Environmental and Cultural Context

The Allen's Creek site is located on the eastern edge of a large glacial moraine above the preglacial valley of the east branch of the Genesee River. The site lies 100 m (328 ft) northwest of Allen's Creek, one of a number of small creeks that drain the sloping glacial moraine. Allen's Creek drains into the Tuscarora Creek near its confluence with Canaseraga Creek, 2.4 km (1.5 mi) to the east. Canaseraga Creek joins the Genesee River 4.8 km (3 mi) to the northeast of the Allen's Creek site.

Archaeological excavations suggest that the Allen's Creek site was occupied primarily during the period archaeologists call the Late Archaic. Although this period ranged from 4000-1500 B.C., the climate and forest setting of the site vicinity would not necessarily have been significantly different than that of the present day. During the Late Archaic, the area was characterized by temperate mixed coniferous-deciduous forests (beech, chestnut, oak, and maple) dominated by hemlock. A hemlock decline occurred between 3000 B.C. and A.D. 1000 due to drier climatic conditions, but hemlock has since returned to prominence. The Late Archaic marks the arrival of regular seasonal climate changes similar to the modern seasons.

Wood charcoal from cultural features identified at the site are representative of the forest in the vicinity of the site during its occupation. The evidence indicates that the vicinity contained conifers as well as oak, hickory, maple, cherry or plum, and tulip poplar. It is possible that one reason the site was selected was the diverse vegetation zone within which it is located.

The Late Archaic period within the temperate riverine valleys of the Northeast is viewed as a time of increasing population density, cultural diversity, and territorial development (Curtin 1996; Versaggi et al. 2001). The evidence suggests that the preceding Early and Middle Archaic periods (ca. 8000-4000 B.C.) were a time when groups probably made only sporadic and limited journeys into northeastern valleys. With the Late Archaic came more sustained use of the entire landscape.

By the Late Archaic, the vegetation/climate shift appears to have paralleled an explosion in human population densities and cultural adaptations in the Northeast. Later Archaic people appear to have formed some degree of territoriality in the interior Northeast, with variations in projectile point types linked to geographic areas. Site types show a trend toward logistical hunting-gathering, with seasonal aggregation during months of resource abundance and group dispersal during resource poor months (Versaggi 1987, 1996; Versaggi et al. 2001).