Picture Downtown Binghamton as it was 10,000 years ago: without any buildings, streets, parking lots or bars.
The Public Archaeology Facility (PAF) organized a walking tour of Downtown Binghamton Friday to guide people through the thousands of years of history that it has to offer. Nina Versaggi, director of PAF, led the tour of about 20, which started at the Binghamton University Downtown Center and made its way to the confluence of the Chenango and Susquehanna Rivers.
Versaggi explained how the rivers today differ from the past.
“The rivers were violent during 10,000 B.C. and drove many people out of the areas, which results in the gaps in the history,” Versaggi said.
Inhabitants of the river have changed over the years, too, Versaggi said.
“During those times, there was so much shad [freshwater fish] in the river that you could practically walk across them to get to the other side,” Versaggi said.
Versaggi talked about PAF’s discovery of different “projectile points,” typically arrowheads or spearpoints attached to spears, arrows and knives. Different types of points represent the areas in which they were found, such as the Lamoka, Vestal and Brewerton projectile points. Found near the river, these indicated that different cultural groups came together during the Late Archaic period, Versaggi said.
As the tour returned to its original site, Versaggi discussed the first communities forming on the Chenango River, right outside of the Downtown Center and Twin River Commons.
Maria O’Donovan, assistant to the director, explained how PAF discovered pits used as garbage disposals and their importance in the community.
“One person’s trash is another person’s treasure. We picked up their trash and scraps and could picture their everyday lives,” O’Donovan said.
Pits scattered in the area indicated that Native Americans were starting to expand toward the confluence, PAF members said. PAF also discovered longhouses and learned that the settlers were becoming less mobile and establishing their own communities.
PAF provides cultural resource management services and trains archaeologists to be field and research specialists, offering opportunities for training and support to people interested in the field.
Following the tour, the group was invited back into the Downtown Center to view the artifacts on display: old clay pottery, arrowheads and heirlooms from the elite residencies Downtown.
“I really enjoyed the displays at the Downtown Center because it gave me something to link the tour to. It was a great experience,” said Erin Riggs, a first-year graduate student studying archaeology.
Versaggi said she hopes that the tour creates pride within the community.
“When they build that pride, they don’t want people tampering with it. They want everyone to know the history in the roots of their communities,” she said.