Ancient Ammunitions Plant

Prior to the discovery of New York’s Ancient Ammunitions Plant, any flint found in New York was interpreted as coming from distant areas such as North Carolina or Ohio. Needless to say, such conclusions skewed views of trade, etc.. 

Upon the invitation of Mr. Jefferson D. Ray of West Coxsackie the flint quarry site near Coxsackie was visited and a preliminary inspection made. The place proved of unusual interest and answered the inquiry as to the location of the flint supply of the aborigines.

Excavations and survey of Flint Mine hill. On May 15th [1921] expedition equipment was taken to Coxsackie and set up on Flint Mine hill on the West Shore Railroad property. Permission to conduct an examination of the site had been granted through President A. H. Smith of the New York Central lines.

Flint Mine hill is located about 1.5 miles south of Coxsackie station on the West Shore Railroad and is bounded by the Arthur Spore farm on the south and the F. W. Cole farm on the north. Entrance may be had through the farm road of Colonel Jacob Dunaef.

The hill is about 1 mile long and one-fifth of a mile wide. Its highest elevation is about 200 feet above the zero station established at a rock cut at the roadway entrance to the Dunaef farm.

The survey and excavations conducted from May 15th to June 15th led to many interesting discoveries relating to the methods of flint mining by the ancient Indians. About 200 flint pits and three large quarries, one of them 150 feet long and 40 feet wide, were discovered. In places on the hill were the sites of sorting stations, chipping stations, workshops and refuse dumps. Some of the dumps were 10 or more feet thick and several hundred feet long, and contained the refuse from the quarries after the flint seams had been picked out. The quarry pits contained heaps of flint in chunks ready for taking to the testing stations. A number of fine blocks of flint were secured as specimens. In the pits were hundreds of stone maul heads and hammers. The dumps were full of them. More than a thousand were picked up from the quarries and the investigators then ceased to collect them because of their numbers. Not a single hammer from the site was of the pitted variety, which leads us to believe that at this at least pitted “hammers” served other uses. Among the interesting forms of tools from the site were the chipped disk-shaped hammers. These varied in size from 2 to 10 inches and all followed a general lens-shape as a pattern; that is, they are thick in the center and thin at the circumference. About fifty of these were secured for museum specimens.

In the various stations were numerous chippings and partly finished blades. They were generally scattered over the surface of the ground, but excavations in the surface refuse demonstrated that they were scattered throughout the refuse on all parts of the hill. The largest workshops were where blades were finished were on the flats below the hill. Mr. Ray, who worked on these sites, procured for us more than 1500 finished blades of various sizes.

Much of the time was spent in making a detailed survey of the hill for mapping purposes, it being the intention to make a relief map of the site. In the technical work of examination and survey we were assisted by Mr. E. R. Burmaster, whose many years of expedition work rendered him an able helper. Mr. Ray, through whose descriptions we were led to make this examination, gave a month of his time to the expedition as a volunteer helper.

This locality is the first untouched aboriginal quarry site in the State examined by the Museum and seems to be unique. It must have been worked for several centuries and two or three hundred workers must have been continuously engaged in the excavating and chipping.

The Museum is enriched, through this work, by 3000 flint implements in all stages of manufacture, 500 hammers, 50 disks, 3 gorgets unique in form, a fine mortar and a copper chisel. Beyond this are the valuable notes on aboriginal quarry methods (New State Museum Bulletin, Nos. 239-240, November-December 1920, pp. 46-47).

Southold Indian Museum is the steward of the mine. It was identified as an Historic Site, place on the National Register in November 29, 1978. Where did all that flint go? Did the Iroquois have any knowledge or use of it or does it date to BoM time?