Paper No. 54-7
Presentation Time: 2:30 PM-6:30 PM
GEOARCHAEOLOGICAL EXAMINATION OF THE EAST POINT ARCHAEOLOGICAL DISTRICT, NEW JERSEY
The 13-acre East Point Archaeological District includes shoreline and upland islands surrounded by salt marsh along the northeast coast of the Delaware Bay. Archaeological work dating back from the 1930s to recent times has identified sites of historical and cultural significance dating from the Late Paleoindian to Early Woodland Periods (ca. 8,000 400 BP), and 19th and early 20th centuries. Among these resources, the East Point Lighthouse serves as an education museum and tourist attraction. It is located on a rapidly eroding coastline and exposed to the influence of rising sea level (SL) and frequent storms and as such has been named one of the most endangered cultural sites in New Jersey. Prior to the lighthouse, Indigenous peoples occupied the wooded system of Pleistocene sand dunes. When the site was occupied during Early Woodland period the SL was rising from ~ -4 m, converting the ancestral Delaware River into an estuary. Recent geoarchaeological work in the Archaeological District involved archaeological excavation that yielded diagnostic materials from the Early Woodland period; a GPR survey that revealed several buried shell middens; sediment coring to reconstruct the salt marsh stratigraphy; overlays of Lidar imagery that reveal the Pleistocene dune system; and the application of regional SL history using probabilistic modeling based on RCP 8.5 gas emission scenarios (AR5 IPCC) under low, intermediate, and high probabilities. The work has yielded a landscape reconstruction during the time of early human occupation, and results indicating that the archaeological and historic resources are threatened by inundation and salt marsh encroaching due to SL rise. Currently, the 560 feet of shoreline in front the 1849 Lighthouse and late Paleoindian site is being protected with sand-filled geotubing while long-term solutions are evaluated.