1.1 The Iroquois Burial Pattern (Seneca Model)
1.2 The Iroquois Burial Pattern (Five Nations Model)
II. RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
III. ARCHAEOLOGICAL RECORD OF FIVE NATIONS IROQUOIS
3.1.1 History of Mohawk Research
3.1.2 Mohawk Burial Pattern
188.8.131.52 Mohawk Prehistoric Site Data
184.108.40.206 Mohawk Protohistoric Site Data
220.127.116.11 Mohawk Historic Site Data
3.2.1 History of Oneida Research
3.2.2 Oneida Burial Pattern
18.104.22.168 Oneida Prehistoric Site Data
22.214.171.124 Oneida Protohistoric Site Data
126.96.36.199 Oneida Historic Site Data
3.3.1 History of Onondaga Research
3.3.2 Onondaga Burial Pattern
188.8.131.52 Onondaga Prehistoric Site Data
184.108.40.206 Onondaga Protohistoric Site Data
220.127.116.11 Onondaga Historic Site Data
3.4.1 History of Cayuga Research
3.4.2 Cayuga Burial Pattern
18.104.22.168 Cayuga Prehistoric Site Data
22.214.171.124 Cayuga Protohistoric Site Data
126.96.36.199 Cayuga Historic Site Data
3.5.1 History of Seneca Research
3.5.2 Seneca Burial Pattern
188.8.131.52 Seneca Prehistoric Site Data
184.108.40.206 Seneca Protohistoric Site Data
220.127.116.11 Seneca Historic Site Data
APPENDIX A Wray and Schoff 1953
APPENDIX B Wray 1973:27-28
Miscellaneous Notes to be Considered
A pattern of mortuary
practice has been described for the prehistoric and early historic period
Seneca Iroquois of western New York State (Wray and
Schoff 1953, Appendix A; Wray 1973:27-28, Appendix
B). This pattern has been assumed for the other groups of the
New York Iroquois, the Five Nations in particular, despite the lack of
quantitative data. It is seen that certain aspects of this pattern
are not found among the Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida and Mohawk indicating
that the Seneca pattern should not be so strictly applied to the other
nations. The lack of burial data, despite decades of searching based
on the Seneca model, has never been fully recognized as indicative of a
different mortuary practice. This differing pattern cannot be explained
solely by the loss of data incurred from looting of the cemeteries and
The initial purpose of this
paper was not to redefine the patterns of Iroquois burial, nor was it intended
to add to the literature anything in the nature of a site report or report
of a burial excavation. In fact the author has only twice superficially
participated in the excavation of a human burial. While other Iroquoian
groups (in Ontario and Pennsylvania) have been defined on the basis of
their burial patterns or certain aspects of that pattern using archaeological
and/or ethnohistorical data (Kidd 1953; Heisey and Witmer 1962; Kapches
1976; Fitzgerald 1979; Johnson 1979; Pfeiffer 1980, 1983; Knight and Melbye
1983; Pendergast 1983; Ramsden and Saunders 1986; Dodd, et al., 1990; Tooker
1991; and others), a comprehensive description of the burial pattern of
the Five Nations Iroquois is noticeably lacking. The work of Wray
and Schoff (1953) and Wray (1973) is based
on the extensive Seneca data, but analysis of the available record shows
that the Seneca pattern is not shared in its entirety by the other nations.
Analytical and descriptive work such as that by Sempowski (1986, 1991),
Sublett and Wray (1970), and others have provided excellent examples of
what can be done with the materials recovered from controlled archaeological
explorations on a site by site or even feature by feature basis.
This sort of data does not exist, in any suitabel quantity, in the realm
of the archaeology of the other nations.
This paper argues that intensive examination of the Seneca record is not enough to make certain inferences for the other members of the Five Nations and that far more prescise determination of Nation to Nation relationships and temporal changes needs to be determined for all of the Five Nations and their neighbors before we can assume an overall pattern. Closer examination of all data, even if cursory as in this study, will lead to a fuller understanding of what the burial patterns indicate to the social, political, and physical worlds of the prehistoric and early historic period Iroquois.
1.1 The Iroquois Burial Pattern (Seneca Model)
The model of mortuary practices
of the Seneca Iroquois of western New York state was primarily formulated
by Charles Wray (Wray and Schoff 1953; Wray
1973, in Appendices A and B).
From the Seneca data set the burial pattern is seen as being a temporal
transition from a simple behavior (small grave fossae containing a tightly
flexed individual with no grave goods) to a more complex form (extended
individual with grave offerings) based on interaction and contact with
European technology and ideology. Cemeteries associated with habitation
sites are the norm and clan or moiety divisions are believed to account
for the presence of several burial loci at a given site. Stray ("winter")
graves, in-house burials, pit burials, and other burials within habitation
areas are uncommon although notice of this phenomena may be due to the
lack of settlement pattern explorations at Seneca sites.
1.2 The Iroquois Burial Pattern (Five Nations Model)
The mortuary practices of
the Five Nations Iroquois are inferred from sparse data that fits the pattern
observed in the Seneca data. Unfortunately this view has many hole
through it as there are major pieces of the Seneca pattern missing from
the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, and Cayuga sites. The mass of "negative
evidence" for burials in these other nations indicates that different mortuary
practices were followed and although this factor has been recognized it
has not been explored (Theodore Whitney, pers. comm.). In the many
sources that I found only Snow (1995a:148), without elaboration, suggests
that "special-purpose" burial sites, located away from the habitation sites,
may have been used.
With the influx of European made trade goods that flowed into the Iroquois communities in the sixteenth century, religious beliefs in the seventeenth, and then the European culture itself in the eighteenth, an overall pattern of Europeanization or reaction to European culture by the Five Nations Iroquois is observed or inferred. How the different Nations reacted to these outside influences is difficult to understand and define as much of the archaeological record has been damaged or destroyed by centuries of looting, collecting, and land development. To date no researchers have made observations about specific points of the pattern, no one has made observations about the whole of the Five Nations, nor has any Nation to Nation comparison been made.
There is little disagreement about the basic structure of the pattern, simple to complex as described briefly above, but major aspects of mortuary behavior are in need of clarification. The general pattern is seen as evolving from an Owasco mortuary pattern of single flexed interments with no or few artifactual offerings in grouped cemeteries near the habitation or village sites (Ritchie 1936; 1954:18, 51; 1965:323). As the Iroquois culture developed in prehistoric times the general pattern of burial was maintained without much variation. As European-made trade goods were acquired in the sixteenth century the practice of including these goods (with native made items) in the graves became more common. Ritchie (1954:51) wondered if this was the revival of a long latent system of grave offering that had last been observed in the Middle Woodland period, or if it was an expression of the "sense of opulence" in the possession of such exotic goods. It is possible that the purpose of placing huge quantities of goods into graves, seemingly at the poverty of the living, made the goods available in the after-world where they would be equally desired and needed.
The period of great change and modification occurs in the protohistoric period (Footnote 1) but this change is not uniform throughout the Five Nations. Variations in trade patterns and access to goods, and influence differences among the nations of the Iroquois Confederacy may have favored or limited the acquisition and possession of highly desired trade goods and thus their eventual disposition as grave goods. The major difference between the observed Seneca mortuary pattern and what is found among the other Five Nations Iroquois is the presence or absence of cemeteries through the protohistoric period. While grave dimension and shape, single interment, and elaboration of grave goods are maintained for those cemeteries (or at least burials) that are known, it is the absence of cemeteries on many sites that is significant. Because this factor (oft-ignored or unrecognized "negative evidence") has not been heretofore recognized or given its proper acknowledgement, the implications, meaning, or explanation of this factor and the causes, have not been explored.
While the Seneca have one or more cemeteries at each site throughout the protohistoric period, many of the major habitation sites or villages of the other Nations do not have cemeteries. Several protohistoric Mohawk sites have known cemeteries but most do not. There is only one known Oneida site with cemeteries in the whole eighty year period of the protohistoric and a single interment in the refuse of the Oneida Cameron Site may be a torture victim (Footnote 2). The Onondaga are also short on cemeteries but only sporadically, with most protohistoric sites having some burial data available. The Cayuga have suffered much from collectors who ravaged sites and destroyed the archaeological record that would have allow reconstruction of their burial pattern. The Seneca have an incredibly elaborate mortuary behavior that has been detailed by the work of several conscientious excavators and is being analyzed in greater detail by the staff of the Rochester Museum.
In spite of the historical and ethnographic evidence that shows that the Five Nations were periodically ravaged by contagious diseases of European origin for which they had no defense, there is no indication from the burial data that the Iroquois lost large portions of their population after sustained contact with the disease carriers. Fear of catching disease or evil spirits from the bodies of the deceased may have caused the Iroquois to place their cemeteries far from their habitation sites during the protohistoric and thus they are not found. The location of the Seneca, farthest of the Five Nations from the European settlements, may have kept them from falling victim to the severity of the diseases felt by the more eastern groups and their distance from the European settlements may account for their maintenance of pre-contact mortuary behavior (and higher rate of survival?). The increase of multiple interments in the protohistoric period has often been inferred to be evidence of pandemic diseases introduced from Europe, but recent work by Snow (1992, 1995a; pers. comm.) indicates that these diseases struck the Iroquois later than previously expected. Direct and sustained contact with the carriers of contagious disease (usually children and the sick) would be necessary for the disease to affect the interior populations and this does not seem to have happened in Iroquoia until the 1630s - nearly fifty years later than has been supposed.
Two references indicate that the Oneida and Cayuga used above-ground burial. Their date difference of nearly 150 years indicates that this practice may be more widespread than has been believed. In 1634 three "high" burials with elaborately painted palisades and structures are described for the Oneida, and in 1779 a Cayuga burial is described with a structure of elaborately painted plank walls, a roof, and viewing windows. No other ethnographic or historical references to such structures were found in my research, but the presence of these above-ground structures might explain the lack of subsurface archaeological grave fossae on many sites. The literature makes no mention of large scale areal excavation of cemetery sites, which would have found evidence of these fenced and post-in-ground structures, and burial excavation has focused on grave fossae alone. It is not clear if this form of burial would have been used during the time of epidemics.
Questionable historic references to cemeteries covering "several acres" are noted for the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, and Cayuga but there is no other evidence for this. If there were such large cemeteries that are unassociated with any known village site there would have been some record or recollection of such cemeteries from the memories of collectors or in the archival records and archaeological literature. These stories are often found in the same historical texts that describe races of giants and great battlegrounds that have also not been described by later researchers (Jones 1851:571 Hammond 1872:733).
In the early protohistoric period European-made trade goods are believed to have had special significance for their exotic qualities and are thus included in graves, not as utilitarian objects but as sources of magic or power (Bradley 1987; Hamell pers. comm.). By placing great quantities of goods into the graves the status-quo between the world of the living and the world of the dead was met (Snow pers. comm.). During the latter part of the protohistoric, as trade goods became common every-day objects, they continued to be placed in the graves, but not in such quantities as to be detrimental to the utility of the living. Differences in the inclusion of grave goods with certain individuals based on sex, age, or status do not seem to fit any particular pattern, but this may be a factor of the very partial data available.
Through the historic period (Footnote 3), from c. AD 1630, cemeteries are more common on sites of all Nations. There is a gradual change in body positioning from flexed to extended and placement of quantities of usable and valuable goods in graves continues. Only the type of goods interred has changed (guns, bottles, kettles, etc) but this may be more a reflection of the type of goods that were available rather than a preference for certain items. Size of the grave fossae only changes to fit the extended burials while depths decreased. Ceremonial evidence appears to be increasing, but is too different among the different Nations and the sporadic observers (traders, explorers, and missionaries) to evaluate the increase of this aspect. While evidence of burning at the grave site is noted for the Oneida and Seneca, it has not been noted in the Mohawk, Onondaga, and Cayuga archaeological literature. Based on the nature of the available data it could be argued that this is a result of the recovery rather than a difference of behavior.
The ethnological record gives much indication of the number of adoptees and refugees who came to live in the Five Nations territory (JR 27:287; 43:265; 44:21; 46:73, 231; 47:13; 67:71- 79, 185; Lafitau 1724 II:41). The mortuary influence of the numerous foreign tribes that came into the Five Nations Iroquois in the mid-seventeenth century has not been considered in any of the studies examined although some artifact studies have recognized certain contributions (Footnote 4). The Five Nations burial pattern is so different from that of many of their conquered and adopted neighbors that any influence shuld be readily noticed. An ossuary, typical of the Ontario Iroquoian groups, was found at the Seneca Bunce Site and is the only reported manifestation of the burial practices of these foreign groups in the Five Nations region (Houghton 1912).
Analysis of Christian influences on burial practices has likewise not been closely examined despite sustained contact between the Iroquois and missionaries for many years during the early historic period. The Huron refugee village of St. Michael was located in Seneca territory and here foreign and Christian influences would be found, although perhaps masked by general European influence. The ethnological record indicates that widespread acceptance of Christian burial practices was not forthcoming, if it ever arrived in the eighteenth century, until long after the Jesuits had left (JR 61:29, 64:85). Adding to the difficulty in finding such data in the regiosn of study is the fact that many of those Iroquois preferring Christian ways of life were encouraged to depart for the Christian refugee villages along the St. Lawrence River (JR 57:25).
I have included a brief outline
of the history of research on each group as it is obvious that the research
methodology (or lack thereof) employed by numerous excavators over several
generations is perhaps the most important factor in determinint the quality
of the data. As with the Cayuga, where early and extensive looting
has destroyed the majority of the archaeologica record, it might not be
possible to faithfully reflect the pattern that had once been there.
