News and Event Updates from the Office of the Orange County Historian

The Caribou Hunters of Orange County
One of 8 Caves On Mount Lookout Where Archaeologists Uncovered Prehistoric Artifacts
12,500 Years Ago Locals Hunted Caribou and Sheltered Themselves On A Hilltop Cave in Present-Day Goshen
In 1964 members of the Orange County's chapter of the New York State Archaeological Association surveyed the dolomite quarry on Mount Lookout and confirmed what rumors had hinted at for a century: the hilltop was the site of Native American human habitation in prehistoric times.

We all know that Orange County was home to Native people but it's a marvel to have a personal vignette of a family extracting marrow from the bones of caribou and sheltering themselves on the ridge. To us locals it's this personal information that brings the past to life by allowing us to reach back as part of an unbroken chain of inhabitants. But to researchers nationwide the site is notable because 4,000 years ago the cave collapsed and sealed-in an undisturbed stratification, preserving evidence from the entire period of human occupation and presenting one of the most complete timelines of more than 17,000 known sites. It is also the only site in the State of New York that has yielded evidence of Paleo-Indian exploitation of Post-Pleistocene fauna.

The site known as Dutchess Quarry is now on the National Register and consists of 13.2 acres of protected (County-owned) land. In the years following the initial discovery, efforts from archaeologists associated with the New York State Museum and C.W. Post College yielded information from eight caves. Evidence of human occupation was found in the form of a Cumberland-style fluted projectile point and butchered caribou bones which were Carbon-14 dated to 12,500 years before the present. In 1993, evidence of pre-historic quarrying and chert procurement led to an expansion of the original historic district boundary.

Although mostly unknown to the public, Dutchess Quarry is covered in Archaeology classes. I have heard many, including Orange County Commissioner of Planning Dave Church, say that they first became interested in the site while in the classroom as a young Anthropology student. Others like Orange County Legislator Jeff Berkman became passionate about preserving the property because of a lifetime interest in local history. In 2012 Church and Berkman led an effort to contract experts to develop a "Management and Conservation Report" that has served to guide the County's actions since.

The County has a responsibility to protect the land and prevent the disruption of future dig sites. For this reason, the property is not open to the public at this time. In November of 2015, I had the rare opportunity to visit the cave sites with a group of County officials including County Executive Steve Neuhaus. The trek to the top of the hill was filled with conversations about how we can do a better job at honoring the history that we have at this location. Ideas ranged from planning a few guided tours for school children or members of the public to restoring a County-owned building nearby to house a gallery for related artifacts. All agreed that it would be beneficial to gather input from Anthropologists in the field about the potentials for future archaeological study. 


Johanna Yaun
Orange County Historian
Please share & support these local events
Lecture on the Erie Railroad in Middletown

Friday, February 5 at 7:30PM

O&WRHS Membership Program by Walter Conklin "The Erie Railroad."

Mulberry House Senior Center, 62-70 West Main Street, Middletown
Lecture on Local Trolleys in Goshen

Friday, February 6 at 10AM

Then and Now, the Newburgh-Walden & Middletown-Goshen Trolley presented by Ray Kelly, Sponsored by the Friends of the Goshen Library & Goshen Historical Society

Board of Education Building, 227 East Main St. Goshen
 Further Afield
Ice Harvesting at Hanford Mills

Saturday, February 6  at 10AM - 4PM

Take part in a traditional ice harvest, using historic tools and techniques. Hot soup buffet, bonfires, historic cooking and blacksmithing demonstrations, snowman village, and horse-drawn sleigh rides. The SUNY Delhi Hospitality Center Ice Team will be creating ice sculptures. The Dave Brandt Chapter of Trout Unlimited will offer visitors the chance to ice fish, and provide all equipment.
County Executive Steve Neuhaus recently paid a visit to a former Orange County resident. While at the American Museum of Natural History, he posed with the Warren Mastodon which was discovered in Newburgh in 1845.  
Learn more about the Warren Mastodon on the American Museum of Natural History Webpage
Orange County Historian | Goshen, N.Y. |  845-545-7908 |  j