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Another Probable Case of Prehistoric Bear Ceremonialism in New York

  • William A. Ritchie (a1)


In a prior paper I have described, from central New York, an archaeological instance of probable bear ceremonialism in the Owasco culture. A recent find in western New York, although of somewhat dissimilar character, strengthens the probability of the existence prehistorically in New York of a special and reverential attitude toward the bear, this time apparently among an Iroquois people. Briefly, the nature and circumstances of the new discovery are as follows.



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1 William A. Ritchie, “Archaeological Evidence for Ceremonialism in the Owasco Culture,” Researches and Transactions of the New York State Archaeological Association, Vol. 11, No. 2, Rochester, New York, 1947.

2 Museum catalogue number AP 909.

3 Museum catalogue number AP 903.

4 Plowing fills and conceals these partially filled hollows, which may readily be seen on sites occupying uncleared land.

5 The epiphyseal caps of the humerus are still unattached and the lines of union still visible on the pelvis and vertebrae.

6 Present on the distal extremity of two tibiae, head of right femur, proximal extremity of two humeri and distal condyles of another, and on several vertebrae.

7 The recovered bear bones comprise the following: 2 complete crania, 4 humeri, 2 femora, 4 tibiae, 2 innominata, 4 scapulae, 3 patellae, 15 fragments costal cartilage, 23 rib fragments, 27 vertebrae, 1 calcaneum, 2 phalanges. The scarcity of foot bones suggests that they remained attached to the hides.

8 Irving Hallo, A. well, “Bear Ceremonialism in the Northern Hemisphere,” American Anthropologist, n.s., Vol. 28, No. 1, 1926, pp. 1–174.

9 William A. Ritchie, Craniological Correlations with Aboriginal Cultures in New York, (n.d.)

10 The writer’s files contain references to eight such sites, on several of which he has conducted successful excavations.

11 Thus far no Owasco sites have been discovered here.

12 Hallowell, op. cit., p. 35; cf. pp. 31–4.


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