Friday, May 24, 2019

Barry C. Kent

This weekend, May 25-27,2019 is Memorial Day weekend and generally referred to as the beginning of summer. Many of us will have plans for picnics and outdoor activities and may attend a memorial service honoring our military who died in service. Most of us have forgotten or never knew that Memorial Day was originally Decoration Day and was created to honor the thousands of men who died in our nation’s Civil War.  As the United States engaged in additional wars, the remembrances were expanded to all of our fallen soldiers.  Since many will visit cemeteries to pay tribute to these individuals it is also a time to remember other family members as well. We recently lost an important member of our archaeological community, Barry C. Kent. The blog this week will share some of his notable contributions to Pennsylvania’s archaeological heritage, his endearing friendship and his legacy of stewardship.


Barry was a native of York County and reminisced about his discovery as a young nine-year-old of an arrowhead while attending a YMCA hike on an island in the Susquehanna River. It was an experience that nearly every archaeologist can relate to- that first point or significant discovery!  Barry attributed this discovery and other subsequent finds as a camper at Camp Minqua along the Susquehanna, to his interest in anthropology and archaeology.  John DeBarbadillo was the Camp Director and Barry’s mentor in those early days. Barry’s mother also influenced his interest in the past in her role as a curator at the historic Gates House and Plough Tavern in the city of York, York County, PA.  His mother was clearly proud of his accomplishments, especially in his future role at the William Penn Memorial Museum (now The State Museum of Pennsylvania) and had saved many newspaper articles about Barry’s experiences. 


Barry met John Witthoft in 1953 at Indian Steps Museum in York County. John was the curator at the State Museum and was installing new exhibits on loan to Indian Steps. It was during this time that he met Fred Kinsey, also associated with the museum’s archaeology department. These important figures in Pennsylvania archaeology left a huge impression on Barry and no doubt influenced his career path after high school.  Barry and good friend David Hally discovered the Kent-Hally site on Bare Island and conducted test excavations on Piney Island. The significance of Piney Island was its deeply stratified deposits which provided radiocarbon dates associated with the Archaic period. Additional excavation experience at Sheep Rock Shelter (36Hu1) in Huntingdon County, in 1959 provided another opportunity to explore remarkable sites in Pennsylvania prehistory.  Barry completed his undergraduate studies in 1961 at the University of Pittsburgh, his master’s at the University of Michigan in 1964 and in 1966 he was hired as the State Archaeologist at the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.

His research of Archaic period spear point types in the lower Susquehanna valley was the foundation for his Ph.D. dissertation (Pennsylvania State University, 1970).  Partially based on his work on Piney Island, he classified points from this region based on geometric attributes and grouped them by drainage basin. The signature Bare Island point from the named site, is of the Late Archaic Piedmont tradition. Described as generally produced in quartz lithic material and is characterized by its “narrow width, irregular outline, thick cross-section, and minimal shoulders” (Kent 1996).
Barry’s position as State Archaeologist at the museum allowed for additional excavation experience, but it was also a critical period of development of the Hall of Anthropology and Archaeology at the newly opened William Penn Memorial Museum.  Fred Kinsey and John Witthoft had both developed concepts and preliminary content for the new gallery before leaving for other positions, but design, installation and labels were necessary to bring this comprehensive picture of Pennsylvania’s culture history together.  The gallery was formally opened in 1975 and has stood the test of time. It is still one of the more popular exhibit areas in The State Museum. 

While his early career focused on culture periods of some of the earliest Indian groups in Pennsylvania, it is his research and interest during the Late Woodland/ Contact period which left an indelible mark on our understanding of the Susquehannock Indians who lived in the lower Susquehanna River Valley from around 1550 to 1763.  Barry’s comprehensive examination of historic documents, excavation and artifact analysis have provided a culture history for a group of people whose story would have been lost had it not been for his incredible research.
It was during this research period that I had the good fortune of meeting Dr. Kent to interview him for an undergraduate research project. It was his encouragement to apply for an internship with him the following year that led to my own career in archaeology. His ability to inspire young archaeologists never ended as he was always willing to answer questions and exchange thoughts- never judging another’s abilities or intellect.