This also serves to point out that the lack of evidence for cemeteries,
such as the case for the Oneida sites, is not because they have not been
searched for. The opposite is the case. They just have not
been found where the model of mortuary behavior tell su they should be
located and thus they have not been found at all.
In order to more correctly interpret or reconstruct the pattern of burial behavior for the Five Nations Iroquois, it has been necessary to review all the data that is available. For the Mohawk and Cayuga few reports have been made although many burials have been found. For the Oneida, with which I am intimately familiar, there just isn't any data although it has been diligently searched for over the last five decades. Sporadic work has been done with the Onondaga sites and little burial data is available. On the other hand, the Seneca have an incredible data base with which many types of analysis have been carried out (Wray and Schoff 1953; Sublett and Wray 1970; Wray 1973; Sempowski 1986; Saunders, Sempowski, and Cervone 1988; Niemczycki 1988; Wray, et al., 1987, 1991; Sempowski 1991).
The following segments summarize the reports and recollections that could be located regarding the archaeological and historical record of burials in the Five Nations. Every attempt was made to incorporate all known and available reports, published and unpublished, that dealt with the primary archaeological data. Papers of secondary source nature are duly noted as such and comments are made upon their content and comparison is made to the other records available. Persons familiar with their respective regions of expertise were also consulted at length to retrieve unpublished data regarding burials.
The Mohawk Iroquois sites
of this study are principally located in and near Fulton County in the
central Mohawk Valley on both sides of the Mohawk River and its numerous
tributaries. See Snow (1995a) for the most recent synthesis of the
archaeological record of the Mohawk sites.
3.1.1 History of Mohawk Research
Despite extensive work on
several major sites, and the presence of many artifactually rich sites,
there has been very little written about the burial practices of the Mohawk.
While many sites are noted by Beauchamp (1900) and Parker (1922), there
has been little scholarly record made of the burial sites that have been
found. Many of them were looted following the American Revolution
when the Mohawks left the valley, and much early clandestine digging for
relics was done. This early looting and collecting was almost never
recorded, except perhaps briefly in local history books.
Despite that there have been a number of University field schools which examined large portions of habitation sites, extensive explorations by the New York State Museum, and intensive collector activity, there is little Mohawk burial data available. The most important field notes of Donald Lenig have not been available for research for some time (Snow, pers. comm.) and too many others made no notes. The professional archaeologists have searched for cemeteries, but have also steered clear of them (Snow, Funk, Rumrill, pers. comm.), and the few major publications have been artifact or settlement pattern studies (Lenig 1965, Ritchie 1969, Ritchie and Funk 1973, Snow 1985, Rumrill 1985), excepting Snow's (1995a) massive compendium of Mohawk Valley site data. The final interpretation of work conducted by the late Audrey Sublet has yet to be made (Saunders, pers. comm.) and the analysis of the extensive burial excavations made by Peter Pratt have not been completed.
3.1.2 Mohawk Burial Pattern
for Mohawk burial sites seem to be particularly stymied by the lack of
cemeteries at village sites. While a few sites do have communal plots
or cemeteries in the immediate vicinity of the habitation site the lack
of data has made it difficult to define any distinct trends of this factor.
As with the Oneida, Onondaga, and perhaps the Cayuga, the general lack
of cemeteries during the protohistoric period may indicate, as Snow (1995a:110)
has suggested, that there may be a central cemetery that has yet to be
identified. It is suspected that the placement of cemeteries away
from habitation sites might be the result of fears from the diseases that
ravaged the Mohawk and other Iroquois populations in the early 17th century,
but Snow's disease studies do not explain the absence of cemeteries in
the late 16th century before the effects of disease were felt in the inland
Snow (1995a:179, 226, 274, 276) also reports that later artifacts found in graves at Smith- Pagerie, Rice's Woods, Briggs Run, and Wagner's Hollow indicate that people were brought back to a site for burial after the village had been abandoned. (for burial at their birth-place or with family?).
Generally, those burials that have been found fit into the described Iroquois pattern of flexed unaccompanied bodies in the prehistoric, flexed or extended bodies with elaborate grave goods in the protohistoric, and then extended bodies with grave goods in the early historic. The lack of burials for many of the sites is the overwhelming factor of the Mohawk burial pattern.
18.104.22.168 Mohawk Prehistoric Site Data
Lenig (1965:22-23) recorded
that collectors had found several graves at the Oak Hill phase El Rancho
Site (dated by Snow 1995a:78 to about AD 1350 to 1400) located on a sandy
knoll in the valley bottom west of Palatine Bridge. There was no
further record of these burials, but Lenig reported that he found one burial
when the ridge was excavated for sand and gravel. It contained a
tightly flexed skeleton and the famed "El Rancho" pipe. Lenig thought
this site to be a cemetery, but Snow now thinks it to be a village site
with burials being made in abandoned storage pits rather than in an established
cemetery as was seen on earlier Owasco sites (Snow 1995a:78-79).
Snow (1995a:139) reports that burials were found at the Wormuth Site but that they relate to the earlier Oak Hill phase component of the site (1450+). Forty-four burials were found in 1967 to 1969 and nine more were found subsequently in the shadow of gravel mining operations. One of the burials excavated in 1967-1969 was buried in a tightly flexed position on the right side and had been dismembered with both arms and the right leg buried in the grave above the body. No grave goods were found with the burials but the presence of Oak Hill phase ceramics with the grave fill give a date for these burials. Of the nine burials found when the topsoil was stripped from the site for gravel mining four were recovered by William Starna who kept note of the findings (Snow 1995a:140). Burial 5 was an adult male buried in flexed position on his side with head to the west. Limestone slabs were placed in the grave as lining and to cover the body and evidence was seen of a bark lining. There were no grave offerings and this grave was perhaps 40 to 55 cm deep. Burial 7 was the remnant of an infant's burial and may have been an extended burial with the head to the east and no offerings. Burial 8 was of an adult buried in a "reclining sitting position" heavily disturbed by topsoil stripping but the situation of what remained indicated that it might have been a dismembered torture victim similar to one already noted. Burial 9 was an elderly female which was damaged in topsoil stripping. No offerings were found and a large limestone slab covered the pelvic region.
Ritchie and Funk (1973:307) noted that there were no burials at the Getman Site, dated by Snow to the second half of the fifteenth century (c. 1475). Snow (1995a:110) thinks that the absence of cemeteries at this site and in later periods suggests that there might have been a central cemetery that has yet to be discovered.
Squire (1849 2:59, plate XII) notes that the prehistoric Otstungo Site, dated by Snow between 1480 and 1525, had two cemeteries on slightly elevated land a few hundred feet (100 m) to the east of the village. A little more than thirty years later Jeptha Simms (1882:57) declared that no human bones were to be found at Otstungo and in 1925 Noah T. Clarke, the State Museum Archaeologist, searched in vain for the Otstungo burials (1926:58).
22.214.171.124 Mohawk Protohistoric Site Data
For the protohistoric period
Mohawk, like the other groups of the Five Nations, as well as other Native
American groups in the northeast, the sudden influx of European items caused
a change in part of the mortuary pattern. The presence of grave goods,
in the form of offerings and ornaments, has also contributed to the loss
of data for controlled archaeological study, for many of the graves and
cemeteries that contained these goods were mined for their metals and relics,
long before any record or note could be made of their contents. The
other Iroquois nations, while still subject to the looting of graves, seem
to have somewhat escaped the deficiency of the written record that is conspicuous
for the Mohawk. While Parker (1922) mentions seventeen burial sites
in the Mohawk valley counties of Fulton, Herkimer, and Montgomery, he has
little to say about any of them.
Even after extensive searching during various surveys the New York State Museum was unable to find any burials near any of the protohistoric Mohawk (c.1525-1635) sites (Funk, pers. comm.). Snow (1995a:148) notes the absence of cemeteries on these sites as probably indicating the use of some special-purpose burial place away from the village.
At the Garoga Site, which contains the first traces of European materials and is dated by Snow at about 1525-1545, Harrington found a single burial of an elderly female without grave goods just outside of the palisade (Snow 1995a:148; see Parker 1922, plate 190). Snow also notes that another single burial was found at Garoga but no details are available. Snow surmised that the situation of Harrington's find may indicate that it was an expedient burial. No other graves were found during the State Museum's excavations in the early 1960s.
Burials were reported at the Smith-Pagerie Site, dated between 1560 and 1580, but, excepting a single pot and a bone comb from one grave and a bone awl from another, no data is available to determine the situation of the interments (Snow 1995a:175). A string of beads might have been found in a burial at Smith-Pagerie but its association is not clear as there are no other beads from the site. Snow believes that if it was found at this site the grave may represent a person who had once lived in the village and was brought back to this site for burial long after the community had moved on (Snow 1995a:179).
At the Ganada #2 Site, dated between 1525 and 1580 and which appears to be the earlier locus of a multi-component habitation and a seasonal camp for a nearby village, Snow (1995a:193) reported that an infant was found in a shallow pit with its head to the north and face to the east. Various fragments of human remains were also found but are interpreted as representing remains of torture victims rather than burials.
In the second period of the protohistoric, from 1580 to 1614, when European materials are coming into the Mohawk villages on a more regular basis (although still sporadic) and in greater quantity, a change seems to take place with burials more commonly being made at or near the villages and with offerings, especially European goods (Snow 1995a:197). Although Snow recognizes a "major shift in Mohawk mortuary practices" there is still considerable data missing at this period.
Of the six Mohawk sites noted by Snow to fall into the second period of the protohistoric, dating from 1580 to 1614, he makes notice of only two sites at which burials were found (sixteen at Rice's Woods and an unknown number at the Kilts Site).
The burials found at Rice's Woods, dated by Snow at about 1609, were recovered by the New York State Museum in 1968 in an area to the west of the village site. Located on the same low drumlin as the site about 30 to 50 ft (10 to 15 m) outside of the stockade, the cemetery was small with 16 individuals in single graves, all flexed, and facing in no particular direction. There were a few burial goods, mostly with children, including many ornamental objects such as glass and shell beads. A brass bell, pewter spoon, and several ceramic pots were among the utilitarian objects, but copper kettles were noticeably absent. Snow (1995a:220) shows that only eight of the sixteen burials contained grave goods. Two of the individuals were interred with a range of goods (brass, bone, glass, shell, wood, pewter, iron, and native made pottery) while six of the individuals with grave goods contained only a single pot, a small projectile point, or a copper bead with squash seeds. Funk (pers. comm.) described this as the "expected pattern" for Mohawk burials, a summation that is undoubtedly based on the Seneca model of burial. Snow (1995a:226) noted that one of the bead types found in a burial a Rice's Woods postdated the time of the site and might suggest that deceased people were brought back to the site for burial after the population had moved to another location.
At the Kilts Site Snow (1995a:233) notes that at least two burials were found by the land owner while plowing his garden. As he felt they should remain undisturbed they were reburied and the cemetery and site has not been further investigated. No other data is available on these burials.
In the period of 1614 to 1626, between the opening of a trading post at present Albany and a raid by the Mahicans that precipitated a move to the south side of the Mohawk River, Snow notes some scattered burials at Mohawk Sites but data is lacking for many of them.
At the Martin Site a cemetery may have been found by a collector but has not been recorded (Snow 1995a:243). At the Briggs Run Site, dated by Snow between 1614 and 1625, a small cemetery is located on a spur of land immediately adjacent to the southeast corner of the village. This cemetery was found by collectors and "dug in a completely uncontrolled manner and left open" with no record made of the findings. Recollection was made that a stone lined grave was found. Snow notes again that several items found in the graves post-date the occupation of the site and may indicate burials being made at a later time. A larger cemetery nearby, called the Spencer Site, now destroyed, may have had a later component that related to this site (Snow 1995a:276). Historic artifacts were found in the graves at Spencer but the skeletons were in poor condition and no data was recovered that would help define a mortuary pattern.
At Wagner's Hollow, dated by Snow between 1614 to 1626, Audrey Sublet (1970) took a unique approach toward the osteological data contained in the cemetery while leaving the burials intact and in situ. By recording their condition while still in place Sublett also sought to assess the damages that osteological materials sustained following removal from the ground and in subsequent handling during treatment, storage, and analysis (Saunders, pers. comm.). A brief report noted that the cemetery was on a knoll where about 22 skeletons, 15 disturbed and 7 intact, were found in graves up to three ft (91 cm) deep. Collectors had recently randomly disturbed some of the burials, taken the grave goods, and then reburied the skeletal material in a "haphazard and broken manner." The burial artifacts with the undisturbed remains "provided excellent archaeological information about the burial practices of the early Contact Mohawk." Sublett noted that:
126.96.36.199 Mohawk Historic Site Data
The visit by Harmen Mynders
van den Bogaert into the Mohawk Valley in the winter of 1634-35 announced
the arrival of the historic period in the Mohawk Valley. Until the
publication of Snow's Mohawk synthesis (1995a) the most informative source
for any historic Mohawk burials, it is sad to say, was Gilbert Hagerty's
popular style book Wampum War and Trade Goods West of the Hudson
(1985). Hagerty describes, almost in passing (1985:50-51), that 44
burials, some "a century apart in time," were found at Sand Hill near Fort
Plain (Snow 1995a notes 29 were of the 17th century component and 15 were
of the 18th century component). This burial site, excavated by Peter
Pratt in 1960 has, like much of Pratt's other work, never been otherwise
reported. At Sand Hill a 17th century and 18th century component
was found and Hagerty states that those buried at Sand Hill "were dressed
in humility" with a scant array of European material artifacts and a few
Native made pots. Besides some population data Hagerty noted that
the burials were all flexed, which "appear to be a characteristic of the
Mohawk of this period." His statement is apparently based on unpublished
and otherwise unavailable data, or he may have recognized that what was
known fit the Seneca burial model. Earlier at Sand Hill Clarke (1926:57-58)
noted that collectors had destroyed seven burials before any archaeologist
could see them or the materials found in them.
