Discover the Cumberland County Prehistorical Museum
To visit the museum is to enter the world of the Indians who inhabited the lower Delaware Valley. At the end of the last Ice Age, the Paleo (Clovis) Indians were the first primitive people to penetrate this region. Many subsequent Indian cultures followed in their wake, leaving physical evidence of their passing in the earth’s archives. This salvaged evidence is exhibited in the form of stone and bone artifacts, pottery and native crafts. When combined, they illustrate the evolution of the Indian societies who occupied southern New Jersey.
A major attraction to the Indians in this sector of the state was a fossiliferious stone named “Cohansey quartzite.” It was mined in the vicinity of Greenwich, New Jersey. Other stone materials such as flint, jasper, rhyolite and argillite were imported into the area and their mining locations are identified.
The Indian’s fire-making kits, manufacturing of pottery, use of gourds and flaking techniques, all make an interesting study of native crafts. Bone and shell remains salvaged from refuse pits depict their food sources. Of special interest, is the 800 year old mother dog and her 2 puppies which were unearthed near Swainton, New Jersey.
The Indians who inhabited southern New Jersey at the time of the European contact were the Lenape, pronounced “Len-nap-pay.” Today they are known as the Delaware. Anthropologists have identified over 44 sub-divisions of the Lenape people who inhabited their ancestral homeland (Lenapehoking). In the southern part of New Jersey, the Little Siconese occupied the land along the Cohansey River; the Sewapose, the Maurice River, and the Alloways, the Salem Creek and its tributaries. As a visitor enters the Museum, a map of Cumberland County pinpoints 11.5 areas of occupation which define population levels in Prehistoric times.
Of special interest to the children are over 1000 fossils from 4 time periods of the earth’s geological development. Extinct trilobites, whale and porpoise vertebrae, crabs, lobster, squid, mollusks, sting rays and giant shark teeth special display case. Also a foot print in stone of a bird-like dinosaur called a “Grallator.” All of these things were found in New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia. They illustrate a fascinating array of land and marine life which once roamed the earth’s primordial landscape.
A wide assortment of publications are available to the public regarding the Indian’s culture and the study of fossils.
The building for the Prehistorical Museum was provided by the Cumberland County Board of Chosen Freeholders and was dedicated in 1 9 9 7 . It is staffed by the Cumberland County Historical Society and contains the Indian and Fossil collections of Alan Ewing Carman, donated to the Society. His work as an avocational archaeologist covered 52 years and all of the artifacts were
recovered in southern New Jersey. It was his wish that these relics remain in this area as a tribute and memorial to the Indian cultures they represent.
Since the Museum has been open , it has become a valuable resource to archaeologists, anthropologists , paleontologist , students , touring groups, collectors and general public.
The museum closed on December 13th, 2020 and will reopen and resume normal operating hours on April 3rd, 2021.
Hours: Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday from 1 – 4 p.m.
1461 Bridgeton Road
Greenwich, New Jersey 08323