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Late Woodland (1,200 – 350 years ago)


Most Late Woodland habitation sites, in contrast to earlier settlements, represent single-components. This is a consequence of the Indians’ selection of locations, motivated by two factors: the requirements and possibilities of an agricultural economy, and the need for defense against hostile neighbors. Thus, most sites are well back from major streams, generally near small creeks and brooks, and on high hills and knolls. 1

The transition to the Late Woodland Period is marked by the introduction of such domesticated plants as corn, (maize) beans, squash, and tobacco. These plants were first domesticated in Central America and gradually found their way into the Northeast. Plant domestication, as we have seen, had been practiced widely long before these more familiar plants arrived. In spite of their understanding of plant domestication, the people on Long Island were slow to adopt corn horticulture. They were doing fine without it.

In fact, there has been no evidence of maize cultivation found in any of the sites excavated in the Town of East Hampton. We do know, however, that by 1648 when the Montauketts negotiated the first deed to land in East Hampton, the Indians were growing corn because they asked for twenty-four hoes, among the other goods, in exchange for the land.2


Our fundamental classification of Late Woodland sites includes the following:

  1. Villages; two or more houses (semipermanent occupation)
    a. Undefended
    b. Palisaded ( A continuous wall or fence of stakes, especially for defense. )
  2. Hamlets; usually one house (semipermanent occupation)
  3. Camps, recurrent (spring-summer fishing stations)
  4. Camps, temporary (fall-winter hunting posts)
  5. Ceremonial dumps
  6. Cemeteries and Ossuaries
  7. Workshops

Village Settlements

The limited archaeological and ethnographic data from Long Island and adjacent areas suggest that the native people of Long Island may have lived in settlements with populations which ranged from Jess than twenty to as many as five hundred inhabitants. Two very general settlement “types” have been identified, based on population and the presence of features indicating levels of social complexity. The smallest and least complex are the campsites which served as hunting or fishing stations or workshops located near the sources of shell or clay. These sites may have consisted of only one or two structures where ten or twenty people resided. The larger settlements may have been occupied by one hundred to five hundred or more people, with a communal building large enough to hold twenty or thirty people, a burial place, planting grounds ,menstrual houses, a small palisaded enclosure, sweat houses, and winter storage areas for surplus food (Ceci 1990: 19; Sears 1956, Callahan 1981: 136-36) 3

Roy Latham and Selah Lester’s nephew Thomas identified thirteen sites from this period around Three Mile Harbor. Several of these sites were located on Ashawag meadows.

The Ashawag villagers were quite innovative. They protected their fresh water supply by placing hollow logs upright into the ground around the spring. Lester and Latham found two of these prehistoric wells. They also found the remains of domestic activities. There were hearths filled with ash, animal bones, a large sandstone mortar weighing about 50 pounds and a nine pound pestle.

Along with these materials, they discovered the remains of pottery vessels. The pots were decorated in a variety of ways, including scallop shell stamping, cord marking, and punctated designs made with a sharp implement. Two of the pots were large enough to hold several gallons of liquid. The rims of two of these communal pots were decorated with four human faces looking out at the four cardinal points of the compass. Each face has a shell stamped diamond design around it. The size of the pots suggests that they were used to prepare communal meals.2

Stockade Forts

Near the end of the Late Woodland Period, perhaps a century or so before the arrival of the first Europeans, the Native peoples here began to build stockade forts.

The earliest one mentioned in the colonial records stood on the western crest of the Nominick hills overlooking Napeague Bay. No excavation was done there, so the exact site is not known.

