Three who helped discover the identity of New York’s prehistoric people

GUILDERLAND CENTER — At the May 21 meeting of the Guilderland Historical Society, Dr. Galen B. Ritchie’s presentation, “Three Twentieth-Century Archeologists Who Discovered the Prehistory of New York State,” will trace the story of the state’s first three professional archeologists as they investigated New York’s earliest inhabitants and  developed a methodical scientific approach to archeological field work.  At the same time, they were establishing the basis of New York’s prehistory.

New Yorkers’ familiarity with the Iroquois and Algonkians dated back to 17th-Century settlers, but little consideration had been given to the possibility that even earlier Native American groups may have preceded them. The first archeological studies of Native American culture in the state had been conducted by avocational archeologists, but, in 1904, when the state appointed Arthur Parker as New York State’s first professional archeologist, serious research soon made it apparent that the Iroquois and Algonkians were not the first humans to settle in New York.

Ritchie will describe the work of Parker and his successors who, as they worked to discover the state’s first inhabitants, established a methodical, scientific approach to fieldwork; recorded their discoveries; and attempted to solve the mystery of the identity of these prehistoric people.

Ritchie’s information comes firsthand from participating in archeological research in his youth with his father, Dr. William A. Ritchie, one of the state archeologists whose work he will be describing, and from personally knowing the other two early state archeologists ,Arthur Parker and Robert Funk.

Ritchie is a graduate of Bethlehem High School and Colgate University with advanced degrees from the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University. He has experience doing field research with the National Park Service and has been a historian, teacher, and administrator.

Anyone with an interest in archeology, New York State Native Americans, or New York’s prehistory is welcome to join members of the Guilderland Historical Society for their meeting Thursday, May 21, at 7:30 p.m. at the Mynderse-Frederick House at 451 Route 146 in Guilderland Center. Parking available next door at the church.

Refreshments and a social hour will follow the program. For more information, call 861-8582.

Editor’s note: Mary Ellen Johnson is the vice president of the Guilderland Historical Society.

More Out & About

  • BETHLEHEM — The Cedar Hill Schoolhouse Museum, home of the Bethlehem Historical Association, is now open Sunday afternoons from 2 to 4 p.m. 

  • BETHLEHEM — The Cedar Hill Schoolhouse Museum, home of the Bethlehem Historical Association, is now open Sunday afternoons from 2 to 4 p.m. 

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