site setting

The J. W. Wadsworth 2 Site is located on the northern edge of a large floodplain tucked into a bend in the Genesee River approximately 53 kilometers (33 miles) from its mouth at Late Ontario. The river meanders considerably in this area resulting in a shifting landscape with abandoned channels. The site is situated on a terrace at the southern end of an oxbow. Historic USGS quad maps show that since 1900 the river has meandered closer to the archaeological site. It is possible that some cultural material was lost by this naturally occurring event. Other changes to the landscape that have affected the site include the mid-20th century construction of NY 63 and its bridge as well as the construction and associated landscaping for a structure situated just south of the J. W. Wadsworth 2, Locus 2 (JWW2-2) Site. Some portions of the site were graded during these events, resulting in a loss of cultural material. Topsoil, possibly derived from elsewhere on the site, was deposited over the graded areas along with some imported fill soils. These overburden deposits sealed the northern half of the site where the cultural material is concentrated. 

Cutting and filling of the upper soils also changed the site’s topography. By analyzing the relative elevations of the subsoil, or B horizon, we determined that the seemingly flat site originally sloped gently down from east to west. The archaeological excavations show that cultural material, both material culture and features, were more concentrated on the higher ground on the east and tapered off considerably in units excavated on the west side of the designated project area. 

Another topographic change that occurred in the mid-20th century was the removal of a small, intermittent waterway that once cut through the site. The waterway is depicted on a now-outdated Soil Survey map published by the USDA, but is not included on later USGS quad maps or other publications. The presence of the waterway’s shallow channel was detected by analyzing the thickness of fill soils that were used to smooth the surface of the property. There were fewer pieces of material culture and features located near the former waterway, suggesting that Indigenous people preferred the slightly higher ground above both the river and the waterway.