Orient (Transitional) Period (1,300 – 1,000 BC)


Named after unique burial sites on the North Fork of eastern Long Island, the Orient culture was transitional into the Early Woodland stage. It made abundant use of stone cooking pots and limited use of pottery which usually reproduced the form of the soapstone vessel.

While the Orient culture reached its climax on Long Island, it seems to have been present also in the Hudson Valley, on Staten Island, and elsewhere. All the major known sites, however, are on Long Island. They comprise of four extraordinary burial sites at the eastern end and a large habitation site at Stony Brook in north-central Long Island. Here the typical artifacts of this culture were found in a deep shellfish midden and in large pits used as earth ovens for cooking shellfish and other animal foods. While locally gathered shellfish, hard and soft shell clams, oysters, scallops, etc; provided much of the subsistence of the Orient people, considerable hunting, chiefly of the deer, was done with the javelin, or short throwing spear tipped with a distinctive form of projectile point (Orient Fishtail) hurled with an atlatl or throwing stick weighted with simple varieties of the banner stone. There is no evidence for the use of fish. 1

Burial Practices

orient-burial-gaynell-map Orient (Transitional) Period (1,300 - 1,000 BC) Jeremy Dennis On This Site
Transitional Period ceremonial burial, found at Browns Hills, Orient and Sugarloaf Hill, Shinnecock. From Gaynell Stone’s Native Long Island Thematic Map, 1991.

The Orient culture is most remarkable for its burial ceremonialism. Large and deep pits were dug, in high sand knolls in which interment of cremated bodies or of corpses in various states of disintegration on removal from a charnel house were periodically interred in an elaborate mortuary ritual, which involved the use of fire, food offerings, symbolic red ochre, and grave goods of various kinds, including stone pots, “killed” by intentional breaking. 1

Exemplified by the Sugar Loaf Hill archaeological site; there were multiple body burial pits, human remains put in bundles, signifying fires create on site. There were also large amounts of ceremonial red-ochre, deer remains, large quantities of broken pottery, and evidence of transition from steatite pottery to ceramic pottery – all on the eastern slopes of the high hill.

Similar burials were found at Orient Point and the Great Neck from the same period. It has been interpreted that the different lines of sight between the archaeological site locations correspond with the position of the sun and the equinoxes.2

Connecticut Culture

There is firm evidence of visits to Shelter Island by Connecticut occupants3 during the Terminal Archaic (Transitional) period. Twenty basalt Susquehanna tradition preforms resemble preforms discovered in South Windsor, Connecticut4 and elswhere in New England5.

Orient Sites

  1.  Ritchie, William A. Indian History of New York State. Part I: Pre-Iroquoian Cultures. N.p.: New York State Museum, 1969. Print.[][]
  2. David Martine, Shinnecock History Timeline pp. 1[]
  3. John Charles Witek, Bulletin of the Archaeological Society of Connecticut, Nm 53, 1990, pp. 43[]
  4. Vibert 1970[]
  5. Hadlock 1948[]