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Jamesport Site

Table of Contents
Introduction
History
Preservation

Introduction

The Jamesport Site is an Orient Period (1,000 – 1,300 BC) ceremonial burial ground.

During this cultural period, distinct spiritual and ceremonial burials were practiced; including “killed” steatite bowls, burial offerings, red ochre caches, and dog sacrifices.

In February 2017, Riverhead town purchased this site for due to its cultural significance. It is the last known Orient Period burial site still remaining.

History

1940

The most significant Native American archaeological site along Main Road is “Sieminski Farm Site” at the crest of Sharper’s Hill behind the hamlet of Jamesport. Artifacts from the site have been dated to the transition period between the Archaic Period and the Early Woodland Period (about 3,300 – 2,700 B.P).

The site was first excavated in 1940 by Roy Latham, an amateur archaeologist from Orient. The site was professionally re-excavated by William Ritchie (New York State Archaeologist), Irving Rouse (Professor, Yale University) and Peter P. Pratt. Along with two similar sites in Orient and one in Shinnecock Hills, it revealed artifacts providing important evidence of the mortuary customs of the little-understood Archaic Period inhabitants.1 At the Orient I and II, the Jamesport, Sugar Loaf Hill and Aquebogue sites, archaeologist Roy Latham encountered burials with red ochre, broken or “killed” steatite bowls, and a type of projectile point that came to be known as Orient Fishtails.

1956

Archaeologist William Ritchie later studied the site in 1956.

Although no other sites along Main Road are as well documented, a quick perusal of some old scrapbooks reveals numerous accounts of Native American remains were uncovered in the area. Moreover, most of the families that have farmed along Main Road for several generations have extensive collections of Native American artifacts.1

  1. https://riverheadlocal.com/2013/05/10/main-road-historic-resource-survey/
  2. https://riverheadlocal.com/2013/05/10/main-road-historic-resource-survey/

Preservation

2009

A letter from Douglas Mackey of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation read into the record of the 2009 environmental impact hearing on the Village at Jamesport project that includes this hill, stated1 that:

ʺWhile the Jamesport Hill site had not been officially determined eligible (to the National Register), that is only because the site was not endangered previously and no request for a formal determination has been made. The site is clearly eligible.ʺ

2017

In February 2017, Riverhead town purchased this site for due to its cultural significance. It is the last known Orient Period burial site still remaining.

2018

County Legislature approves purchase of 11-acre Jamesport site

What was once planned for 10 mixed-use commercial buildings along the north side of Main Road in Jamesport will now become a hamlet park with a Native American burial ground that will be cordoned off as a “sacred site.”

The Suffolk County Legislature on Tuesday approved the purchase of the 11-acre site as parkland, and is expected to approve another 33 acres to the north of that as protected farmland, according to Suffolk County Legislator Al Krupski (D-Cutchogue).

He expects that closing on the sale of both the hamlet park and farmland will happen concurrently.

The farmland could have been built with 42 homes under current zoning and was once proposed for a 160-unit retirement community prior to the town’s 2003 master plan update, which changed the zoning.

While those development efforts faced intense community opposition, the turning point came in late 2015, when developer Robert DiNoto purchased the property, which had been in foreclosure. After hearing feedback from the community, he began working with the county to preserve it.

“This is a major advance in preserving the character and the history of downtown Jamesport,” Mr. Krupski said in a press release.

“Saving this land was a community effort started long before the county became interested in acquiring the land,” he added.

Groups like the Greater Jamesport Civic Association, Save Main Road, the local Native American community and Riverhead Town all worked to preserve the site, he said.

“The Town has worked hard in partnership with the community and the county to preserve this land for future generations to enjoy,” said Riverhead Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith in a press release. “It is so gratifying to see those efforts pay off for Riverhead residents, and all residents of Suffolk County, who come to enjoy the Town’s natural beauty. It’s a great addition to Jamesport.”

Mr. Krupski, who sponsored the legislation to preserve the land, said the parcel is home to Sharper’s Hill and an ancient Native American mortuary. Although the artifacts have been removed, he said, the area containing the burial grounds will be identified with signage and will be cordoned off as it is considered a sacred site.

“I am excited about the effort being made by Suffolk County regarding the historic preservation and protection of our local Native American burial mounds, and the Jamesport site,” said Sandi Brewster-Walker, a historian who is also a member of the Montaukett Indian Nation and board chair of the future Long Island Indigenous People Museum.

“All parties came together in unison and worked together to achieve this incredible outcome,” said Greater Jamesport Civic Association president William Van Helmond.

Photo caption: Phil Barbato of Jamesport pictured in front of the land in 2016. Mr. Barbato owns an organic farm next door to it. (Credit: Tim Gannon)2

  1.  https://riverheadlocal.com/2013/05/10/main-road-historic-resource-survey/
  2. Tim Gannon, http://riverheadnewsreview.timesreview.com/2018/04/86936/county-legislature-approves-purchase-of-11-acre-jamesport-site/ 4/27/18

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