RALPH SOLECKI DIES AT 102.
"PIONEEER" OF Long Island ARCHEOLOGY
From his upbringing on the North Fork where he started finding arrowheads by age ten, to his professional career as Long Island's leading archeologist Ralph Solecki was respected for his many discoveries including Neanderthals in Iraq and Fort Corchaug in Southold.
His impact on Long Island's archeological community spanned decades and he was often consulted by authors, scholars and historians for books and research. Ralph Solecki, 102 years old will be remembered fondly by the Suffolk County Archeology community.
Dr. Curtiss Hoffman cataloged over 5,000 ancient stone structures as he constructed a scientifically valid method of determining their origins.
His findings are startling. Native people constructed thousands of structures, monuments, statues, sculptures and walls. They had cultural significance and ceremonial function, some of them with astronomical alignments.
The most striking are the effigy figures, sometimes carved and sometimes created from piled stones. They range from the highly detailed and figurative such as an Olmec size head in Preston, Ct. to serpent figures that undulate through the woods for hundreds of feet.
Constellations of these structures stretch from Montauk Point through Connecticut and New York. Similar stone works have also been reported throughout the Atlantic seaboard with the greatest number in Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut and Georgia.
Stone Prayers, 2019, Dr. Curtiss Hoffman
Artist: KS Liang
Statues. Effigies. Relics.
Once there was a collection of 100 Native Eastern Long Island effigies owned by a woman who lived in Southampton. They have disappeared. Their last known whereabouts were in her possession in the 1920's. We know of their existence only because of a reference contained in a letter found in the archives of the Southold Indian Museum.
In the field notes of another early archeologist there is a reference and a pair of rough drawings to two quartzite sculptures, one he called "The Buddha" and the other "The Hunchback". No photographs of either are known. No one in memory has ever seen them.
Bit by bit, loss by loss, the legacy and history of Suffolk County has been diminished. The artifacts mentioned above join a list of tens of thousands of artifacts collected or excavated since the 1640's that are scattered to the four winds. The best sculptural pieces and ceremonial goods like carved steatite pipes and Vision Quest sculptures are so rare that few new ones have surfaced in generations.
The surprise of their loss is only amplified by the fact that no one noticed when they went missing. If Suffolk County were Greece and the patrimony of the ancients had been lost, it seems assured that the historians, archeologists and culture aware communities would have begun an effort to recapture what was lost. But Suffolk County is not Greece and the heritage of the ancients is not valued. Unless the winds change direction, it is fair to forecast that these rare and precious relics are in fact, gone forever.