Snow (1995a:325) places Sand Hill #1 and several associated sites in an archaeological context and notes that it is one of the most complex Mohawk sites in the valley. Snow notes that Sand Hill #1 is a three component site with four to six loci, including 14th and 17th century habitation and an 18th century cemetery!
At the Oak Hill #1 Site, an associated burial site, and another nearby cemetery, Oak Hill #4, Snow (1995a:334) mourned the loss of data from unprofessional and poorly documented excavations that looted the site and destroyed much information. Snow felt that this site, dated between 1635 and 1645, could have yielded important information to help understand the Mohawk epidemics and population decline in the second quarter of the 17th century. The burials here were first reported in the 1920s and were located on two ridges near the site. One of the burial loci was excavated in the early 1930s and five burials were opened and found to contain a pewter bottle cap, an iron trade knife, an iron axe, and a silver chalice (presumed to be Isaac Jogues'). Most of the burials opened were not recognized as such due to the severe decay of the skeletons in which the tooth enamel was about all that remained. Due to the finding of the chalice and other Jesuit relics (silver treasures and coins) the information regarding these cemeteries and what has been found here has been carefully guarded or intentionally misleading (Snow 1995a:337). Some notes on the burials from Oak Hill #4 are presented by Snow (1995a:346) and the two skeleton found preserved in individual graves were an adult on its side and a child. Artifacts from the 10 graves opened here were few in number, with only one or two in most graves, and including pots, pipes, beads, and an axe (it is probable that less dramatic artifacts were found but not recorded). At Oak Hill #5, another cemetery nearby, two other burials were opened, one containing a fragmentary skeleton of an adult on its right side, and the other an adult female. The artifacts here, including two pots, a hawks bell, and some beads were not enough to warrant further digging by the collectors.
The Jackson-Everson Site is believed to have been the village occupied by Huron refugees between 1657, when they were persuaded to settle in the Mohawk Valley, and 1679 when many of the Christian converts left the valley to live along the St. Lawrence River (Snow 1995a:403). This identification is based on Donald Lenig's identification of Huron ceramics found in a burial locus northeast of the village site (Snow 1995a:404). A second burial locus, known as the Nellis Site is located across a swale north of the site. No records for the burials in these cemeteries is available except that European and some native made artifacts were recovered. The lack of records from this cemetery make it impossible to assess the Huron or Christian influences on mortuary practices.
Mention of cemeteries are made for several other Mohawk sites of the 18th century but no information has been found or reported for them. The Horatio Nellis Site, dated between 1646 and 1666, has a cemetery at the west end of the site where cultivation has turned up bones and looters disturbed the area in 1984. The Fox Farm Site, dated from 1666 to 1679 when the Catholic converts of the village left for the St. Lawrence, is said to have a cemetery (Snow 1995a:416). The 1666 to 1679 Schenk Site has a cemetery but it is not known if it is associated with the protohistoric or historic component of the site (Snow 1995a:420). The Gertsenberger Site is a burial locus for the White Orchard Site (1666-1693) noted by Snow (1995a:426). A cemetery is expected to be located west of the village locus at the Caughnawaga Site (Sow 1995a:433). The 1679-1693 Lipe Site is a village with burial locus which have never been described (Snow 1995a:446). At the Wemp #1 Site, associated with the 1712+ Fort Hunter, burials were found on a gravel Ridge (Snow 1995a:475-476).
Snow also reports on several post-1693 sites with burials but data is available from only the c.1700 Galligan #2 cemetery which is a component of the Prospect Hill Site (1995a:460). Data on several burials excavated in 1976-1977 by Peter Pratt at the c.1700 Galligan #2 cemetery have not yet been published although photographs of burials 9 and 12 (in this writer's possession, from a dispersed newspaper photo collection) show that the bodies were fully extended in rectangular grave fossae (to fit coffins?). No grave goods are visible in the photo of burial 9, which appears to be an adolescent or young adult, but burial 12, that of an adult with the head facing upward, had an iron trade axe at the left side (probably hafted), an axe and hewing adze lie beyond the feet (unhafted), two whole onion-shaped wine bottles on either side of the feet, an overturned copper kettle over one of the bottles, a pair of scissors over the right foot, and other unidentified metal objects in the same vicinity. Snow (1995a: Figures 12.14 to 12.28) illustrates several strings of beads and ornaments found in burials at Galligan #2.
The burial data from Sand Hill #1 would have provided the greatest addition to the Mohawk burial data but due to the destruction of the various loci by collectors, road construction, and well intending archaeologists who have failed to publish and disseminate their information, the sites here lie relatively unknown.
The Oneida Iroquois sites
of this study are principally located in central and eastern Madison County,
generally south of the eastern portion of Oneida Lake. The only major
publication for Oneida data is Peter Pratt's 1976 work although a number
of more recent smaller reports on individual sites are found in the irregular
publications of the Bulletin Chenango Chapter, New York State Archaeological
3.2.1 History of Oneida Research
The Oneida, like the Onondaga,
Cayuga, and Seneca to the west, but unlike the Mohawks to the east, remained
in their homeland until well after the American Revolution. When
the first settlers moved into the Oneida lands in the mid-1790s they made
little notice of the many traces of past occupation. Many of the
prime Oneida sites are located in the Oneida Valley which was in part occupied
by the Oneida, Stockbridge, and Brotherton Nations until the 1830s.
The Indian presence in the valley did not hinder the looting of graves
for valuable metals and relics.
The early pioneers and farmers could not help but to find the habitation and burial sites of the Oneida. Rumors of giants and great battles were spread at the finding of the bones of the ancients (Hammond 1872:733). One cemetery was reported to have covered 75 to 100 acres (Jones 1851:571). The local history books have numerous other tall tales of Iroquois burial places which, although interesting to read, have little to do with this study. It was not until Beauchamp's work (1900) and Parker's revision (1922) that serious note was made of any of these sites. Unfortunately the publishing of the locations of these sites led to the almost immediate destruction of many of them as people searched for relics to collect and sell. Much of this work was never recorded, but since the 1970s members of the Chenango Chapter of the New York State Archaeological Association have been excavating sites and reporting on their finds. Their work has been concentrated on settlement pattern studies, but much burial information has been gathered and reported. Because the Oneida are my focus of Iroquoian research I am a little bit more aware of the data that is available for study of their burial patterns.
Although my research has identified about thirty major components of the Oneida Iroquois occupation of the region, only about half of them have any kind of burial data known for them. Some are only reported burial locations, others are single interments, and nine have actual clusters of graves or cemeteries. Parker (1922) mentions 13 burial places in the Oneida territory in Madison and Oneida counties, only five of which I can associate with a known village site. Some of Parker's sites are not at this time known to me.
The Oneida are still present on their growing reservation in the valley and they are becoming more and more interested in their heritage and have purchased a number of archeological sites. In fact the Oneidas, under the direction of Jordan Kerber at Colgate University, are sonsoring excavations and field schools at the multi-component Sterling Site and the Historic period Dungee Site. The voluntary moratorium against the excavation of burial sites, being held by professional and avocational archaeologists, is not being heeded by the collector or dealer and the looting of burial sites in the Oneida region is rumored to be a lucrative past time in recent years with the advent of medal detectors.
3.2.2 Oneida Burial Pattern
Where the data exists the
pattern of burial followed by the Oneida seems to be little different than
that expected of any of the Five Nation Iroquois groups, as based on the
Seneca model. Most habitation sites have no cemeteries, leading to
the conclusion that some form of burial other than the Seneca Model must
have been practiced. It appears, based on the available evidence
(when cemeteries are present), that single primary burial in grouped or
"clan" cemeteries were the general mode of interment. Data is lacking
to indicate prehistoric positioning of the body within the grave but grave
goods are found in some burials. A trend from flexed to extended
burials is seen through time and grave goods which had been found in small
quantities in prehistoric graves become plentiful in historic. Use
of fire at the time of interment is inferred as ceremonial in the early
historic period. Christian influences do not seem to be a factor
in affecting burial practices in the 1650-1700 period, and later historic
period burials tend to show more of a European influence (coffins, formal
rows) than from any other source although inclusion of grave goods is still
Still, transcending any data that is presented, is the negative evidence that clearly indicates that some other form of burial must have been practiced. A 1634 reference to three "high" graves with surrounding palisade and structure indicate that above-ground burials were made. These fanciful structures are similar to a grave found in a Cayuga cemetery in 1779 and may indicate that this was a more wide-spread burial form than previously believed and may explain the lack of burial data at many of the sites.
188.8.131.52 Oneida Prehistoric Site Data
The Jackson Site, suspected
to be an early Chance Phase Oneida site, may have had a small cemetery
directly associated with it, but it is not clear if this is a native cemetery
or an early pioneer cemetery
of the Butin family. Bones were located by workmen in the 1890s
on a knoll adjacent to the site but the lack of grave goods may have caused
the graves to be identified as that of white pioneers. Later, in
the mid-20th century, more graves were opened by collectors and were identified
as Indian (Stanford Gibson and Robert Bennett, pers. comms.). No
notice survived of their orientation, posture, or burial goods.
Another early Chance Phase site, the Schmidka Site, has no known burials, but it is not clear if a cemetery about three kilometers away relates to this site or another temporally close site which has yet to be found. That cemetery, known as the Hodge Site, is reported to be a cemetery site only. It consisted of a few single graves with undescribed grave goods on the top of a small sandy knoll in the vicinity of Chittenango Falls (A.C. Tyler Collection, Cazenovia Pubic Library).
Several individual flexed burials were found at the c.1480 Nichols Pond Site (Pratt 1976:89-90), and the bases of two burials were found after a bulldozer stripped away the Buyea Site (Whitney 1977), but other Chance Phase sites, including the Dougherty Site, as well as a number of the small Garoga Phase sites such as Moon, Goff, and Tuttle, have no burials associated with them (Pratt 1976).
At the Olcott Site, the latest of the prehistoric Oneida village sites, a cemetery was found on a slight rise just west of the site. Pratt (1976:62) reports that some 40 burials were found, and all were sterile of grave goods, except one that contained a pot. Another skeleton was found while plowing immediately adjacent to the northern limit of the habitation area which Pratt suspected was the second cemetery for the site.
184.108.40.206 Oneida Protohistoric Site Data
The presence of burials at
the Olcott Site, the last prehistoric site in the Oneida site sequence,
is noteworthy because even the earliest of the protohistoric sites which
follow it have no known cemeteries. The Vaillancourt, Diable, Bach,
and Cameron sites are major habitation sites and are suspected to have
been occupied for upwards of 15 years each, so it seems unusual that they
would have no cemetery at all. Extensive archaeological work has
been done on these sites and no signs of cemeteries have been found.
A single grave was found under a low mound of refuse just inside the palisade
line at the Cameron Site (Pratt 1976:121; Bennett 1978), but this hardly
constitutes a cemetery. Whether this was a village inhabitant, a
captive, or torture victim is not determined. Evidence of torture
ceremonies at these sites are found as fragments of human remains scattered
throughout the refuse deposits and as partially articulated skeletons in
refuse pits. These human remains cannot be considered as burials
as they were thrown away as refuse and never formally buried by the Iroquois
The protohistoric Oneida sites are believed to form a dual sequence of village movements. The Blowers Site, which I suspect follows the Diable Site, and is somewhat coeval with the Cameron Site, does have two or more cemeteries. Bennett (1979) reported a burial plot on the same ridge as the site, on somewhat level ground, and another in a flat area just southeast of the site. The property owner told me of a burial locus northeast of the site, but this may be the same that was noted by Bennett at the southeast. Because Bennett does not think it proper to excavate burials he has not investigated these sites (Monte Bennett, pers. comm.). The first mentioned plot, just outside of the habitation area, was discovered in the 1930s. Nineteen burials, three of which were extended, the rest flexed, were opened by collectors and several very fine Native made pots, combs, and pipes were taken from it. A complete pot with four human effigies found in this cemetery is now in the Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation. A double burial had no grave goods, and most had two or three beads as offerings. No orientation was noted and little mention was made of the European goods which must have also accompanied these individuals (Pratt 1976:126, 127-128; Bennett 1979).
The Blowers burials are the first known in Oneida to have rich burial offerings. The well known Seneca graves from the early protohistoric on (1550 +) are very rich in material goods, but the Blowers Site, with the first Oneida protohistoric cemetery, is much later, dating to about 1600, and is not nearly as rich. Much work has been done around these Oneida sites by collectors and researchers hoping to find what are expected to be very profitable and otherwise rich burials. No cemetery has been found at the Wilson Site which follows Blowers in the Oneida sequence. Shallow bedrock in the immediate vicinity of the site would preclude a close-by cemetery, but no burials have been found elsewhere that would be temporally similar to the Wilson Site.
An historic reference (Jones 1851:571) makes note of a large cemetery near the Cameron Site:
220.127.116.11 Oneida Historic Site Data
The next sites in the Oneida
sequence, and thought to have been occupied at the same time, are the Thurston
and Marshall sites. The Thurston Site is thought to have been the
site visited by Van den Bogaert in 1634 (Whitney 1964; Gehring and Starna
1988:43; Weiskotten 1995).