During the 1970’s the effects of the Historic Preservation Act of 1966 was beginning to impact the workflow and duties of the Archaeology Section. The Act had placed responsibility on the states to identify and inventory significant prehistoric and historic sites. It also required recovery of data from these sites if they couldn’t be protected. The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission was the agency responsible for implementing these responsibilities and Barry developed Guidelines for what is now referred to as the Archaeological Site Survey in Pennsylvania or PASS files. These Survey Guidelines laid the foundation for Review Archaeology in Pennsylvania. These early survey projects along with site protection laws requiring excavation of impacted resources, led to an increase in the number of archaeological collections curated at the museum. Barry’s leadership and guidance of the program in the late 70’s and early 1980’s contributed to major surveys of our archaeological resources in Pennsylvania and the recording of much of our site data.  

The opportunity to review these projects and learn the review process from Barry was a rewarding experience which broadened my exposure to preservation laws and ultimately, curation of these collections.  Processing collections from excavations conducted by the Commission during the summer months was an opportunity to research Susquehannock material culture and the fascinating fur trade of the Contact Period. A primary focus of research during that internship resulted in the research publication of 18th Century Indian Towns and Villages in Pennsylvania. Kent, Rice, Ota 1982.  

Barry’s publication of Susquehanna’s Indians in 1984 is currently the only comprehensive publication of this culture group. His research has provided archaeologists with a sequence of events that impacted the Susquehannocks from their first encounters with John Smith through the attacks and massacre by the Paxtang Boys in 1763. His analysis of their pottery, trade artifacts and settlement patterns have been challenged by few, as our knowledge of Susquehannock sites has expanded through additional discoveries.  Barry humbly acknowledged that his research was just the beginning- others would have to continue.

There are so many stories and memories of this great man, he loved a good joke, a great burger and the outdoors. He loved people- enriched and broadened our knowledge of archaeology and these shoes will never be filled. We can only carry on the lessons that he taught so well of stewardship for collections, sites and the mentoring of young minds.  

For more information, visit PAarchaeology.state.pa.us or the Hall of Anthropology and Archaeology at The State Museum of Pennsylvania .

Friday, May 10, 2019

Netsinkers

The theme of this week’s blog is focused on a group of implements labeled as netsinkers or more precisely, they are identified as notched cobbles or notched and trimmed implements. There are two general types or forms. Many archaeologists identify both forms as netsinkers i.e. being attached to a fishing net to weigh them down in the water or used on throwing nets to catch birds or small mammals. However, it is clear that these two types are made differently and hypothetically, they may have different functions. The purpose of this blog is to make some very preliminary observations on “netsinkers” in the collection of The State Museum of Pennsylvania in order to narrow down and identify function. Our database consists of random specimens from our collection and basic metric data from three netsinker caches.

The simple notched cobble is the most common “netsinker “ type and this is illustrated in a cache from 36Da11. This feature contained 80 specimens and the metrics are summarized in the table below. These are simple bi-notched cobbles with the notches generally placed at the mid-point of the long axis. They are made from sandstones and silt stones. The notches appear to be created by one or two blows from a hammerstone on either side of the cobble forming indentations ranging between 10 mm and 20 mm and 2 mm to 6 mm deep. These are relatively small for this type. Larger examples of this type are known averaging 60 mm wide and 100 mm long with notches 15 mm to 35 mm wide and up to 10 mm deep. This type is first identified during Middle Archaic times from sites along the major rivers of Pennsylvania dating to 7500 years ago and extending up through the Late Woodland period.


The netsinker cache from 36Da11.




Interestingly, we found a picture of a cache of notched cobble netsinker blanks from the Faucett site (36Pi13a).




The second type of “netsinker” is represented by two caches; one is a cache of 72 specimens from Santos site (36Pi37) from the Leiser collection and the second is a cache of 25 specimens from Tioga Point (36Br3). Both of these are distinguished from the first type or form as their edges are trimmed around most or all of the perimeter and exhibit a more regular shape. The majority of these tools are the result of splitting a fine-grained sandstone cobble longitudinally. Over half of the specimens from 36Pi37 retain the outer cortex of the cobble. The 36Pi37 specimens are generally rectangular and the 36Br3 specimens are generally round to sub-rectangular. The specimens in both caches are generally thinner than the notched type averaging 5 to 20 mm thick. Although many of the notches appear to be the result of hammerstone blows forming a rounded concavity, more commonly they have a more “V” shaped concavity suggesting they were created by a different type of hammer. Also, the edges on the ends of this type are frequently rounded. This rounding could result from abrasion against some other material or they may simply be the product of the trimming process although the latter seems less likely. This artifact type seems to only date to the Late Woodland period.

