HIST 3480: The History of NYC“New York City” beforethe Europeans Simulated image of Manhattan in 1609 with current outline imposed on it from the Mannahattaproject
“New York City” before the Europeans • NYC’s Glacial Past • The Laurentideice sheet • advanced and retreated over a • period of60,000 years, • reaching its maximum extent • about 22,000 years ago, but • started retreating with a • climate change roughly 17,000 • years ago. at some points, it • was a thousand feet thick. • The ice sheet’s furthest • southern extent on the Eastern • Seaboard was the area that is • now NYC, and the glacial • debris and outwash created • Long Island. • The sea level dropped • hundreds of feet globally.
“New York City” before the Europeans • New York’s Glacial Past • The glacier pushed and then stopped and began to retreat. At its point of foremost expansion, it left a ridge (a “moraine”) from Jamaica Hills in Queens down through Crown Heights, Prospect Park, Green-Wood Cemetery, Sunset Park, down to Bay Ridge in Brooklyn, and over to Todt Hill in Staten Island (410 feet, the highest point on the Eastern Seaboard south of Maine). • The Hudson River had been a deep canyon or “fjord,” but the glacier carved into a much wider basin. • The glacier’s retreat left big icy lakes that flooded the region for thousands of years; for a while the Upper Bay was a lake until it broke through into the Atlantic through the Narrows.
“New York City” before the Europeans You can see the carving action of the glacier on the “Hudson Fjord” most dramatically at Storm King in the Hudson Valley.
“New York City” before the Europeans • Why try to recover the Native American past? • Does the American Indian experience really matter to the history of New York City and the U.S. at large? • If so, how? If not, why?
“New York City” before the Europeans • First Humans • Nomadic hunters from Siberia crossed the Bering Strait land bridge into the previously unpopulated Americas roughly 15,000 – 12,000 years ago. Sea-level rise from melting glaciers flooded over the bridge. • First humans in NYC area were nomadic hunters in following “megafauna”—wooly mammoths, sabre-tooth tigers, mastodons, musk oxen, giant sloths, bears, giant beavers, etc.—from about 12,000 to 9,000 years ago. These hunters only left flint spear points behind.
“New York City” before the Europeans • First Humans • First wave of nomadic hunters disappear as climate warms and megafauna move out about 9,000 years ago; warmer climate ecology from colder conifer forests to warmer hardwood ones. • A second wave of humans—semi-nomadic small-game hunters and foragers—move into the region about 6,500 years ago. They subsisted on deer, wild turkey, fish, shellfish, nuts, and berries. These were the Lenape’s ancestors.
“New York City” before the Europeans • Becoming the Lenape • About 2,500 years ago, they learned to hunt with bows and arrows, to make pottery, and cultivate squash, sunflowers, and possibly tobacco. • About 1,000 years ago, they may have learned how to cultivate beans and maize. These changes could support larger populations. • By the time Europeans arrived about 500 years ago, what is now NYC probably had 15,000 people, and the whole tri-state metro area something like 50,000 total, although these numbers are hugely contested.
“New York City” before the Europeans • Lenape Society • The Lenape were comprised of a dozen or so groups stretching from eastern Connecticut through New Jersey. • Language: Most Lenape in the region spoke Munsee, a dialect of the Delaware language. • Primary Identity: With small local group ranging from dozens to hundreds. • Phratries: “Clan” identities within discrete groups of Lenape identified with one of three animals: wolf, turtle, turkey. • Matrilineal structure: Phratry identity and much more was passed down through the mother.
“New York City” before the Europeans • Lenapehoking: • “Where the Lenapes Dwell”
“New York City” before the Europeans • Seasonal Nomads • Moved to the shore in spring for fishing and harvesting shellfish and remained until autumn. • In autumn they moved inland to harvest crops they had planted. • In winter, they tended to move further inland to for shelter, and for more reliable sources of small game and firewood.