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Journal of Middle Atlantic Archaeology

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Anthropology | Archaeological Anthropology | Social and Behavioral Sciences


This paper provides a summary of current data regarding the age, geographical distribution, and function of keyhole structures in the upper Susquehanna River Valley of north-central Pennsylvania and south-central New York. Keyhole structures have been identified at 11 sites in the West and North Branches of the Susquehanna River Valley. The feature type likely originated in the West Branch Valley from which it spread to the north, south, and east. Their main period of use was during the latter portion of the Late Woodland period, between approximately 1230 and 1670 A.D. Given the locations of the sites along major waterways, as well as their possible associations with agricultural villages and hamlets, keyhole structures may have functioned as storage facilities for foodstuffs or, perhaps, as winter houses; however, the possibility that they served multiple functions, including the common interpretation as sweat lodges, cannot be ruled out based on current data.


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