700 Years Ago on Onondaga Hill

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700 Years Ago on Onondaga Hill

by Rob O'Boyle

During the summer of 1966 students from Syracuse University, Westhill, West Genesee and Marcellus High Schools participated in an excavation of a Native American settlement under the direction off Professor James Tuck of the Archeology Department at Syracuse University.

The site was located just north of the campus entrance on Onondaga Road where the Meadows Apartments now stand.  A film was made of the excavation by the local BOCES, produced by Robert E. Burdick.  The film follows the progress of the excavation.  It demonstrates archeological techniques and tools and show the typical features and artifacts including pottery, stone tools, and food storage pits.  An aerial view reveals the extent of the village site which encompasses over 3 acres enclosed by a palisade.  Parts of seven long houses are exposed.  Towards the end of the film a panning shot shows the original limestone Onondaga County Poor House and Hospital and the County (later College) barn.


A painting and a model, the work of local artist George Benedict, was used in the film to suggest some of the activities which took place in this village over 700 years ago.  Native Americans are shown hunting, making pottery, building a longhouse, and a palisade.  A DVD copy of the film, Furnace Brook Site, is available in the Media Center on the 2nd level of Coulter Library.  There is also a book, Onondaga Iroquois prehistory: a study in settlement archaeology by James Tuck in the Library collection that includes the Furnace Brook excavation as well as additional sites on Onondaga Hill and upstate New York.  The project was made possible through a grant by the Rosamond Gifford Charitable Foundation, Syracuse University and the Board of Cooperative Services (BOCES) of Onondaga County.  






Photograph 1: The outline of the Longhouse takes shape.

Photograph 2: The dig looking south, county barn and General Ellis homestead are in the background.

Photograph 3: At work on the dig, looking east. County Poorhouse and Hospital are in the background.