As early as 1726, diplomats and missionaries traveling to the heartland of the Iroquois Confederacy stopped at Otsiningo (sometimes called Chenango), a cluster of small Indigenous towns on the banks of the Chenango River in present-day Town of Dickinson. Otsiningo during the eighteenth century included multiple ethnic groups, mostly refugees escaping war and encroachment by settlers in the southern colonies. Residents included members of the Onondaga and Oneida Nations, as well as refugee Nanticokes and Conoys from Maryland, and Shawnee from the middle Susquehanna Valley in Pennsylvania.
The Continental Army under Brigadier General James Clinton sent a 100-member reconnaissance team up the Chenango River where they discovered the villages of Otsiningo on August 18, 1779. The 20 or so dwellings had already been abandoned and burned by their residents.
Archaeological excavations by Binghamton University in the 1970s rediscovered Otsiningo during testing for an I-81 rest station. Archaeologists uncovered the outline of a longhouse, cooking hearths and pits, and metal items.
In 2013, archaeologists from the Public Archaeology Facility (PAF) at Binghamton University returned to the site to test new locations proposed for future development. Excavations discovered over 1,000 lithic (stone) and 3,200 fragments of clay pottery. As the final step in the excavation, a backhoe skimmed away the topsoil, revealing 20 soil stains related to storage pits and cooking hearths. Analysis showed that the village preceded the historic community of Otsiningo, and dated to about A.D. 1400. The primary goal of our investigations was to better understand our region's significant cultural heritage through excavation, interpretation, and conservation of the materials recovered. Archaeologists also consulted with the Onondaga Nation and the Delaware Tribe, and the site is now preserved and protected.
Archaeologists uncovered multiple storage/refuse pits and cooking hearths at the site. Researchers identified the remains of white-tailed deer, birds, dogs, turtles, snakes, black bear, frogs, and numerous types of fish during laboratory analysis. Freshwater shellfish was present in at least two areas, and there was evidence that some shell beads were made at the site.
Modified animal bones rarely preserve on archaeological sites in the Northeast, however, carved bones and awls were identified due to the excellent preservation of material at the site.
Excavations in the 1970s and again in 2013 provided new information about the agricultural communities that once lived in this region of the Chenango Valley. The collaborations among PAF's archaeologists, Indigenous communities, and Broome County helped preserve information about this significant site.