Notched and trimmed implements from 36Pi37



 Notched and trimmed implements from 36Br3




If these two types of artifacts both functioned as netsinkers, then what is the purpose of trimming the Late Woodland type into a consistent shape. This second type was found stacked in neat piles at 36Pi37 and at the Harry’s Farm site in New Jersey. The simple notched type is usually found in a randomly placed pile as they are less uniform. Maybe, the stacking allowed for a more organized form of transporting the net which prevented it from tangling. Or maybe the different sizes but regular shapes of the notched and trimmed type were actually part of making the net.

A once neatly stacked set of notched and trimmed netsinkers from the Harry’s Farm site in New Jersey ( Compliments of Kraft 2001 p269)


Alternatively, the notched and trimmed type may have functioned as digging hoes. This is mainly based on the rounded edges of many specimens of this type. The wear patterns on the edges need to be examined in detail but many have asked why are they found in caches? The Harry’s Farm cache contained 32 specimens – who needs 32 hoes and their size prevents them from being attached to handles.
These are just a few of the observations and questions that need to be addressed in determining the function of this artifact type. If you are aware of any “netsinker” caches, please send us pictures and allow us to take some measurements.  
This is just one example of the comparative research that archaeologists perform every day. By examining these changes in tool types and forms we can begin the process of understanding their function to better interpret the past. The benefit of the collections in the Section of Archaeology at The State Museum is that this large repository provides us with a lot of comparative data and aids in identifying the various forms of these tools. We hope to continue to analyze the differences in these notched implements and research other caches of this distinct tool. 

Dr. Barry C. Kent (center)



Finally, the staff of the Section of Archaeology in the State Museum, along with archaeologists throughout the Middle Atlantic region are deeply saddened at the passing of our dear colleague, mentor and friend, Dr. Barry C. Kent. He died on May 8th , 2019.  He was the Pennsylvania State Archaeologist between 1966 and 1986 and shaped what has become the statewide archaeological program for the Commonwealth. Barry implemented design concepts and developed much of the Hall of Anthropology and Archaeology at The State Museum.  His extensive field work and research led to significant contributions in Susquehannock culture history, Woodland period pottery analysis, Archaic projectile points typology, gunflints, experimental lithic analysis and the formal establishment of the Pennsylvania Archaeological Site Survey files (PASS). His regional archaeology program organized at universities expanded site survey, assisted with compliance projects and enhanced the relationships between the professional and the avocational community. He also initiated public outreach programs such as the Archaeology exhibit at the annual Pennsylvania Farm Show. He was always the teacher and mentor, sharing his knowledge freely with professional and avocational archaeologists alike.

For more information, visit PAarchaeology.state.pa.us or the Hall of Anthropology and Archaeology at The State Museum of Pennsylvania .

Friday, April 26, 2019

The Mysterious Abraham Miller Pottery

In some of our previous blog posts we have looked at other ceramics produced in the early years of the 19th-century in Philadelphia (for example, see Made in America: Philadelphia Queensware Pottery in the Early 19th Century, December 16, 2016), but now we turn to some pieces that are a little more mysterious.

Philadelphia was the largest urban area in the United States at the turn of the 19th-century and many important potteries operated there. Several of these potteries were located in the oldest sections of the city. One of these was the Abraham Miller Pottery on Zane Street (now Filbert) between Seventh and Eighth Streets. An earlier pottery, owned by Daniel Topham, was established on this lot in the 1760s. Topham is believed to have produced mainly red earthenwares (redware) at his pottery, using clays dug from nearby parts of the city. Following Topham’s death in 1783, the property was purchased by Andrew Miller, Sr., who also produced redwares.  Miller appears in the 1798 federal tax assessment as owning a “house & Lott in Zan st” as well as a frame stable and brick pot house.By 1799, Andrew Miller, Sr’s oldest son Andrew, Jr. had joined him in the running of the pottery. His younger son, Abraham, is listed in city directories for 1806-1808 as a “potter” and it is not known if he was a partner at that time.


In 1809, the two sons took over the operations of the pottery from their father. They became known for production of “Common coarse earthen ware”, mainly in the form of black and brown tea pots. Andrew, Jr. died in 1821 and their father in 1826 and Abraham took control of the pottery. He soon added black and red tea and coffee pots, portable earthenware furnaces, fire bricks, sugar molds, and other ceramic wares to the production.  Miller became highly successful and moved the manufacturing portion of his works to a new site on James Street, while retaining the warehouse at Zane Street. In the 1850s, he bought property on Callowhill Street and moved his operations there. 