A second fort, which may have been in use at the time the English arrived, stood on top of Fort hill, overlooking Fort Pond near the present-day village of Montauk. This site was examined by William Wallace Tooker, who reported finding 134 graves there. Unfortunately, the site has been vandalized over the years. Several graves were robbed and there were reports that one person was seen carrying a bushel basket full of human bones from Fort hill. In 1983, Edward Johannemann, an archaeologist from The State University at Stony Brook, excavated the site and confirmed Tooker’s description of a stockade enclosing an area 180 feet square.2

Material Culture and Tools

Johannemann also found evidence of tool making, several stone artifacts, and some broken pottery. Along with these materials, he found remains of clams, oysters, whelks, bluefish, and sturgeon.2

Wampum Manufacturing

Johannemann noted with some surprise that there was no wampum and no evidence of wampum manufacture anywhere on the Montauk fort site. He was surprised because Fort Corchaug, a contemporary Late Woodland site on the North Fork, contained broken whelk and quahog shells along with drilling tools, indicating that wampum manufacturing was a major activity there. The early colonial records are full of references to the abundance of wampum on the east end of Long Island. The absence of any such evidence at Montauk is puzzling.2

Late-Woodland Sites


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At the time of European contact, this area was occupied by a people known as the Agawam or Jabash, possibly a sub-group or village of the large Shinnecock tribe. An Indian trail was located along or near what is now Montauk highway leading to this village site, however no material culture was found during archaeological investigation.



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Unkechaug Indian Reservation

The Unkechaug Nation maintains a sovereign relationship with the State of New York, other Indian Nations in the United States and Canada and other foreign powers. The Unkechaug Nation is located on the Poospatuck (“where the waters meet”) Reservation in Long Island, NY.Under the provisions of colonial laws and later under the New York State Constitution (Article 12) the State of New York formally recognized the Unkechaug Nation of Indians in the 18th century. 1500 acres of land that had been long held by the Unkechaug and that continued from an original land agreement entered into with the King of England and the Unkechaug in the 17th century was set aside for the exclusive use of the Unkechaug. Today, that allotment has been stripped down to 55 acres; nevertheless, the affinity of the people to the land is as strong as in the past, if not even stronger today. The total population of tribal members, families, and extended relations is 450 of which approximately 250 reside on the Poospatuck Reservation. Housing density, and occupancy levels are unacceptable when measured against the rate of population growth and available land as well as the number of tribal members who want to return to their traditional homeland. The Unkechaug are faced with a rate of population growth greater than the national average and an increased demand for tribal services. Housing is an important priority but efforts to expand housing for tribal members are blocked by a lack of land. The Unkechaug are committed to increasing the land base in order to meet the needs of their members. [1.]



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Horse Barn Burial Site

In 2003, a group burial was discovering during residential development and a house barn construction, dating back to between 1400 to 1640 AD. Shinnecock tribal members argued against further disruption of the soil, seeing the proposed barn as a cemetery site.Despite resistance, the private owners continued development while the remains were reburied in an undisclosed location on Shelter Island.



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Appaquogue is an important site that was once used to harvest cat-tail flag reeds for wigwam creation - thus receiving the name "a place where flags grow."Today, the pond is known as Lily Pond. On the edge of the water, a much more common reed known as Phragmites remains, though this plant is also known as wigwam roof material.



5I5A9618-Edit-300x139 Late Woodland (1,200 - 350 years ago) Jeremy Dennis On This Site


Messemennuck was once a western territory boundary of the Shinnecock people. Cat-tail 'flag' reeds were gathered here to become roofs of wigwams, and the river was bountiful in Alewive fish, whose population has lowered due to their dependency on fresh-water sources for their spawning.



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Indian Fields

Indian Fields is a settlement site for the Montaukett Indians with evidence of occupation from the pre-contact Paleo-Indian period until May, 1885. This terrain of 1200 acres of rolling grassland and brush is now a Suffolk County Park.



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Ayeuonganit Wampum Ayimꝏup

Ayeuonganit Wampum Ayimꝏup, Here, Wampum Was Made, also known as Parrish Pond, is the site of a former Shinnecock wampum-manufacturing site.In 2000, a protest led by Shinnecock tribal member Rebecca Genia began at Parrish Pond. Despite a peaceful protest, three Shinnecock tribal members were arrested on the first morning of protest, and a fourth was arrested the next day when, once again, protesters gathered at the site. This time, however, the tribe had won an injunction against the subdivision and called in Bob Zellner, co-chair of the Southampton Anti-Bias Task Force, to help mediate the situation. Zellner had barely introduced himself to the supervising officer when he was “knocked to the ground and brutalized” by police. He, too, was arrested.All four of the Shinnecock protesters and Zellner were either acquitted or had their cases dropped or dismissed.In 2014, Southampton Town Board agreed to allocate $900,000 from the Community Preservation Fund to preserve the 1.5-acre cultural site. During this year, Shinnecock Tribal Member and cultural activist Elizabeth Haile shared the importance of this site, as it had the perfect combination of a running stream and a particular species of heather grass that was used to polish wampum shells for beads.



