Jim Fisher's Avocational Archaeology
& Lithic Technology
Web Site

NOTICE: The Riverhaven site in Erie County, New York now resides on property owned by New York State and is currently under the management of the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation. No unauthorized avocational surveys or related activites should be conducted on this property without first securing a State Lands Permit consistent with Education Law Section 233 via the New York State Museum. The activities described within the following article (published in 2002) were conducted between 1999 and 2002- prior to September 21, 2004, the date upon which the Governor announced New York State's acquisition of the 34 acre parcel of land upon which this site exists. Although the activities described below were conducted more than 2 years prior to the date of state acquisition, a complete inventory of the materials recovered has been submitted to the New York State Archaeologist. No materials were removed from this site by the author in the 2 years preceding or since New York State's acquisition of the property in 2004.

Riverhaven Revisited:  Lithic Implications of a
Post-Meadowood Presence

by James V. Fisher

Fisher, James V. (2002). "Riverhaven Revisited". Indian Artifact Magazine. The Ovid Bell Press, Fulton MO. Vol. 21-2, pp. 12-13, 74-76. (© 2002, unauthorized reproduction prohibited.)

    I moved to the island in late October of 1998.  The laborious process of getting my young family settled into our new house precluded any thought of casual wanderings onto nearby fields and river shorelines in search of artifacts.  It was, as always, a long winter as I awaited milder temperatures and an opportunity to explore the prehistoric archaeological sites that I suspected would exist on this unique geographic feature.  I spent the winter months earnestly researching the history and established archaeological record of the island I now called home. 
    Grand Island, New York finds its place amongst more than a dozen islands that dot the picturesque scenery of the mighty Niagara River between Lakes Erie and Ontario.  As the name implies, Grand Island is the largest at approximately 27 square miles and is situated between Buffalo and Niagara Falls.  The island has a rich history, its present nomenclature is owed to the French who "discovered" it and called it La Grande Isle.  The Seneca Iroquois called the island Ga-weh-no-geh, which in their language translated to "on the island" (Morgan, 1962).  Prior to the Seneca's acquisition, it was  home to the Neuter, or neutral

natives, who inhabited the island and called it Owanungah. 
    Its situation in the midst of a large, life-sustaining river undoubtedly attracted its first, prehistoric inhabitants.  The fisheries of the Niagara region would certainly have been a resource upon which to capitalize with relative ease.  The lush vegetation and hardwood groves that grew in this Lake Forest Zone were attractive to many species of mammals and waterfowl.  In addition, the insulating effect of the water afforded winters that were a bit milder than inland locations, and summers that were tempered by cool breezes.  It is no wonder that one of Grand Island's most prominent prehistoric habitation sites became known as Riverhaven, the area may be more appropriately called "River Heaven".
    Having initially researched little more than my own personal library of archaeology texts and some resources from the Internet, I was able to quickly identify and locate two sizeable prehistoric sites that were known to exist on the island.  Both of the sites had been previously subject to extensive, formal excavations and the findings were well documented.  The Riverhaven Complex and Martin sites

represent two of the most significant prehistoric occupations of the island. 
    I would have to settle for an opportunity to survey and surface collect from only one of the sites as the other, the Martin Site, currently lies on New York State Park property.  This multicomponent site evidenced occupation from the Archaic through the Late Woodland phases (Zubrow and Buerger, 1994).  Much of the Martin site is now superimposed by a portion of the public golf course located at Beaver Island State Park on the extreme southernmost tip of Grand Island. 
    Some areas of the Riverhaven complex of sites I researched, were accessible and as yet undeveloped in any way.  Aside from a hotel complex and marina that were built adjacent to the major habitation area, it was largely unspoiled and presented itself in much the same manner as it likely had in centuries past.  It appeared, on paper, that this area may offer the avocational archaeologist an opportunity to search for artifacts.  It was my hope that some remnants of the past might have been newly exposed by the constant erosional forces of the river.
    The Riverhaven complex of sites are classic examples of Meadowood occupations placed in the Early Woodland stage in