LAKE GEORGE - Archaeologists have uncovered 10,000-year-old Native American artifacts near a popular state-owned beach in the southern Adirondacks, making it among the earliest known occupied sites in New York state, officials announced Thursday.
The archaeological dig conducted ahead of a $3 million improvement project at Million Dollar Beach on Lake George has turned up thousands arrowheads, pieces of stone tools and other artifacts dating back to about 8,000 B.C., said Christina Rieth, the state's head archaeologist.
"We certainly don't find these kinds of sites every day," said Rieth, who's based at the New York State Museum in Albany. She and museum Director Mark Schaming held a news conference at the excavation site 55 miles north of Albany to announce the findings, which also included artifacts from the French and Indian War (1755-63).
The state is repaving the parking lot and access road at the beach, located on the southern end of the 32-mile-long lake. In late August, a team of archaeologists from the museum began digging just off the access road in a tree-shaded picnic area located a few hundred feet from the beach. In prehistoric times, the area would have been the shoreline, Rieth said.
The Native Americans who left behind projectile points and evidence of stone tool-making likely didn't linger long at the site or any others, she said.
"It would be kind of a transit group, people who would have come here year after year for fishing or other types of activities around the lake," Rieth said. "It's unlikely they settled here."
The find is significant even for Lake George, a popular summertime tourist village where history is literally underfoot. It hasn't been uncommon over the years for 18th century military artifacts or even human skeletons to be dug up during routine public works projects or hotel expansions.
The latest discoveries occurred adjacent to the site of a French and Indian War battle in 1755, while nearby stands the full-scale replica of the fort the British built that year, only to be captured and destroyed by the French in 1757.
The southern end of the lake where the dig is being conducted would have been a popular hunting and fishing spot for the nomadic people of the Archaic Period, said John Hart, the museum's director of research and collections.
"It was an area people would have come back to get those resources," Hart said.
Schaming said some of the artifacts will eventually be displayed at the state museum.