At the Thurston Site two cemeteries are known; one just outside of the palisade on a point of land on the northeast part of the site, and the other on a low rise west of the habitation area. Pratt (1976:129-132) reported on the Thurston cemeteries based on the notes made by a collector. Pratt thought that the two cemeteries represented the moiety division at the site. The northern loci contained 27 or 28 burials and the western (which Pratt calls southern) contained 85 or 90. He notes that the generally shallow oval graves were dug into the gravelly subsoil, and that some of the skeletons were flexed, others extended, and they were oriented in no particular way. Twenty percent of the graves did not contain grave goods, but those that did were well furnished with Native and European materials. Two double interments were found, one of which contained matching pots. A pit containing fractured and split deer and bear bones was found within the cemetery and this was suspected to be evidence of the death feast that is described in later ethnographic accounts (the grave is described by Bennett 1984a).
The Marshall Site, which lies about 0.6 km (0.4 mi) from the Thurston Site, appears to have been occupied at the same time as the Thurston, but for a shorter duration. The site lies on top of a gravel glacial outwash and the soils are very different from those of the other Oneida sites. Two burial plots have been found by the farmer while plowing this site. Both lie on the very edge of the habitation area, one at the northwest and one on the east side of the site. There have been 15 burials reported from these two areas and they contained grave goods of primarily ornamental, personal, or ceremonial nature. Bennett and Cole (1976) and Pratt (1976:136-138) noted some Native pots, shell beads, wampum, bone combs, elk teeth, a lead animal effigy, and glass beads, and very few other European items.
The pattern of burial observed in the protohistoric Oneida sites: single flexed burials, occasionally extended, with a few primarily Native made grave goods of ornamental, personal, or ceremonial nature, and the unobserved pattern: lack of burial sites anywhere near the habitation sites, is generally continued through historic times. In the known historic cemeteries there is a noted trend toward increased amount of non-Native goods in graves and extended burial, but there are still many historic period sites without cemeteries near the habitation sites.
I suspect that following the ravages of several bouts of smallpox and other communicable disease in the 1630s the dual villages came together as a single population at the Quarry Site. From this time on, although the data is quite incomplete, until the 1750s, there seems to have been only one primary Oneida village. At the Quarry Site three or possibly four cemeteries were found at widely dispersed points not far from the habitation area (Bennett 1984b). Locus 1, in a large meadow southeast of the site, may have contained well over 100 burials. Locus 2, south of the site was small; locus 3 was on a slight rise north of the site; and what may be a fourth locus lies on a ridge close to the northwest corner of the village site.
Most of the graves at Quarry had been looted long ago, perhaps by collectors in the early part of this century. Some of the graves that were reexamined were found to contain either flexed or extended burials and one, with acutely folded legs, may have been a form of bundle burial or secondary interment. The deceased, based on what few goods remained, had been very well provided with grave offerings. These grave offerings consisted of a combination of Native and European made items of personal, ornamental, ceremonial, and utilitarian nature. It seems that almost all of the burials had had some kind of grave furniture with them. In several of the graves charcoal flecks were noted in the grave fill, and at least one had evidence of burning prior to the burial itself. Stones were noted to cover at least one grave.
Following the defeat of the Huron by the Five Nations Iroquois in 1649 a great many of the captives were brought into the Oneida villages where (if they were not put to death by torture [Weiskotten 1993]) they were adopted to replace those that had died and to help boost the populations (Lafitau 1724 II:172). In 1668, nearly twenty years later, it was reported that at Oneida "Two-thirds of this village is composed of (Huron and Algonquin captives), who have become Iroquois in temper and inclination" (JR 51:123). As it is seen that there is a great deal of difference in the burial patterns of between these groups and the Oneida, we should expect to see a change in the Oneida pattern due to the influences of these foreigners. At present the data for the Oneida is too sparse to define any change in pattern that could not be attributable to other factors.
Several burials are reported to have been found at the Dungee Site, dated c.1655-1676. I know of only a child's burial being opened which contained a brass kettle and several wooden items, but the other reported burials were opened by collectors and are unrecorded. Much religious material is found on this site, but the scant burial data from the site does not give any indication of Christian influences on the Oneida burial practices. While the Jesuit mission of St. Xavier was located in Oneida between 1667 and 1684 (JR 50:213; NYCD 9:665) it is probable that Christian practices were not observed in Oneida burials at the time of the Dungee Site. Father Millet, at the Oneida mission in 1674, writes that although the Indians recite prayers over the dead, he still has hopes "that, in time, we shall introduce Christian burial" (JR 58:191).
The site following Dungee in the Oneida sequence is believed to be the Sullivan Site. This site, dated about 1676 to 1685, probably was also the site of the mission of St. Xavier, but the meager burial data shows little Jesuit influence. Bennett (1973) reports that three cemeteries were situated near the site. The locations of two are shown on Bennett's map, but the third is not located. The two cemeteries are on elevated spots, with gravelly soil, one being about 400 ft (120 m) northwest from the village and the other about the same distance to the south. Most of the graves examined had been disturbed by earlier looters, but they were generally shallow, 18 to 30 inches, with extended skeletons, and a light mixture of Native and European made grave goods, of which glass beads and wampum were most common.
The Hogan Site, which dates soon after Sullivan, has two burial loci just beyond the edge of the habitation area but no data on their characteristics is available (Clark and Owen 1976).
The Primes Hill Site, occupied from 1696 to 1711, had a small burial plot on a high point about 400 ft (120 m) from the site. The burials were extended, and contained European items such as a flintlock, kettle, pipes, glass beads, and buttons (Hagerty 1975; Bennett 1988). The richness of these graves may be the result of the goods give to the Oneida by the British Colonial government following the 1696 French raid (see Onondaga Pen Site, below).
The last and latest of the Oneida sites to be considered in this study is the Lanz Site. This site, which has been destroyed in a gravel mining operation, dated from about 1740. During gravel removing operations in 1976 a large number of burials were exposed, and noted by members of the Chenango Chapter (Bennett 1982). Topsoil stripping had removed all but the foot or so of many graves that probably had been no more than two or three feet (60 to 90 cm) deep. Many bone fragments and artifacts littered the topsoil pile, but many graves remained intact. The cemetery was very close to the habitation area and contained at least 16 burials, and probably more. Time permitted the removal and recording of only eight of the burials, but these are the most well recorded burials from any Oneida site. This is both fortunate and unfortunate because the obvious European influence seen in these very late historic burials adds little to the understanding of earlier Oneida burial methods.
Eight of the twelve individuals buried here were extended, and most were oriented north and south; but there were great differences in the amount of grave goods, and several multiple burials were quite unusual. Five graves were side-by-side in a row with another aligned similarly nearby, as seen in European cemeteries. Five skeletons had their head to the north, three to the south, and one to the southwest. Three very disarticulated and apparently bundled burials were in one grave, which was aligned north to south. The presence of nails in five of the eight graves showed that these Oneida were buried in plank coffins. Two children were buried in one coffin, one on top of the other; and an aged male and an aged female were found together, also one on top of the other, both face up, but with the feet of the male at the head of the female.
The grave goods from these burials ranged from a few beads in a badly disturbed grave, a clasp knife with the two children, a kettle with an adult female, to many glass beads (indicating the presence of beaded leggings and shirt), rings, a knife, pipe stems, gun flints and a strike-a-light, and a leather pouch, all with a skull-less adult (male?). Besides the rich offerings or grave furniture of this last burial, it was the only grave of the eight examined that had rocks around the edge of the grave fossae.
A number of accounts from local history books tell of burials from late eighteenth century Oneida village sites. The Tuscarora moved on to a section of the Oneida's land shortly after 1712, and the Stockbridge and Brotherton came in soon after the American Revolution. At the time of these in-migrations of foreign groups the Oneida communities were scattered over a wide area at a number of small sites, including distinct communities of unidentified Iroquois in the head of the Mohawk Valley on Saquoit Creek, the Black River, and Fish Creek. This settlement pattern change, which continued until the 1820s, left many small cemeteries, much like our early pioneer cemeteries, scattered over the landscape. A great and unwieldy variety of burial forms were used by these groups and factions. They can be found described in Jones (1851:96, 829- 830, 838-839), Beauchamp (1900:92, 110-112), or Parker (1922:634-636).
The Onondaga Iroquois sites
of this study are principally located in central and eastern Onondaga County.
The 1972 work of James Tuck and 1987 work of James Bradley are compendiums
of site data and discussions of site sequences and cultural change among
the Onondaga. Several shorter reports have occasionally been made
by the Beauchamp Chapter, New York State Archaeological Association.
3.3.1 History of Onondaga Research
The Onondaga lands were set out in 1789 as military lots to be given as compensation to soldiers and officers of the American Revolution. Settlement was slow, but by the late 1790s most lots were taken and were being cleared. Numerous accounts of pioneer finds of prehistoric and historic Native American occupation are to be found in several early archaeology related texts such as Clinton (1818), Clark (1849), and Squire (1849, 1851). The county history books of the late nineteenth century draw much of their reports of antiquities from these sources. It is clear that much attention was paid to the graves of the Onondaga because of the relics and metals such as copper and iron that they held. Of the Onondaga cemeteries Clark (1849 II:257) noted that:
3.3.2 Onondaga Burial Pattern
James Tuck, in his Doctoral
Dissertation (1969:375), says that there is little to be said of Onondaga
burial practices except that they did not have cemeteries close to the
village. In the prehistoric period he notes that they are far away,
and in the protohistoric and historic periods they are near, but not always,
that there are no ossuaries, and that reburial "does seem to be fairly
common." Tuck is correct that there is little to say about
the Onondaga pattern, as there is very little information available and
what data is to be found indicates that the Onondaga burial pattern is
no different than expected from the Seneca model of mortuary behavior -
except that negative evidence has an important part in defining the Onondaga
The Onondaga burial data that is available shows that the pattern, changing through time, is characterized by single graves with one or a few individuals in each, first tending to be flexed and then extended, with increasing but varying quantities and qualities of grave goods, in distinct cemeteries that are in several places near the village, or sites that have no known cemeteries at all. No ossuaries are known, but Tuck's statement about secondary interments or reburial being common is curious as there is little data for this except for a few instances at the late eighteenth century Jamesville Pen and Jamesville Lake sites.
18.104.22.168 Onondaga Prehistoric Site Data
Tuck (1969:190-191; 1971:97-101)
reported that a cemetery, possibly related to the Chance Phase Schoff Site
(AD 1410), is the earliest evidence of Onondaga burial. "A few human
burials," with shallow grave fossae, apparently flexed, and without grave
goods, were uncovered during gravel operations on a drumlin about a mile
(1.6 km) to the east of the Schoff Site. There was no noticed reason
for locating the cemetery on this location, the nearest known inhabited
area being a mile (1.6 km) away, and the soil being no easier to dig than
at the village site. Tuck suspects that if this is the normal burial
pattern, then it would explain the failure to find cemeteries at so many
other Onondaga sites.
At the Chance Phase Bloody Hill Site, dated by Tuck (1971:210) at about AD 1420, Beauchamp (1900:122 #68) and Parker (1922:642 #50) report that there was a large cemetery, but that it was a "recent" site. No record of these burials is available, but one was an historic period burial believed to be related to the Weston Site (Tuck 1971:189). Several scattered human remains were found in a fire feature at the Bloody Hill site, but these are representative of the Iroquoian ritual torture rather than burials.
The next site in the Onondaga sequence to yield burial data is the late Garoga Phase (late prehistoric) Barnes Site, dated AD 1540. Tuck (1971:150, citing Gibson 1968) reported that several burials were exposed just outside of the palisade. The graves were shallow, just below plow depth, the individuals were flexed, and there were no grave goods, indicative of "disposal burials rather than the lavish funerals which must have characterized the later Iroquois."
A single burial was reported by Hammond (1872:200) to have been found at the late Garoga Phase McNab Site, which is believed to be slightly contemporaneous with Barnes, and located near the head of Cazenovia Lake. This burial was discovered in 1861 while placing a liberty pole at a schoolhouse, which still stands, on a low rise just to the west of the village site. It was said to have contained "a large skeleton of an Indian ... buried in a sitting posture with hatchets, pipes, beads, and other articles." These items are presumably all of Native manufacture as no European items have been reported from this site. Limited investigations were made in the vicinity of the schoolhouse by this writer 1986 during construction of a house on the property, and although evidence of occupation was found, probably as a satellite to the primary village, no graves were located (Beauchamp Chapter 1986; Weiskotten 1986)
22.214.171.124 Onondaga Protohistoric Site Data
Several historic artifacts
are reported from the Atwell and Temperance House sites (Tuck 1971:169;
Bradley 1987:69) and thus we designate these sites as being part of the
protohistoric record. A notice of a "burying ground within
the enclosure" (fortifications) at the Temperance House is the only reference
to burials at that site (Clark 1849 II:271, italics his; Schoolcraft 1847:233).
Gordon De Angelo (pers. comm.) told me that Robert Ricklis found a burial
in a shallow pit under the bunkline of the house that he excavated at the
Temperance House Site. Although Ricklis made no mention of this in
his summary report (1965) De Angelo remembered it as being flexed and probably
representing a winter burial.
At the Atwell Site Clark (1849 II:267, illus.) notes a cemetery just outside of the village and several graves within the palisade, and Squire (1851:45) notes that "numerous graves of the Indians are to be found within and without the walls, in the vicinity." but no data is available to define any characteristic of the graves and any accoutrements. Beauchamp (1900:123 #78) reports that a cemetery is found to the north of the site, but no other data is available for this.
