Northeast. (Cook 1976 : 349) This dimensional analysis of the Broadpoint components clearly shows that the Broadpoint culture, as defined by Turnbaugh, did not exist (Cook 1976 : 350). In regards to the Susquehanna tradition I believe it is safe to say that every archaeologist seems to have his or her own opinions. It is my personal feeling that the phenomenon of the Broad blade is such a dynamic controversy due to these many different hypotheses. It appears that Turnbaugh's hypothesis of migration is fading with time, while Cook's theory, minor culture change, still remains a possibility. But the hypothesis that I support is that of Dincauze's in her 1972 article where she states " ...culture appears to have come into southeastern New England from the Middle Atlantic Coastal Plain and Piedmont area. Certainly no mass migration was involved, but rather a slow trickle of foraging bands, a population expansion of sort...There is no evidence, either, that the artifacts typical of the Atlantic phase simply replaced functional counterparts in the native cultures; rather, continuity of the native cultures seems to be indicated (Dincauze 1972 : 58-9). This hypothesis is furthered by Pagoulatos in 1988 when he concluded that his survey revealed evidence of two groups coexisting in the same region because their individual subsistence strategies exploited different resource zones (Pagoulatos 1988 : 91). Pfeiffer in his 1990 report The Late and Terminal Archaic Periods in Connecticut Prehistory also supports this conclusion when he states there were two separate cultural entities in the Connecticut River Valley during the Terminal Archaic period. In conclusion I believe that there is no way to finally solve this dilemma without thorough examinations of several sites of the Susquehanna tradition. It appears to me that several people could all evaluate the same artifacts and materials and could probably come up with different decisions, so it will be necessary to have parties of all three controversies involved in these future activities. These future research projects should consist of several sites across the area, first research should be done on the Broad blades themselves so a final conclusion can be made concerning their role. Then there should be a concentrated study on the subsistence strategies of the Broad blade people, through whatever faunal and floral remains there might be. Finally, every site and assemblage that contained a Broad blade should be inspected and evaluated, with great emphasis being put on dates, lithic materials and their sources and Broad blade style. By compiling a database with all the dates, lithics and styles on the east coast it might be possible to see a pattern of migration or cultural change, or a lack there of. Until such a study and intensified excavations become a reality, the Susquehanna Tradition will remain an enigma for all archaeologists. Bibliography Bourque, B.J. 1976 The Turner Farm Site: A Preliminary Report. Man in the Northeast 11 : 11-30. Braun, David P. 1974 Explanatory Models for the Evolution of Coastal Adaptations in Prehistoric New England. American Antiquity 39(4) : 582- 596. Cook, T. 1976 Broadpoint: Culture, Phase, Horizon, Tradition, or Knife. Journal of Anthropological Research 32 : 337-357. Custer, J. 1991 Notes on Broadspear Functions. Archaeology of Eastern North America 19 : 51-73. Dincauze, D.F. 1971 An Archaic Sequence for Southern New England. American Antiquity 36(2) : 194-198. 1972 The Atlantic Phase: A Late Archaic Culture in Massachusetts. Man in the Northeast 4 : 40-61. 1975 The Late Archaic Period in Southern New England. Arctic Anthrpology 12(2) : 23-34. 1976 The Neville Site, 8,000 Years at Amoskeag. Harvard University Printing Office, Cambridge. Kenyon, T.L. 1980 The George Davidson Site: An Archaic "Broadpoint" Component in Southeastern Ontario. Archaeology of Eastern North America 8 : 11-28. Pagoulatos, P. 1988 Terminal Archaic Settlement and Subsistence in the Connecticut River Valley. Man in the Northeast 35 : 71-96. Pfeiffer, J. 1980 The Griffin Site: A Susquehanna Cremation Burial in Southern Connecticut. Man in the Northeast 19 : 120-133. 1990 The Late and Terminal Archaic Periods in Connecticut Prehistory: A Model of Continuity. Pp. 85-104 in Experiments and Observations on the Terminal Archaic in the Middle Atlantic Region, edited by R. Moeller. Archaeological Services, Bethlehem, CT. Ritchie, William A. 1969 The Archaeology of Martha's Vineyard. Natural History Press, New York. 1971 a Typology and Nomenclature for New York Projectile Points. New York State Museumand Science Service Bulletin 384. Snow, Dean R. 1980 The Archaeology of New England. Academic Press, Inc. New York. Turnbaugh, W. 1975 Toward an explanation of the Broadpoint Dispersal in Eastern North American Prehistory. Journal of Anthropological Research 31 : 51-66.