5I5A9166-Edit-Edit-300x200 Late Woodland (1,200 - 350 years ago) Jeremy Dennis On This Site

Sebonac Creek Settlement

The Sebonac Creek Site is a Shinnecock settlement occupied from the Late Woodland period until the contact period. A stone pottery fragment resembling a Thunderbird design was found along with evidence of a large wigwam ( 15 by 20 feet ), accompanied by another smaller wigwam (15 by 10 feet) southeast. In the center was a fireplace. Also to the east, a burial was discovered, containing one body.Today, the Sebonac Creek site is situated on the edge of the National Golf Links of America.



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Hallock Site

A small 17th century flaking workshop was found here, north of a large village site. Three thousand stone scrapers were found on the surface, collected since the 1880s.



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The territory of this chieftaincy was adjoined by the Matinecocks on the west and extended eastward from the Nissequogue River to Stony Brook and south to the center of the Island. Apparently, there was a disagreement for a time between the Nissequogue and Matinecock Indians concerning their boundary and, as a consequence, they did not always enjoy friendly relations. They had extensive villages at Smithtown and at several other places near the shore within the bounds of their territory.



5I5A6295-Pano-300x141 Late Woodland (1,200 - 350 years ago) Jeremy Dennis On This Site

Whale's Fin

Whale's fin is a sacred site for the Shinnecock, located two and a half miles south west from the current reservation and two miles south east from Canoe Place. Here, the whales were known to beach, potentially as an offering for sustenance to the Shinnecock in the area.



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Duke Site

The Duke site, named after Anthony Drexel Duke, is a site that was excavated by the New York State Archaeological Association, L.I. Chapter in 1974.  On this site, a shell midden was found, suggesting the presence of indigenous occupation in the area.Nearby is the well-document Ashawagh settlement site, located on the shore of Hand's Creek, west of Three Mile Harbor.



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Missi Kesukut

Missi Kesukut is a sacred site that was first preserved in 1991. In 2006, a skull was found in the area, identifying the area as a cemetery and at one time an Indian village. This discovery led to several years of local indigenous groups to dispute whether the area should be developed or remain as it is.Today, Missi Kesukut is protected by the town district who allocated Community Preservation Funds to purchase the land from the private land owner for it's preservation.



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Manhansack-aqua-quash-awamock, the traditional Algonquian name for Shelter Island by the Manhanset group who lived there from pre-historic time until the seventeenth century; is approximately 7907 acres in area. This island is unique for having the largest glacial erratic boulders on Long Island, resulting from the Wisconsonian glacier.[1. Englebright, 1982]



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The first known inhabitants of East Hampton and Montauk town were the aboriginal Montaukett -- a place name spelled a dozen different ways in early records. It was not a "tribal" name, but a place name which the colonists conferred upon them as they designated them as a "tribe." The meaning of Montaukett in William Wallace Tooker's Indian Place Names on Long Island is given as either the "high or hilly land" or the "fort country"-- both of which appear to fit Montauk topography and the presence of two fortified places. [1. Tooker, William Wallace, Indian Place Names on Long Island..., 1911, 1962, Ira J. Friedman Pub., p. 141.]The Montauketts are members of the large Algonkian language family and peoples who inhabited the Atlantic Coastal Plain from Canada to the Carolinas; they spoke a variant of the language of the Mohegan-Pequot, across the Long Island Sound from them.[1. Levine, Gaynell Stone & Nancy Bonvillain, Languages & Lore of the Long Island Indians, Vol. IV, Readings..., 1980, SCAA, p. 168.]