For the early protohistoric Chase Site Clark reports that:
126.96.36.199 Onondaga Historic Site Data
The early historic period
sites are also lacking in burial data and the next Onondaga site for which
there are burial data dates more than fifty years later than the Dwyer
Site. This next site is the Carley Site where graves were found by
a collector just outside of the suspected village limits. Tuck (1971:177)
reports that many of the graves had been previously disturbed but contained
many European items including glass beads, brass arrow points, and Native
made shell items and pipes.
Tuck (1971:177-178) believes that the site following Carley in the Onondaga sequence, Indian Hill, is the site of the village visited by Wentworth Greenhalgh in 1677 (NYCD 3:250- 252) and dated by Tuck at between 1663-1682. There is sparse data on burials that had been located on the north and east of the site, but from the disturbed graves excavated by a collector, who gave a summary to Tuck, came many pieces of European material such as beads, tools, a jewelry box, and rings, as well as Native goods such as a wooden bowl and ladle, and pipes. Clinton (1818:6) mentions that the site had graves close to the edges of the precipice on which the village stood (he overestimates the size of the habitation area), that "sometimes five or six persons were thrown promiscuously into the same grave," and that a skull with a bullet hole in it had been found nearby, indicating that the village had been "taken." While mentioning the numerous and splendid (and mostly European) relics that had been found at Indian Hill Clark (1849 II:257) writes that:
The Cayuga Iroquois sites
of this study are principally located in Seneca County east of Cayuga Lake.
There have been no recent synthesizing publications of Cayuga site data
although several recent artifact studies and sequence proposals have been
3.4.1 History of Cayuga Research
The Cayuga are perhaps the
least well known of the Five Nations Iroquois groups. Like the equally
small Oneida, they are considered the "Children" or "Younger Brothers"
of the much more populous Seneca, Onondaga, and Mohawk, and due to the
relatively small number of sites and the damage done to these few sites
by collectors there has not been much attention paid to them professional
archaeologists (DeOrio pers. comm.). There is a notable lack of data
on Cayuga settlement patterns, artifacts, and ethnology, let alone any
burial pattern data (see White, et al. 1978:500-504, and Niemczycki 1984).
It appears that the paucity of burial data is not due to the lack of burials, as would seem from the Oneida sites, but because there was considerable interest in the burials long before any record was being kept of them. Skinner (1921:37) notes that because of a few commercial collectors who looted the burial grounds "most of its sites have been more greatly despoiled than those of the neighboring counties" and "[i]n the late (eighteen) seventies raids on historic Cayuga cemeteries in particular began, and in the following decade large quantities of relics, considering the relatively small Cayuga population of the region, where exhumed and sold to collectors throughout the United States and even in Europe." As in the sites of the other Iroquois nations this looting had gone on in small ways since the days of pioneer settlement, but the unprecedented looting of the 1870s had destroyed much of the record on the eve of serious archaeological interest. Skinner's work was the most important work for many years and he saw it as a last hope for the ravaged archaeological record of the Cayuga. He lamented that:
3.4.2 Cayuga Burial Pattern
Because the Cayuga sites
have been only sporadically studied by professional archaeologists the
few references, several from the nineteenth century, are often vague in
locating, naming, and dating of the sites that were explored. The
few sites for which burial data is available makes the temporal and spacial
tangle of the Cayuga record difficult to interpret and there is still some
uncertainty as to temporal order of the sites described. This paper
can only address the mortuary record and I leave it to others to straighten
out the relationship and temporal kinks.
Niemczycki (1984:117-118, 128-130) lists 19 Iroquois sites (AD 1350-1650) in or peripheral to the Cayuga territory for which some form of data is available, but only four of these have any data that would be useful in interpretation of the burial practices. The Nolan Site, where chert and ceramics were found in the graves, seems to be the cemetery for the Parker Site - which has a cemetery nearby; Locke Fort has a two acre cemetery; and Genoa Fort has three cemeteries (see below). My searches for other Cayuga burial data were about as fruitful.
Based on the scant data it appears that the prehistoric burials were similar to the other Five Nations with bodies being flexed in small graves with no or few grave goods. Several incredibly large cemeteries are reported near villages, which, if not an exaggeration, might explain why few cemeteries are reported. Protohistoric burials were found near a village site and have the usual mixture of Native and European objects with bodies were either flexed or extended. Several bundle burials are noted with three skeletons in one bundle and one burial had evidence of burning at the grave site. The historic period burials had a wide assortment of grave goods and some burials were very rich in offerings. A unique note of a burial in 1779 indicates that fancily painted above-ground enclosures, with roofs, walls, and viewing windows were used. This structure is reminiscent of three burials observed in Oneida in 1634 (see page 25).
188.8.131.52 Cayuga Prehistoric Site Data
At the Indian Fort Road Site,
a fortified Garoga phase Cayuga site dated between 1525 and 1550 (Niemczycki
1984:19), David Trowbridge (1864:381-382) described two burial grounds
that were found on a knoll a few rods (15 to 30 m, 50 to 100 ft) west of
the village site. It was stated to have covered two or three acres
and "a hundred graves could be counted in a row." Another cemetery
was found northwest from here, fifteen rods (75 m, 250 ft) from the fort.
It was half an acre in size, with bodies "as thickly deposited as they
conveniently could be." The northeast gate of the village lead directly
to this cemetery. Trowbridge notes that depressions indicated where
the graves were, and that one that he investigated was 3.5 ft (1.1 m) deep
and others were about four feet (1.2 m) long, with loose fill. He
states that the bodies were buried in a "sitting" (flexed) posture and
that several bones (including the skull?) were missing from the grave.
It is not clear if this was the result of their hasty digging, from prior
disturbance, or the initial manner of burial. No mention is made
of burial goods.
184.108.40.206 Cayuga Protohistoric Site Data
At the early protohistoric Genoa Fort Site, dated c. 1600-1620, Robert DeOrio (1977) reported that little was recorded of the burial pattern for this site, but he was able to conclude that they were two or three separate cemeteries, one without grave offerings, and the other with European trade materials. The bodies were "tightly flexed, loosely flexed, and extended." DeOrio cites Harrison Follett (cit. not given) who wrote that:
220.127.116.11 Cayuga Historic Site Data
The Cayuga site most damaged
by the "commercial collector" noted by Skinner (1921:37, 50) was the site
of "East Cayuga" or "Old Town," most probably the Fleming Site dated by
Niemczycki (1984:75) to be in the 1670s. Skinner (1921:50-51) notes
that quantities of Jesuit relics were found in the cemetery and in isolated
graves. He gives an incredible list of Native and European goods
said to have been taken by the commercial collector from a single grave.
Other "Jesuit" sites were found by Skinner at Genoa, one probably being the 1600-1620s Genoa Fort (Niemczycki 1984:117), and he noted the relative paucity of Native made goods in the graves (Skinner 1921:54).
During the Sullivan - Clinton campaign of 1779 many villages of the Cayuga were destroyed and the cemeteries were robbed for the valuable goods that they contained. When the village of Kendaia, near present Romulus, was destroyed a grave was described by one of the soldiers:
The Seneca Iroquois sites
of this study are principally located in southern Monroe and northwestern
Ontario County. Through the Rochester Museum and Science Center,
the extensive research begun by Charles F. Wray is being published.
Two comprehensive volumes present data on the Adams and Culbertson sites
and the Tram and Cameron sites, and a third volume presenting the data
on the Dutch Hollow and Factory Hollow sites is soon to be completed.
Other works synthesizing various segments or aspects of the Seneca sequence
have been published in recent years.
3.5.1 History of Seneca Research
The Seneca are the exception
to the archaeological record of the Five Nations Iroquois. While
all of the groups, including the Seneca, have been subject to intense looting
and collecting that have ravaged the archaeological record, the Seneca
seem to have escaped the convolution. This is in part due to the
work of Charles Wray and the Rochester Museum and Science Center which
has been instrumental in collecting not only the artifacts of the Seneca,
but also the written record of museum notes, archaeologists work, and also
that of collectors. Many of the foremost New York Iroquoian archaeologists
have at one time worked for the Rochester Museum or a major part of their
papers are to be found there. They include Parker, Ritchie, Wray,
Hayes, Sempowski, Hamell, Niemczycki, and Sublett among others. Many
of these persons have had an intense or professional interest in osteology
or burial patterns.
As Niemczycki (1984:5) notes, much of the twentieth century Seneca work has been fairly random in nature with much work being done on sites that were accessible, and with little systematic or theoretical structure. This created a somewhat uneven data base for a holistic study of Seneca development. A great deal of interest was focused on the historic period Seneca sites, particularly the cemeteries, where grave offerings were very rich. While the majority of work in the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga areas (Snow, Tuck, Bradley, Pratt, and the Chenango Chapter members) has focused primarily on settlement pattern recovery supplemented with artifact studies to assist temporal placement of the patterns, the work in Seneca country has been almost exclusively artifact recovery from cemeteries. The side benefit of this tactic has been the recovery of a large amount of data on burials (see the work of Wray). Sempowski (1991), in studying orientation shift through time, made use of an incredible 1,959 burials from seventeen Seneca sites!
3.5.2 Seneca Burial Pattern
When Charlie Wray and Harry
Schoff (1953) first described the burial practices of the Seneca they began
with the protohistoric period. Twenty years later when Wray (1973:27-28)
again described the burial customs of the Seneca he described the pattern
for the prehistoric Seneca, but made no mention of his sources for this
information, and was probably drawing his conclusions from first hand observation.
In the analysis of the Adams and Culbertson site collections Wray, et al.
(1987:25) note four prehistoric samples for which burial data is apparently
available: Harscher, Shakeshaft, Brongo, and Alhart (Footnote
7). The work on these prehistoric sites was probably done
by Wray, but the data is very limited (see Niemczycki 1984:111 #25, 113
#44, 123, 124) or not at this time available for me to use in this paper.
Was the data from one site used to define the prehistoric pattern, or from
a dozen - and which ones?
Ritchie (1954:31) noted that the early or pre- or proto-Seneca sites had cemeteries, with grave offerings being extremely rare. Wray had observed that the prehistoric burials were found in cemeteries that were usually located on slight rises or ridges bordering the village area and consisted of clusters of ten to thirty burials. The burials were generally single primary interments, multiple burials being quite rare, with the bodies placed in the flexed position with the head to the east. An occasional bundle or secondary burial indicated a reburial of a body "perhaps brought from some other place." The grave fossae tended to be two to three feet (1.2 to 0.9 m) in depth - deep relative to later burials, oval in form, with straight sides and flat bottoms. Post molds inside or around the pit indicated posts or markers erected at the grave. The mixed grave fill often contained small chunks or flecks of charcoal, and fire pits scattered throughout the cemetery suggest a ceremonial fire. As for grave offerings, Wray noted that they are extremely scarce in the prehistoric, and when they do occur they are usually ornaments of clothing or personal items such as a pipe, a necklace of beads, or a pet hunting dog.
Unlike the other Five Nations Iroquois, cemeteries continued to be present at the protohistoric period Seneca villages. Burial goods increase tremendously with the advent of European goods and children's graves are the most endowed with offerings. Many early historic burials were looted, perhaps by contemporary invaders, as native made and broken items were left behind and the looting seems to have stopped after the Denonville raid of 1687. One site, occupied by Huron refugees, had an ossuary. Extended burials became predominant in the 1650- 1660 period and grave goods continued to be numerous. By 1700 burials were being made in coffins, and placed in rows and degeneration of Seneca culture is noticeable (see Appendix B, Wary 1973).
18.104.22.168 Seneca Prehistoric Site Data
Ritchie (1936:55-56) cited
the pre-Iroquoian Owasco period Sackett Site as marking the beginnings
of the dual cemeteries. At Sackett two cemeteries were found a few
hundred feet (90 m) from the habitation area. The burials were not
much different than those expected and found on later Seneca Iroquois sites
(flexed, few grave goods, deep oval pits, primarily single but some multiple
interments). A number of the individuals had projectile points embedded
in the bone which showed that they died a violent death (scattered human
remains at the habitation site indicated torture or cannibalism was practiced
The earliest Seneca cemetery site of record is the Richmond Mills Site, a late prehistoric village with a cemetery located on a point of land across a stream from the site (Parker 1918, 1922). Graves were found in 1912 and Parker reconstructs for us what the burials and ceremony were typically like but gives no precise data to indicate where the data for this conjecture comes from. He describes a funeral ceremony in which the grave was oval, three feet (0.9 m) deep, with a body flexed for interment. A fire is kindled alongside of the grave, and the ashes are thrown into the pit, and then a wooden marker with crude pictures painted in red is set to mark the grave.
The Belcher Site is the next prehistoric Seneca site for which burial data was found. Ritchie (1954:18) thought the site to be proto-Cayuga, but it now is considered to be late prehistoric Seneca. Ritchie noted that the multiple cemeteries of later times was foreshadowed by sites such as Belcher, but Niemczycki (1984:124) notes only one cemetery. This cemetery had at least fifty burials and some empty grave pits, with very few grave goods (3 pipes, a pot, and some bear claw cores).
22.214.171.124 Seneca Protohistoric Site Data
From the beginning of the
protohistoric (c.1550) on, an incredible amount of data is available for
the Seneca burials. In the literature search for this project I located
over 30 site reports that contained pertinent burial data - all of them
for the period after the arrival of European goods. The search for
these marketable and collectable grave goods by a scientifically oriented
excavator resulted in this unparalleled data base.
The earliest protohistoric sites in the Seneca sequence are the Adams and Culbertson sites which are the first two sites to have their collections of artifacts, field notes, and osteological remains examined in detail by the Rochester Museum (Wray, et al. 1987). This publication examines in minute detail all aspects of the burial data and mortuary practices and only a summary of the interpretation of these two sites can be accommodated here to illustrate the observed pattern. Reference should be made to these Rochester Museum studies for the particulars.
