Notes from
“Archaelogical and Paleoenvironmental Investigations in the Dutchess Quarry Caves”
by R. E. Funk & D. W. Steadman
extracted by S. Gardner, 2007

   The Black Dirt area and its wetlands are famous for their abundance of remains of late Pleistocene mammals, mainly mastodons. (Mammut americanum), ground sloths (Megalonyx jeffersoni), prehistoric horse, bear and moose elk (Cervalces scotti).  The geology of the area was affected by the glaciers that covered much of the north.  When the glaciers retreated, they formed debris piles, or moraines.  Pellet’s Island, in the Black Dirt region, is a local example of an ice-retreat moraine.  This blocked water flow, and lakes and bogs resulted that eventually formed the Black Dirt.  A bog on top of a similar moraine at New Hampton has yielded fossil pollen nearly 13,000 years old. Prior to being drained by Euroamericans, the area teemed with life that would have been attractive to prehistoric peoples.
   Beginning in 1964, a search for cave sites and rock shelters was begun here, spurred by the scarcity of evidence of the earliest human inhabitants in the Northeast.  Our area had been long known to be unusually productive in surface finds of the fluted projectile points that were produced by the Paleo-Indians.
   The quest for previously undiscovered and undisturbed sites led researchers, following the advice of  Henry Malley, to the limestone outcrops on the northwest side of Mount Lookout.  It is near the Village of Florida, in the Town of Goshen  It had been quarried extensively since the 1930’s.  Possible overhangs and openings were tested, and when rock falls were cleared away a large deep cave later named Dutchess Quarry Cave No. 1 was found. Caribou bones left in the caves have been radio carbon dated to over 12,000 years old, one of the oldest dates attributed to human occupation of North America.  Cumberland type arrowheads found there as well, which are generally dated about 10,500 years old.  Controversy continues over whether the older bones were carried in by humans or scavengers.
   Excavations by the Orange County Chapter of the New York State Archaeological Association took place in 1965 and 1966.  Some evidence found suggested that it had been used by humans occasionally for over 10,000 years.  There were many animal remains, including bones of the caribou; another cave had been removed by quarrying in the 1930’s and artifacts had been found but scattered or destroyed.  Much of the original outcropping has been lost to quarrying activities.
   In 1974 another surge of exploration was begun.  A ground-penetrating meter was used to search for other possible cave sites. Seven additional chambers were found, their openings often hidden by rock falls.  Three of the seven, Dutchess Quarry Caves No. 2, 7 and 8, were found to be archaeologically significant, but results were not published and most of the data was lost.
   In 1987, the outcrops were again surveyed, using ground-penetrating radar and explorations continued.
What was found in the caves
   In addition to the late Pleistocene/early Holocene human artifacts found at Cave Number 1, the several caves on the outcrop that were excavated yielded animal bones of the ancestors of many of today’s common local species, and also some of those that are extinct or are gone from Warwick. These include Rangifer tarandus, (caribou), Ectopistes migratorious (passenger pigeon), Acipenser (sturgeon), Castoroides onioensis (giant beaver), Platygonus compressus (flat headed peccary), Cervus canadensis (elk). Many of these remains are dated to between 10,000 and 12,000 years old.