5I5A7096-Pano-300x132 Late Woodland (1,200 - 350 years ago) Jeremy Dennis On This Site


Fort Pond in Montauk was once called Konkhunganik by the Montaukett Indians before and during the 1800s at its southern half and Quanuntowunk for its north shore.This site along the south eastern shore was occupied seasonally during the Late Woodland Period (1,200 - 350 years ago) as a recurring base camp for nomadic hunter-gatherers and their extended families.As early as 1661, the place name Konkhunganik was recorded from Montauketts during the creation of a land deed. The translation of Konkhunganik is currently unknown, but early 20th centruy anthropologist William Wallace Tooker believed the name translates to "at the boundary."



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Ronkonkoma was once a fresh water pond with a prehistoric village settlement.Many nineteenth and twentieth century legends are associated with this site.Today, the water of Lake Ronkonkoma has been deemed too toxic for swimming.



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Manitou Hill

Manitou Hill is a sacred hill located on what is now known as Manetto Hill in Plainview, New York. An oral story, recorded by historian Gabriel Furman in 1874, describes a legend during a great drought. The Manitou instructs a sachem through a dream to stand at the top of Manetto Hill and fire an arrow into the air, and on the spot where the arrow lands, people should dig until they find water.The water spring that was found, called Mascopas, is now beneath a local high school athletic field.Manitou is known in traditional systems as the powerful and unseen power throughout the universe, being present during moments of the miraculous and mysterious.



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The indigenous peoples who inhabited the general area of Noyack were a small segment of the Shinnecock, known as the Weckatuck (meaning "end of the woods or trees, or end of the cove or creek." Sometimes spelled Wickatuck, Wecutake, Wecatuck, Weckatuck, Weeckatuck) . Described by Southampton in a 1964 publication, they were peace loving Indians who settled in isolated groups and lived off shellfish and game. They farmed to a limited degree. Six or eight families lived on one site until the farming land was exhausted, or until collection of refuse became a serious problem. The largest known encampment of Noyack Indians was beside the Mill Pond, now known as the Trout Pond. The last known Weckatucks lived in a teepee back of Mill Pond shortly before the end of the nineteenth century. [1. Southampton, Long Island 325th Anniversary 1640/1965 pp 33]

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Trout Pond from the southern edge



5I5A8016-300x112 Late Woodland (1,200 - 350 years ago) Jeremy Dennis On This Site


Patuckquapaug, located on the edge of what is now known as Round Pond in Sag Harbor, was once a village site for what was likely a subgroup of the Shinnecock.



Lapnac-or-Noyak-Site5I5A8037-Edit-300x276 Late Woodland (1,200 - 350 years ago) Jeremy Dennis On This Site


Noyack was once a village site with evidence of dwellings, burials, cooking hearths, animal remains, and tools. Evidence of both Niantic culture and Sebonic culture are found in the area.Noyack takes its name from the long point or neck of land now known as Jessup's Neck, at one time called "Farrington's Point."[1. William Wallace Tooker, Indian Place Names on Long Island, 1911, pp. 166]



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Ashawagh is a pre-contact Montaukett settlement on the edge of Copeces, now Hand's Creek. Shell heaps in the area suggest intense wampum manufacturing. This place was particularly important for hunting, fishing, and camping.



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Springy Banks Pow Wow Grounds

The Springy Banks site has been described as a favorite summer camping grounds of the Montauk.It receives its name from numerous delicious flowing springs of water that flow from the base of the cliffs here. Many an East Hampton and Three Mile Harbor residents speak with nostalgia of the sweet draughts of water that they enjoyed from Springy Banks when it was Town Property.


  1. William A. Ritchie and Robert E. Funk, Aboriginal Settlement Patterns in the Northeast 1973  (pg 323)
  2.  John Strong, from Transcript of Indians of Eastern Long Island Lecture, 2002
  3. John Strong, The Algonquian Peoples of Long Island From Earliest Times to 1700, pg 70., 1997
  4.  John Strong, from Transcript of Indians of Eastern Long Island Lecture, 2002
  5.  John Strong, from Transcript of Indians of Eastern Long Island Lecture, 2002
  6.  John Strong, from Transcript of Indians of Eastern Long Island Lecture, 2002
  7.  John Strong, from Transcript of Indians of Eastern Long Island Lecture, 2002


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