At the Culbertson Site, dated at c.1565, a single cemetery was found on the western edge of the habitation area (Footnote 8). This cemetery was not completely excavated but 16 graves containing 28 individuals were found. Most were single interments, but there were also two burials with two individuals, and one each of three, four, and six individuals. Several of these graves had been recently disturbed. The grave fossae were generally oval in shape, and about 30 inches deep with all of the burials in flexed position, and 40% headed westerly. Evidence of grave linings of grass, bark, and possibly fur were found in several of the graves and most were covered with soil, or rocks and soil, with only one having signs of being covered by a sheet of bark with soil over it. Charcoal and ashes were found in the fill of only three graves and one of these had a fire feature within the upper levels of the grave fill. Only half of the graves contained grave offerings and three quarters of these contained solely Native made items. The grave goods consisted of chert flakes, ceramic vessels, brass rings, beads of bone, brass, shell, and glass, hematite pigment, animal teeth and jaws, seeds, projectile points, shell ornaments, and reworked iron axe tools.
At the Adams Site, dated slightly later, c.1570, but coeval with Culbertson three cemeteries were found, containing 383 individuals in 250 graves. The cemeteries were located just outside of the habitation area (palisade line) with two at the southwest corner of the site and the third at the northwest corner. The first two were situated on the gradual slope down from the site and the third on the ridge upon which the site is situated. There were several differences between the cemeteries (Wray, et al. 1987:25-26, 95-96, 246-247), and the writers felt that the three cemeteries might have been in use serially rather than concurrently (Wray, et al. 1987:20).
Cemetery 1 had 119 graves with 189 individuals, cemetery 2 had 95 graves with 143 individuals, and cemetery 3 had 36 graves with 51 individuals. In all three cemeteries the mortuary treatment was typically single, flexed interment. 34% of the graves were multiple burials, containing 57% of the individuals in the cemeteries, which is an increase over prehistoric times, perhaps due to famine or epidemic disease (Footnote 9) rather than an introduction of a new burial form from outside of the area (Wray, et al. 1987:245).
The size of the grave pits were of considerable variation, but generally oval and relatively large and deep, with vertical sides and well defined flat, basin-shaped bottoms. Evidence of grave lining of furs, bark, and grass was noted and nine burials had rocks lining the periphery of the pit bottom. The practice of simply filling the grave with soil following interment, as had been practiced principally in prehistoric times, is present, but also is covering the body with slabs or layers of bark and then soil, and covering with rocks and soil which are gaining in popularity from prehistoric times. In addition to the graves lined with burned grass several graves had evidence of burning associated with them
The graves with burial goods were increased over prehistoric times (from 10% of graves to 50%) and every nature of artifact typical of the protohistoric period is represented. More than half of the surviving goods were Native made. Those graves which had burial goods were very rich with bone combs, tools, beads, animal jaws, and human skull gorgets, and a wide assortment of copper, pottery, chert, glass beads, iron, shell, ground and chipped stone, leather, and minerals.
Following Culbertson and Adams in the Seneca sequence are the Tram (1570-1590) and Cameron (1575-1595) sites (Wray, et al., 1991). The mortuary traits of these two sites are also minutely described by the Rochester Museum. The two sites were coexistent as were the Culbertson and Adams sites, with Tram following Culbertson and Cameron following Adams.
At the Tram Site two cemeteries were found, one on either end of the ridge on which the village is located. These cemeteries are at the north and south ends of the site near where there were entrances to the fortified village. A possible third cemetery is located on a level area to the northeast of the site.
In Cemetery 1, A.C.Parker (1922:600-602 #78) opened 17 graves in 1917, 7 more were excavated in 1948, Wray opened 56 graves with 59 individuals, and others dug at other times. The total known burials in cemetery 1 is 78. At cemetery 2, 58 graves with 67 individuals, some of which had been previously disturbed, were opened. Other burials were found at the northeast part of the site, but were not further explored. The grave pits were oval in shape except five that were described by the excavators as rectangular and there is a "striking" similarity between the dimensions of the pits in cemetery 1 and cemetery 2, and is not much different than at Adams, but somewhat deeper than at Culbertson. At the bottom of many graves there was found a dark, dense, greasy black organic layer that was interpreted as bark, fur, or woven mat grave lining. Several graves had bark fragments in them. 28% of the graves at Tram had rocks lining the bottom periphery of the pit, compared to 4% at Adams and 13% at Culbertson. Bark with soil, soil alone, and rocks with soil are also recorded as grave covering at Tram. Many (43%) of the graves contained bits of charcoal and ash in the fill, and one had a six inch layer of ash on the grave floor and the skeletal remains themselves were charred.
The frequency of multiple burials at Tram is down considerably compared to that of Culbertson and Adams and the "causative factors" of the phenomena at the earlier sites seems to have been alleviated by the time of Tram. All but a few of the Tram burials were flexed, and just over half of the individuals were headed to the west. Artifacts were encountered in 54% of the graves at Tram and consisted of European and Native goods, with Native goods in the majority still. Brass hoops, spirals, beads, cones, discs, etc., glass beads, and iron knives, awls, projectile points, chisels, and a spoon make up the trade materials while a wide variety of antler and bone tools and ornaments, ceramic vessels (with carbonized food remains inside), chert, pipes, pouches with goods, shell, stone, and teeth are of the Native assemblage.
It is interesting to note, because it comes only from spacial analysis of the archaeological record rather than from statistical analysis, that at the southwest corner of Cemetery 2 of the Tram Site a clustering of individuals with a distinctive six element sacrum of genetic origin was found. This is believed to represent "families or groups of biologically related individuals that were buried in close proximity to each other - seemingly dependant upon family or clan membership" (Wray, et al., 1991:25-26). Moiety or clan influence on mortuary practice has always been presumed for the prehistoric and early historic Five Nations Iroquois (Wray and Schoff 1953:35; Ritchie 1954:18) and acknowledged for more recent times (Fenton 1936:19; Tooker 1971:362), and this is the only early archaeological evidence, that I am aware of, to indicate this practice. The unusual morphological trait is also present at the late prehistoric Harscher Site, and a biological relationship may be drawn from this and other evidence to reconstruct the Harscher-Culbertson-Tram sequence of population movement.
The Cameron Site, occupied at the same time as Tram, but believed to be a few years behind had two cemeteries, and a possible third. The two known cemeteries were located on the ridge at the north and south ends of the fortified habitation area, and each contain two distinct clusters of graves. The third cemetery is thought to be located on the west edge of the site, but had not been investigated. Several burials were excavated in the 1940s but few notes were kept, and others were opened in the 1950s and 1960s when field notes were being taken (Wray 1966; Hayes 1966b). Cemetery 1 had two clusters, with 57 graves with 64 individuals and cemetery 2 had two clusters, containing 61 graves of 75 individuals, one of which was a "torture victim." Several refuse pits in cemetery 2 seem to indicate that the village had been reduced in size at some point, and the cemetery expanded into the old habitation area.
The graves at Cameron were typically oval, excepting two described as rectangular, and one circular. The grave pits were about 27 inches deep, and are cut into a heavy clay and rock filled soil. Evidence of grass, skin, bark, or woven lining was found in several graves. Nine pits had rocks around the periphery of the grave bottom and one double interment grave had a "wall of rocks" separating the individuals. The grave coverings of bark and soil, soil, and stones and soil are also noted at Cameron and only a few graves had evidence of burning or charcoal in the grave fill.
A number of multiple graves were found, with 14 double, and 4 triple. This is more than at Tram, but less than the earlier Culbertson and Adams sites. The burials were flexed except, like earlier sites, several children who were suspected to have been buried on their cradle boards. The side upon which the flexed body lies is becoming more predominantly on the right with more individuals with their heads to the west than had been observed at earlier sites.
Artifactual offerings were found in 56% of the excavated graves at Cameron. This is comparable with the percentages at Culbertson, Adams, and Tram. Immature individuals were more likely to have offerings (78%) and females were twice as likely as males to have goods in their graves. Many graves (34%) contain native pottery, and chert items are also frequent. A high percentage of ornamental items as opposed to utilitarian objects may be due to the atypically high percentage of immature individuals. The grave goods are typically protohistoric ("period two") and include items of antler including figurines, combs, and tools; bone items in tools, ornaments, animal jaws, and a turtle shell rattle; copper and brass blade tools, and spiral, bead, and disk ornaments; ceramic pots; chert; glass beads; and several iron tools including axes, knives and chisels. An assortment of leather, cordage, pouches, pipes, seeds, shell, and stone tools and ornaments were also found.
This period is summarized by the increase in the number of graves with associated material goods, an increase in European goods, and a trend to orient the bodies to the west.
Following the Tram Site in the Seneca sequence is the Factory Hollow Site dated about 1580-1610 (Niemczycki 1984 after Wray). This well protected site was excavated by Parker (1919) who reported two burial grounds, one at either end of the site, just outside of the habitation area. The north cemetery is located just beyond a constriction of the ridge upon which the village sits, and that to the south lies on the side of the occupied ridge. Collectors, including a local blacksmith opened many graves in the northern cemetery and at least 150 graves are said to have been opened. The burials were "in the usual flexed position" and were deep considering the soil conditions. Artifacts were also found as usual for the Seneca of this period and later. The grave goods consist of typical middle protohistoric artifacts, and are rich in both European and Native items, including bone figurines, pottery vessels, bone tools and ornaments, shell and glass beads, brass projectile points and ornaments, and iron tools. For the first time complete brass kettles are being found in graves. A patch of charcoal was said to have been a sign "that seldom fails" for locating burials (Parker 1919:34).
Harry Schoff (1958) reported on two burials from Factory Hollow that he had dug. Others had also been dug but not recorded. The graves were in the southern burial plot where 151 graves total had been found. 100 burials had been dug in the norther plot by Schoff several years earlier. The first grave, of a child, had with it a large iron trade axe, four mullers or hammer stones, and the fill contained small bits of charcoal. The other burial, that of a young adult, was 42 inches long, 36 inches deep, and oval. The body was flexed on the right side, headed south, with a kettle between the face and knees, a ladle with a wolf's head carved on the handle, a wooden hair ornament with eight upright human figures similar to antler combs, twine, matting, glass beads, small pots (one with berry seeds), and a trade axe. This grave also contained charcoal in the grave fill.
At about this same time, c.1600, the Cornish Site was located not far from the Factory Hollow Site (Niemczycki 1984). The Cornish Site (a satellite to Factory Hollow?) has one cemetery on the north end of the same ridge where the habitation site is located (Hayes 1967). A cemetery with at least 50 graves was excavated in the late 1930s. No other mortuary data for this site was found in my search.
The Dutch Hollow Site, dated 1590-1615 (Niemczycki 1984 after Wray) is coeval with Factory Hollow and followed Cameron in the Seneca sequence. Ritchie (1954) reported that five cemeteries were found, all but one of which were on low rises of land. At least 333 burials were excavated (Footnote 10), with more than 67 from cemetery 1, 175 from cemetery 2, 75-80 from cemetery 3, and 8 each in cemeteries 4 and 5. None had been previously disturbed or looted. There were a number of multiple burials which indicated to the excavators that European diseases had affected the population.
The graves had been dug into the soil which consisted of sand of two to six feet (0.6 to 1.8 m) on a clay hardpan with many burials being made at or in the hardpan layer. The bodies were flexed, both tightly and loosely folded, and with no definite orientation. 65% were provided with burial offerings, with goods being somewhat more frequent with adult females than adult males and being most prevalent with children (Footnote 11). A very unique grave was burial #60 which contained the remains of an adult male, adult female, an infant, and a dog. This was interpreted as a family that had died of contagion, the man with his hunting equipment, the woman with her "medicine bag" and an infant in her arms.
One burial had evidence of a bark lining to the grave and charcoal in the fill. A child's grave had charcoal and wood ashes around the skeleton suggesting that the grave had been warmed before interment. Six graves had been covered with round cobbles and boulders. Based on the observed evidence Ritchie summarized the burials at Dutch Hollow as being
126.96.36.199 Seneca Historic Site Data
It is necessary to point
out that the Seneca archaeological record of the later half of the seventeenth
century will in some ways be "tainted" by the influence of outside groups
that were adopted and brought to the Seneca country to live. Following
the wars which destroyed the Huron, Neutral, Erie and other groups in the
1650s and 1660s thousands of refugees came to the Five Nations country.
With the Seneca many moved directly into the Seneca villages and technically
became Seneca, but there were also pockets of foreign nations that do not
seem to have been expected to assimilate into the Seneca nation.
As early as 1656 there was a Christian Huron village called St. Michael
(JR 46:73, 47:113). The influence of these former Christian
converts, not to mention the Jesuit missionaries that were in the Seneca
country between 1668 and 1684, must have been great indeed.
At the Bunce Site near Victor, NY (Wray and Graham, 1960, citing Houghton, 1912), an ossuary burial was found which is interpreted as being related to the Huron refugees in Seneca country. The bone pit or Ossuary reported by Houghton was 9 ft (2.7 m) long, 7.5 ft (2.3 m) wide and contained 28 or more individuals. Houghton removed the artifacts when he excavated, but left the human remains behind and then, in the late 1950s Wray and Graham came back and excavated the ossuary. They found that some of it was undisturbed and that it included artifacts such as scissors, an iron awl, a native gun flint, gun parts, shell tempered pottery, glass and shell beads, and iron bracelets. Houghton also reported finding 15 single burials, one with three individuals, and one of four. One was extended, several were flexed, and the others were disturbed. It seems that the Seneca cultural influence was slowly working on the Huron refugees. "On no other historic Seneca site has an ossuary been found" (Wray and Graham 1960).