Advertisement for Abraham Miller’s pottery on Callowhill Street (from Susan Myers 1980)


The State Museum of Pennsylvania (TSMOP) curates several pieces of Abraham Miller’s pottery. We know that this is Miller’s work due to the fact that these pieces are marked on the base with “ABM MILLER”, as seen in the photo below. “Maker’s marks” such as this one were often used by potteries to identify their work to the public. A maker’s mark can consist of a company name, an individual’s name, or even a symbol, such as an anchor or an eagle. 

Abraham Miller Maker’s Mark on base of bowl


 Although archaeological excavations have been conducted on the site of the Topham and later Miller pottery in Zane Street (the Metropolitan Detention Center Project, site 36Ph91), most of the recovered artifacts reflect only Topham’s redware production here. No marked or specifically Miller-identified pieces were recovered from this site.

However, marked Abraham Miller ceramics have been found elsewhere in Philadelphia. The pieces of Miller pottery in the TSMOP collections were recovered from two archaeological sites about two blocks from the Miller pottery on Callowhill Street - sites 36Ph49 and 36Ph84.  Site 36Ph49 was discovered during investigations for the Gateway Redevelopment Project that were conducted in 1991. The Gateway parcel was located within the block bounded by North 15th, North 16th, and Spring streets and the Vine Street expressway exit ramp.\

A bowl, a baking dish, and two plates with Miller’s mark were recovered from 36Ph49. The two plates are identical and may have been part of a set. They resemble yellow ware in color but have a hard white paste and dimpled glaze that looks like orange peel, which is usually indicative of salt-glazing (adding salt to the firing process).

Plates from site 36Ph49

Orange peel-like dimpling in glaze of plate, indicating salt-glazing in the kiln



The bowl is cream colored and unevenly shaped with orange peel dimpled glaze. It is reminiscent of creamware but is too thick and poorly glazed to be categorized as such. 

Cream colored bowl from site 36Ph49

The baking dish is also a thick and poorly glazed piece with a greenish-yellow color and vitreous paste.

Baking dish from site 36Ph49

Baking dish from site 36Ph49 showing over-fired glaze and maker’s mark

Site 36Ph84 was located approximately a block north of site 36Ph49 under what is currently the Vine Street Expressway and was discovered during surveys for that project. Once a residential neighborhood, the buildings here would have been demolished to make way for the highway. A bowl and a plate with Miller’s mark were discovered at this site. The plate is the same size and design as the two plates recovered from site 36Ph49 except that the appearance is more in line with a typical yellow ware piece.

Possible yellow ware plate from site 36Ph84

The wide-lipped bowl is similar to the baking dish from 36Ph49. The appearance of the glaze is a greenish-yellow and is burned and bubbled in many spots. This piece is heavy and thick with a hard paste.
Greenish-yellow bowl with over-fired glaze from site 36Ph84

Back of bowl from 36Ph84 showing over-fired glaze 



So, what do we make of these strange pieces that don’t exactly “fit the mold”? Abraham Miller is known to have experimented throughout his career with various types of earthenwares – porcelain, white earthenware, queensware, yellow ware, Rockingham-like brownware, and bisquit. It is quite possible these pieces in the TSMOP collections represent examples of the experimentation of Abraham Miller in his pottery. Perhaps he was trying to invent a new type of pottery by putting together different combinations of glazes, pastes, and firing techniques, but couldn’t quite perfect it before his death in 1858.

Until more is known about Miller’s work, it is possible to continue to speculate about these unusual specimens. And to wonder what other interesting pieces may be in the collections that are not marked with Miller’s name…

We hope you have enjoyed this post and encourage you to read more about this early industry in Pennsylvania and potteries in your community. A current exhibit at Landis Valley Farm Museum (https://www.landisvalleymuseum.org/explore/collections/visitor-center-exhibit/) highlights some of the redware potters of Pennsylvania and includes pieces from the archaeology collection of the State Museum.  Preserving the history and works of these early crafts is important in recognizing the value of archaeology in our communities and appreciating our heritage.
 
Sources Used and Additional Reading:
Barber, Edwin Atlee
1893    Pottery and Porcelain of the United States. G. P. Putnam’s Sons, New York. Reprinted 1976 by Feingold & Lewis, New York, NY.

Myers, Susan H.
1980    Handcraft to Industry: Philadelphia Ceramics in the First Half of the Nineteenth Century. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC.

Ramsay, John
1947    American Potters and Pottery. Tudor Publishing Co., New York, NY.

For more information, visit PAarchaeology.state.pa.us or the Hall of Anthropology and Archaeology at The State Museum of Pennsylvania .