At a cemetery known as the McClintock Site Albert Hoffman (1956) excavated 32 graves. It was determined from the artifacts found that the cemetery probably related to the nearby Beal and Boughton Hill sites and was dated perhaps about 1650-1675. The bodies were interred "laterally recumbently in various degrees of flexation" (Footnote 12) and the orientation was predominantly south (64%), with the skull facing east (80%). The average depth of the burial was 30 inches, with a fill of sandy clay mixed with charcoal, and some evidence of a bark lining or mat at the bottom of the grave. Five "typical" fire pits were found in the cemetery.
Sixteen of the graves at McClintock had brass or copper kettles of various sizes. The other goods int he grave were very diverse, and were of utilitarian and ornamental nature and were a mixture of European and Native items. The selection included wooden and gourd ladles, pewter spoons, iron tools of many kinds, gun parts, a native made pot, effigy pipes, stone, wood, and antler projectile points, raw materials for tools, animal bones and parts (including some fur) - all located near (and preserved by) the kettles.
Boughton Hill, also known as Ganagaro, now Ganondagan State Historic Site, is the only Native American archaeological site operated by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation. This site, dating from about 1670 until it was destroyed by Denonville in 1687, has been of great interest to collectors and archaeologist for decades. Despite being looted by the French and their allied Indians during the raid (see JR 63:289 passim), the village cemeteries have remained productive. As a State Historic Site it is hoped that looting and collecting at the site will cease.
Of the Boughton Hill Site Wray (1962) noted that:
The Seneca pattern of burial,
based on the observation of hundreds of burials at numerous sites of various
ages, can only minimally be used to describe the burial patterns for the
other nations of the Five Nations Iroquois of New York State. Although
there is considerable information suggesting the similarity of burial practices
across the Five Nations Iroquois there has been little recognition of the
fact that there is a great deal of information missing. This not
due to a lack of effort to locate data, but from a different pattern of
burial which has thus far prevented recovery of such data. By following
the Seneca pattern in search of burials archaeologists have only found
that there is a scarcity of data. Some have recognized that something
is missing but there has not been a concise study of just what is lacking
and the spatial and temporal aspects of this disparity are not identified.
The mass ossuary burials of Ontario and Niagara Frontier Iroquois groups (White 1956, Johnson, 1979, Tooker 1991) is so different than the single clustered interments of the Five Nations and it is clear that the Five Nations mortuary practices did not originate in that area. Ossuaries and single interments are present in the Erie, St. Lawrence, and Jefferson County sites (Johnson 1979, Pendergast 1985, 1990) indicating the mingling of traits that occurs along borders. The Susquehannock Iroquois sites which border the Five Nation to the south have single clustered burials like their New York and Algonkian neighbors (Heisey and Witmer 1962) indicating that the trait may have originated in the south. The Owasco precursors to the Five Nations Iroquois also had similar burial practices (Ritchie 1965). These notes confirm in some respects the Snow's (1995b) hypothesis that the New York Iroquois were an passively intrusive culture into the existing population of New York and which adapted and diffused their behavior with that of the local populations to become the precursors of the Five Nations Iroquois.
The burial data for the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, and Cayuga consists primarily of negative evidence for burials. If there is a different pattern of burial present, it has yet to be recognized, and this lack of recognition has prevented prediction and discovery of cemetery locations. The suggestion that large or central cemeteries were used over long periods of time has been made by Snow (1994), Tuck (1972), and others and historical texts such Jones (1851) and Hammond (1872) describe massive cemeteries but no such communal and temporally long- lived cemeteries have been found or studied by competent scholars. The 17th and 18th century burials at the Mohawk Sand Hill Site (Fort Plain, Montgomery Co., NY) may represent the long use of a single location as a cemetery but as there are only fifty known burials in two discrete temporal sets this cemetery site may have been a suitable location for two nearby but temporaly different villages. The Ripley Site, along the south shore of Lake Erie, within Iroquoia but outside of the Five Nations area, is a large communal cemetery which had been used over a long period of time (Parker 1907; Sullivan, pers. comm.) but other similar sites are unknown.
The destruction of the archaeological record in all of the nations being examined, especially the Cayuga, hampers the understanding of the patterns, but this cannot be the case for all of the data. As the nations involved have recognizable differences in their micro-patterns (e.g. linguistic, ceramic, settlement) but which are recognizable as being Iroquoian, it is plausible that the larger pattern of burial behavior is also are different with some parallel fragments. While the methods of interment, placement of goods with the dead, and ceremonies associated with death are (presently [Footnote 13]) recognized as shared or universal traits of the Five Nations, the presence or absence of cemeteries has spatial and temporal ramifications that are not understood.
It is not clear if the lack of burials at various times in the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, and Cayuga Nations is due to ritual or cultural behavior or in response from the changing trade, cultural, spiritual, and mortality environment created by contact with European peoples and groups that were assimilated by the Iroquois in the 16th through 18th centuries. The development of the Iroquois out of a preexisting population base or by incursion of a matrilineal society into the territory, the flourishing of Iroquoian culture and then the arrival of European influence occurr in a relatively short time period and it is difficult determine whether these traits were present in the incursive population or were in response to European contact.
The attitudes of the Iroquois toward the remains of their ancestors is of concern to this study. While individuals hold different beliefs regarding the dead, the general observance of respect for, and fear of, the dead is an almost universal trait. Scaffold burials, above ground burials with portals for viewing the dead, and bundled burials which may account for the lack of subterranean graves, are rare mentions in the archaeological and ethnohistorical literature (Converse 1908, Hewitt 1903, 1928) and would be contrary to the belief of the journey to the otherworld. The keeping of desiccated bodies and bones would delay or prevent the decomposition necessary for the completion of the journey to the otherworld (Hamell, pers. comm.). A common Native American fear of human remains, still held by many Iroquois today, stems not from fear of the ghosts of the deceased, but from the fear of the vampiric/cannibalistic soul which resides within the bones. This primary/animate soul is different than the personality/intellectual soul which is present until the body is reduced to dry bones. The primary/animate soul can cause mischief and is held responsible for various other troubles (e.g. the cannibalistic skeleton in an Onondaga myth recorded by Converse 1908 as well as personal and tribal sickness, and misfortunes). Methods of reduction that would hasten the passage to the otherworld (defleshing and cremation) are not recognized traits of the Iroquois burial pattern.
A primary cause for the lack of cemeteries at the Mohawk, Oneida, and Onondaga sites may be that these nations were nearest to the centers of European colonization and subject to pandemic diseases which caused many deaths and necessitated changes to the burial methods. It has been found that the spread of disease through these populations came about only after prolonged and sustained contact in which virulent diseases could be maintained long enough to be passed to from host to victim. It is believed that these diseases did not strike the eastern and central Iroquois until the 1630s (Snow 1992, 1995a) and it is thought that the persistence of Seneca cemeteries after this date is the result of their distance from the disease sources. But, it was perhaps 50 years earlier than the onslaught of these diseases that cemeteries are noted as missing for the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, and Cayuga sites.
Despite the considerable amount of work that has been done on Iroquoian sites in New York State there is so much that is not understood or that is misunderstood. In the past decade new hypotheses regarding Iroquoian origins have been formulated (Snow 1995b), the Northern Iroquoian groups of the St. Lawrence River region ar being studied with new vigor (Pendergast 1990; Engelbrecht, et al. 1990), and in Ontario entire regions are being studied to depths far beyond the degree of scrutiny of any single site in New York State (Ellis and Ferris 1990). The development of new hypotheses and reinterpretation of the old data are greatly needed to remove ourselves from the research strategies that are impeding the further development of our understandings (see Saunders and Sempowski 1991). It is clear that something has caused many dozens of Five Nations Iroquois village sites to be without cemeteries and it seems that this is a cultural/behavioral matter rather than as a result of how the sites have been treated and only by becoming aware of the problem and addressing the questions generated may we come to some conclusion regarding the missing cemeteries.
Wray and Schoff 1953
(Burial data only)
The destruction of the Seneca burial sites has been in progress for 250 years. Present-day excavations show that very shortly after burial some of their useful articles such as wampum, glass beads, iron axes, and good brass kettles. Native material was left behind. Whoever did this looting knew where most of the important graves were and where in them to look. This may have been done by the Seneca themselves or possibly by Denonville's Indian allies during their invasion.
With the arrival of the early settlers the graves were again dug into; this time the scavengers were in quest of iron for the blacksmiths. Excavation of these graves discloses only iron rust stains where axes, knives and guns had been. The native-made material was left behind scattered in the grave fill.
The search by the curious for Indian relics began as early as 1822 (Doty, 1876, History of Livingston County, :102), but did not become popular until the turn of the century. Only the earliest of the historic Seneca sites escaped the several lootings, probably because their locations had been forgotten and because less trade material was found on them. Scientific excavation of these important burials has been a recent development.
The 1550-1570 Period (:35)
Rattles were made from turtle shells and human skulls.
In Seneca burials only a few iron axes and large iron knives have been found.
Burials of the dead may have been controlled by clans or moieties as there are always two large cemeteries and one or more lesser ones. This is true of all the early historic Seneca sites. The graves were dug from three to six ft (1.8 m) deep and often contained more than one individual. The pits were first prepared by lining the floor with a matting of reeds, barks, or furs. Upon this the dead were placed in a flexed position with the hands usually before the face and the knees drawn up. There was no attempt to place the dead so that they headed in any particular direction. The large and numerous Seneca cemeteries, with a high percentage of multiple burials, suggest the ravages of epidemics, a situation to be expected with the arrival of the Europeans, who brought with them new diseases as well as the blessings of civilization.
The dead were accompanied by what they were wearing, occasionally an offering of a pottery jar or a basket of food, or rarely a few tools. Children were greatly loved, as evidenced by the lavish offerings usually found in their burials. Seldom was anything buried with an adult female. When the grave was ready to be covered, a layer of bark or large stone slabs was often placed directly on the bodies.
The 1575-1590 Period (:36)
Burial customs were the same, except for the tendency to give the dead more offerings.
The 1590-1615 Period (:36)
Burials were still being made in the same fashion in deep pits. Cemeteries numbered two or more. Grave offerings were much more common and lavish and consisted mostly of glass beads, pottery vessels of food, iron axes, knives, arrowpoints, turtle shell rattles, and occasionally pipes. All the bodies were placed in the flexed position with a strong tendency (75%) to head the body to the west. The procedure of placing rocks over the dead was practiced only at the Feugle Site, due perhaps to the availability of stone there. As yet brass kettles were seldom placed with the dead although their presence is proved by fragmentary scraps in the refuse. They must have been too valuable an item to permit their burial.
The 1615-1630 Period (:37)
Burial customs remained unchanged, there being two or more cemeteries with all the bodies in the flexed position and about 75% oriented with the head to the west. Grave offering were more numerous and for the first time brass kettles were often placed with the graves. Pottery jars were common burial offerings and frequently one or more vessels of brass or pottery were placed in the same grave.
The 1630 to 1650 Period (:38)
Burials were little changed. Two or more cemeteries were used and the dead were placed in the flexed position. Some of these cemeteries were protected by palisades. Nearly 95% of the bodies were oriented with the west, and for the first time muskets and pistols were occasionally buried with adult males. Brass kettles were more numerous than pottery vessels as food holders for the dead. Large shell gorgets, apparently the badge of the warriors, were buried with adult males. Nearly every adult male was accompanied by one or more pipes, often contained in pouches decorated with beads or animal teeth. Adult females seldom were accompanied by anything more than an iron axe and a kettle or pottery jar of food. All the offerings were placed in front of the face, between the head and knees, or behind the back. Infrequently was anything placed at the feet. Some time after the dead were buried, probably after the village had been abandoned, looters ransacked the head portions of half the graves. This marked the beginning of systematic robbing of the historic sites.
The 1650-1675 Period (:39)
Burial customs were changing. There were from three to seven, or more, separate cemeteries. For the first time 25% of the dead were placed in the extended position (European style), the remainder being flexed. Grave offerings were lavish with as many as 10,000 or more beads in a single grave. Flint lock muskets and pistols, varieties of the early and middle 1600s, were often buried with males. Nearly all the males were accompanied with one or more pipes, and an assortment of iron knives, awls, hematite paint, gun parts and whetstones. These offerings were predominantly placed between the head and knees and occasionally at the feet. The bodies were nearly all oriented with the head to the west.
The 1675-1687 Period (:41)
Burials were made in three to seven separate cemeteries, half were extended, the rest being flexed. Nearly all were headed towards the west. Ancient grave robbers had looted more than 75% of them. Grave offerings were numerous and often lavish. Many offerings were placed at the feet as well as before the face and by the hips.
The custom of giving the dead offerings used their stock of European material nearly as fast as the Seneca received it.
On sites after 1700 there appears to be a mixture of earlier and later bead types - perhaps the result of looting of the earlier burial grounds.
Basic burial customs were slow to change and aside from the ever-increasing amount of European material given to the dead little change took place until the Jesuits were established among the Seneca, around the 1650s. The extended form of burial was slowly adopted and by 1687 nearly half of the burials were extended. After 1687 most burials were in the extended position in progressively shallower graves until by 1779 they were barely below the present plow depth. Cemeteries were more numerous after 1650, and were usually close to the village site, often beginning at the edge of the refuse heap and on ridges and sides of ridges facing the village. Some cemeteries were as far as half a mile (0.8 km) from the village.
See :43-47 for time depth
and intensity of traits: flexed burials, extended burials, offerings by
the head, offerings by the feet, brass kettle in burial, head to east,
head to west, 2 or more cemeteries, 7 or more cemeteries, and ossuary.
The prehistoric Iroquois
in the ancestral homeland of the Seneca usually buried their dead in single
primary burials much in the fashion of the later historic Seneca.
Multiple burials of more than one individual are infrequent.
The cemeteries are usually on slight rises or ridges near or actually bordering the village area; and are small groups of approximately ten to thirty five burials scattered haphazardly in a circular plot not very close together. Empty spaces in the middle of the cemeteries are not uncommon and are probably caused by the location of trees. Prehistoric Iroquois burials tend to be deep, averaging about three feet (0.9 m) in depth. Burial pits are oval in outline with carefully excavated sides and a flat level floor. Post moulds are often found inside or close to the burial pit, indicating posts or markers being erected beside or over the burials.
The grave fill is commonly a well mottled mixed soil containing small chunks and flecks of charcoal. Patches of refuse dirt may be found in the grave fill of burials nearest the village area. Fire pits are commonly found scattered through the cemeteries suggesting the use of ceremonial fires.
The burials are carefully placed in a flexed position on either side and often on their stomachs, with the heads toward the east, and hands clasped before the faces. Occasionally a bundle or secondary burials are found indicating the reburial of the body, perhaps brought from some other area.
Burial offerings are extremely scarce, and when they do occur they often represent ornamentation on clothing, a necklace of beads (usually with children), a pipe (usually with men), or a dog carefully placed with a man (a hunter and his dog).
With the first European contact, burial customs rapidly changed. Epidemic diseases brought from Europe, to which the Indian had little immunity, ravaged through the villages. Multiple burials were very common, containing two or three people and occasionally up to five or six individuals. These burials were relatively deep, averaging three feet (0.9 m) with deeper graves ranging from four to six feet (1.8 m) in depth. The bodies are carefully placed in the flexed position, in well prepared graves, with the heads now most often to the west.
Many of the historic burials (1550-1600) have rocks in the grave fill. Great care was taken to carefully place field stones and even small boulders (weighing over one hundred pounds) over the skeleton. Some rocks lay directly on or within an inch or two of the skeleton, indicating these rocks may have been supported above the body and later collapsed down on top of the skeleton. The burials that do not have rocks have layers of bark close to or a foot or more above the skeleton. This bark layer resembles the remnants of a "roof" mat that was constructed to protect the burial.
With the beginning of European contact the frequency and amount of burial offerings increases rapidly. A few glass beads, ornaments of rolled sheet brass, iron knives, axes, and pottery jars are frequently placed with the dead. Children's graves are the most endowed with burial offerings.
The presence of brass in the graves and its ability to preserve organic material gives us an indication as to the amount of perishable material included in the burials. Bark and fur is used to cover the floors of the burials, and fur is also used to cover the body. Pieces of clothing, wooden tools, ornaments, and traces of wooden pipes are occasionally preserved by the presence of brass.
Seneca pipes are not common in the early historic period and are conspicuous by their absence. The few pottery pipes found are not only scarce but also rather crudely and amateurishly made. A few stone pipes and traces of wooden pipes indicates pipe smoking had not been forgotten.
After 1600 pottery pipes, beads, pottery vessels and occasionally a brass kettle appear as burial offerings: and by 1650 pipes are common, and pottery is beginning to be replaced by the brass kettle. In 1675 pottery becomes scarce and is extinct by 1700.
Disturbed burials appear after 1640. From 40% to 50% of all graves in the 1640 to 1660 period are disturbed and looted of their glass and shell beads and usable trade items, leaving behind native made materials in the grave fill. In burials dating from 1660 to 1670, 75% of al graves are looted int he same manner, and on sites from 1670 to 1687, practically all burials are looted. The sites after 1687 are untouched.
In 1687, the French Army under General Denonville with some two thousand soldiers and perhaps as many Indians, invaded the Seneca territory and destroyed all the Seneca villages (two large and at least two small). French soldiers and their Indian allies were hungry for booty and revenge. Burial looting took place at the time with the beads and especially wampum being valuable items to both the Indian and the European. The Indian allies accompanying Denonville were composed of the remnants of the nations defeated and dispersed by the Seneca. The Hurons would have been eager to recover some spoils the Seneca took from their villages in 1649. The Illinois, still smarting from the sack of their villages and cemeteries only a few years earlier were most anxious for revenge. One can imagine the sight of hundreds of grave robbers excitedly digging through the cemeteries.
The burials were obvious and perhaps marked. Well worn trails led the French soldiers and the Indians to the previous villages twenty years older and a mile or two (1.6 to 3.2 km) distant. Here the looters did not have much difficulty finding a large percentage of the graves. The next series of older villages had been abandoned for thirty or forty years and the graves by now were becoming hard to find in the underbrush, with approximately 50% being found. The villages before 1640 had been abandoned too long, and were difficult to find. Since the Seneca cemeteries dating after 1687 were not subject to pillaging, it is quite obvious who the ransackers were.
During the period from 1650 to 1660 burial customs began to change. The tightly flexed burial position began to give way to a loosely flexed or semi extended position. By 1670 many burials are in a fully extended position. Burial offerings were numerous and included glass beads, wampum and other shell beads, iron tools, pipes, and brass kettles of food.
After 1700, nearly all burials are in the extended position. Wooden caskets of rough pine boards with a few hand forged nails are beginning to be used. Burials are now in rows instead of circular plots of scattered graves.
Cemeteries are now smaller and more numerous, with little plots often behind each cabin. Burial offerings are often beside the body with a kettle of food near the feet. Except for an occasional stone pipe, antler comb or wooden ladle, all native made material is gone; replaced by crockery, pails and the iron tools of the European trader.
The depth of the graves in the late historic time is much shallower than the earlier historic period. Many of the graves are at the plow line and seldom more than eighteen inches in depth.
Agricultural machinery, aided by erosion has disturbed many of the late burials. Plowing often ripped out the brass kettles and disturbed and exposed the burials.
Late Colonial Seneca burials reflect the gradual but continuous degeneration of Iroquois culture. This was brought about by their growing dependency upon the goods of the Colonial traders, their continuous loss of land, their increasing consumption of rum, and finally their military defeat at the hands of the American Army of General Sullivan.
The definition of the protohistoric period in the Five Nations Iroquois archaeological record is based principally on the presence of key artifact types (often of European manufacture but native modification) and is generally considered that time from AD 1550 to 1630: not prehistoric and not historic. Because of the nature of defining the "historic" period with the presence of written records the historic period began at different times at different places. See Footnote 3.
This paper will not address the scattered human remains found on most pre-1700 Iroquoian sites. The author believes that these pieces of human bone, found in refuse deposits and bearing similar marks and characteristics as other faunal (food) material, are not of burials. Ethnographic and archaeological data indicate that these pieces (and often articulated portions of bodies) represent victims of a highly developed complex of ritual torture who were not accorded burial and whose remains were disposed of without recognition of their humanness (Weiskotten 1993).
The Historic period technically begins at different times in each Nation. For the Mohawk it begins at the end of 1634 with the visit of Harmen van den Bogaert, and then a short time later it begins with the Oneida when he visits there on the same journey. The Onondaga have their first European visitor of record in 1653 when Fr. Simon le Moine goes to seek peace with them. The Cayuga receive their first recorded visitor in 1668 when a Jesuit mission is started there in that year. The same is also said of the Seneca. Some consider the presence of European goods after 1550 to mark the historic period.
Before I was aware of Fenton's (1987) work I had concluded that the Iroquois False Face mask had originated in the Northern Iroquoian tribes before being brought to the Five Nations with refugees of the "Beaver Wars."
There is strong evidence contrary to Snow's belief that a large group of Oneidas were settled at the Failing Site between 1615 and 1635. Population studies by this writer (Weiskotten 1995) do not show any decrease in the Oneida population at this (or any other time) that would agree with a removal of more than 1500 Oneidas to the Mohawk Valley. Snow's hypothesis rests on Donald Lenig's seriation of 69 ceramic sherds from Failing (Snow has not seen the material). Albeit, 65% are of Thurston Horizontal but 69 sherds are far too few to be making such broad assumptions (Weiskotten 1991; Snow 1995:294, Table 7.1; Wayne Lenig, pers. comm.).
The source for this quote is a mimeographed copy of a paper presented by Peter P. Pratt at a meeting of the Morgan Chapter of the NYSAA, Rochester, NY, February 13, 1987 (the paper itself was written much earlier than 1987). Four pages are spent acknowledging the workers and only five lines of text were devoted to describing what they found. Two maps, and drawings of five burials, seven pipes, and 3 horn combs are also presented.
George Hamell (pers. comm.) said of the Alhart site that it is probably Wenro, c.1440 to 1550, and then rhetorically asked me "but then again, who were the 'Wenro'?" (see also Ritchie 1930 and Niemczycki 1984:111).
Because most of the work on the Seneca sites has been done excavating cemeteries there is very little settlement data available for the sites to which the cemeteries belong.
Wray (1973:27) also thought this, but Dean Snow (per. comm.) feels that European diseases had little effect on the native populations until a period of direct contact with infected persons could be made. The short periods of susceptibility and contagion kept diseases along the coast and near centers of European settlement until more sustained contact with interior groups was established - post 1630.
The totals given by Ritchie for the cemeteries only add up to at least 333, but he then notes that the Rochester Museum excavated 264 graves and a Mr. Hill 171 (435 total). Niemczycki (1984:126) notes only 265 graves which must be the RM sample.
This had also been noted at Cameron (Wray, et al., 1991:382-383).
I believe he means that they were tightly to loosely flexed on their side.
As I have pointed out before (Weiskotten 1991) there is a great disparity between the models of linguistic origins, settlement pattern origins, and material culture (ceramic) origins, and the record of burial patterns across Iroquoia show another model form that just does not fit across the Nations.
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Personal Communication on various dates with:
Robert Bennett, Cazenovia, NY
Monte Bennett, Earlville, NY
Gordon C. DeAngelo, Chittenango, NY
Dolores Elliott, Johnson City, NY
George Hamell, New York State Museum, Albany, NY
Robert E. Funk, NY State Archaeologist (retired), Delmar, NY
Stanford Gibson, Norwich, NY (deceased)
Wayne Lenig, St Johnsville, NY
Donald Rumrill, Gloversville, NY (deceased)
Lorraine P. Saunders, Rochester Museum and Science Center
Martha L. Sempowski, Rochester Museum and Science Center
Dean R. Snow, SUNY at Albany, Albany, NY
Lynn Sullivan, New York State Museum, Albany, NY
Theodore Whitney, Norwich, NY (deceased)
Where were the cemeteries during epidemics?
"Burial customs and practices can be extremely useful in making chronological inferences, due to subtle changes in their nature and frequency through time" (Wray, et al. 1987:167).
At the southwest corner of
cemetery 2 of the Tram Site there was found a clustering of individuals
with a distinctive six element sacrum of genetic origin. The writers
It is suggested that the clustering of individuals (with the extra sacral elements) indicates that families or groups of biologically related individuals were buried in close proximity to each other - seemingly dependant upon family or clan membership.
This sacral trait is found in 23% of the late prehistoric Harscher Site sample. Harscher has a close biological affinity with the Culbertson population but the Culbertson samples are too poorly preserved to show this trait (Wray, et al., 1991:25-26). From this the sequence of Harscher-Culbertson-Tram can be clearly seen.
An excellent example of how
the osteological collections from a series of sites might be used to answer
some of the questions we have comes from two Seneca sites (Wray, et al.,
1987:25-26). From the analysis of the skeletal material from Culbertson
and Adams it was concluded that although both sites are Seneca Iroquois
and were occupied at the same time the prehistoric population sources for
the two sites was not the same. The Culbertson comparisons show essentially
close relationship to three of the four known prehistoric samples (Harscher,
Shakeshaft, Brongo, and Alhart) but the Adams population comparisons reflect
a degree of divergence from the four. This indicates that the sources
for the two protohistoric populations were not the same and the pattern
of two separate villages throughout the early historic period (1560 to
1687) may be due in part to these differing origins. Without the
large data base that is available for the Seneca such conclusions would
not be possible.
George Hamell, pers. comm. 5/7/1996
four things from cosmology came to mind (will send info):
--Onondaga Creation by Hewett, Bureau of Ethnology (BEA) 1903 report, part 1
--Extended Onondaga version by Hewett, 1928, part 2
--Woman in skyworld visits her dead father who had been wrapped in bark and placed in the rafters of the house - mummification? above ground burial?
--reference to shamans buried in trees? -in a canoe in a pine tree.
drawing of 1779 grave in journal of Lieut. Farley, Sesquicentennial celebration of Sullivan/Clinton expedition. at Appletown?
any not "Five Nations Iroquoian" (my term) pattern may be from outside as there were so many influences due to captives and adoptions. don't know where many of these sites are - where is successor to St. Michael?
Harriet Caswell, in "Our Life among the Iroquois" recalls the tradition of scaffold burials.
Iroquois believe in multiple souls:
1) primary/animate = id, not associated with the personality, but the force which animates the body and resides within the bones, can become vampiric/cannibalistic and cause trouble (Beauchamp's story of skeleton)
2) personality/intellectual soul = of soft tissue, present until the body is reduced to dry bones, journey to the vilage of souls is not complete until all flesh is gone, full decomposition to bone sets this soul free.
The "Grandmother's" journey (= any ancestor) is not complete until the
body is reduced to dry bones. defleshing or flesh stripping, cremation,
exposure to elements and vermin would hasten the process of reduction to