Friday, October 21, 2016

2016 Annual Workshops in Archaeology: Understanding Symbols of the Past, Objects, Landscapes and Native American Beliefs

The State Museum of Pennsylvania’s Section of Archaeology invites you to join us October 29, 2016 for our annual Workshops in Archaeology program.  The theme of this year’s presentations is Native American symbolism in artifacts and on the cultural landscape.  As always the program is designed to offer an overview of archaeological research and discoveries to the general public. 
Anthropologists have long examined symbols created by past cultures as a way of interpreting and understanding social, political or individual expression.  These take the form of abstract designs and depictions of animal, human and supernatural figures, frequently in stone and clay.  The arrangement of earthworks and mounds also had meaning to people in the past.
Some of these symbols had religious connotations. Others represented clans or depicted supernatural beings that required appeasement.  Although rarely found at archaeological sites, symbols on baskets or beadwork on clothing are also expressions of religious and cultural beliefs.  Some designs may have been simply decorative art.  Whatever the case, they are reflections of how people perceived and organized their world.  Symbolic artifacts recovered from the archaeological record provide a unique resource for examining past cultural behavior.  Eight presenters will examine the archaeological evidence of symbolism in Native American cultures and offer insights into their interpretations. 

Session Descriptions:

All sessions listed below will be held in the Auditorium of the State Museum
9:00 – 9:10 a.m.
Opening remarks –Beth Hager, Acting Director, The State Museum of Pennsylvania

9:10-9:50 a.m.        Session 1   Petroglyphs in Pennsylvania
                                                   –On the Rocks at Parkers Landing 
Kenneth Burkett
Executive Director, Jefferson County History Center, Brookville PA
North Fork Chapter 29 of the Society for Pennsylvania Archaeology

The few accessible petroglyph sites in Pennsylvania are the only intact locations where evidence intentionally left by the early Native Americans can be viewed and contemplated in their unaltered natural setting.  Among these, the Parkers Landing Petroglyphs (36CL1) stands out as the most intensively utilized rock art location known within the upper Allegheny River basin. The quantity, variable styles and assortment of figures at Parkers Landing suggests that this location was utilized over a long period of time possibly beginning in the Middle Woodland period and extending into the 18th century. But why were they created? 

This presentation will include an updated review of this important site and discuss its figural groupings, possible usage and apparent relationship to other regional petroglyph sites.


                                                        The Safe Harbor Petroglyphs 
                                                        –Looking for Meaning
Paul Nevin
Rock Art Researcher & Authority on Lower Susquehanna River Rock Art

The Petroglyphs at Safe Harbor, Lancaster County, PA have evoked wonder for more than 150 years. These rock carvings have often been described as “enigmatic” - difficult or impossible to interpret or understand. Is it indeed impossible, or can we begin to get a sense of their purpose and meaning?  Since first visiting the petroglyphs in the 1980’s a fascination and desire to understand their meaning has been a challenging task that has often been met with skepticism. “How can we ever know what was in the minds of the ancient people who created these images?”   Their possible meaning as theorized by Nevin will be presented along with evidence to support them.

9:50-10:20 a.m.         Session 2        Stone Landscapes in 
                                                           Pennsylvania and the 
Daniel Cassidy,  AECOM
Jesse Bergevin , Oneida Indian Nation
Christopher Bergman, AECOM     

The Stone Landscapes of Pennsylvania and adjoining Northeastern states are typically composed of well-crafted stone cairns, casual rock piles, and rock walls, as well as a variety of other dry-laid stone features.  Stone Landscapes are a matter of continuing scholarly debate as to their origin, period of construction, and purpose.  This paper discusses a number of locations in Pennsylvania and New York and presents data on geographic setting, morphology, methods of construction, and site-specific and regional spatial patterning.  Various theories regarding their origins are reviewed with an aim to better understanding these enigmatic landscape features, probably resulting from both Native American and Euroamerican activities.

10:20-10:40 a.m.         Break   coffee and snacks
10:40-11:20 a.m.         Session 3       Ohio Hopewell:  Bridging 
                                                           the Sacred and Profane
Paul Pacheco
Associate Professor & Chair
Department of Anthropology
SUNY Geneseo

The central mystery in understanding the construction and use of the great Central Ohio earthworks and mounds during the Middle Woodland Period is how and why would low density tribal populations, reliant to a large degree on fluctuating natural resources, expend so much energy on what most would classify as ceremonial behavior?  This presentation attempts to provide an answer to this question by integrating what we know about Ohio Hopewell settlement and subsistence practices with current attempts to understand the cultural meaning served by the earthwork/mound centers.  My perspective is both multi-scalar and landscape focused, looking at symbolism from household to inter-regional scales.   My goal will be to provide a bridge across the sacred and profane dichotomy which has come to dominate Ohio Hopewell archaeology in recent decades.

11:20 a.m-12:00 p.m      Session 4     Burial Ceremonialism at 
                                                             Sugar Run Mound (36WA359), 
                                                             a Hopewellian Squawkie Hill
                                                             Phase Site, Warren County, Pennsylvania
Mark McConaughy, Preservation Specialist
Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Office

Sugar Run Mound (36WA359) is a Squawkie Hill phase Hopewel­lian burial mound located in Warren County, Pennsylvania. There were three separate periods of mound burial construction at this site. The earliest burial phase included production of two effigies of a bird and possible celt/ax made from large stone cobbles, on two sides of a central cobble cist. Multiple cremations were interred under the bird effigy of Mound Unit 1. Mound Unit 2 consisted of two stone box tombs each containing an extended burial with some secondary burials placed around them. Mound Unit 3 had an extended burial laid on the existing ground surface. The different modes of burial and associated grave goods indicate the function of Sugar Run Mound changed through time. This presentation explores those changes.
12:00–1:15 p.m.            Lunch (on your own) - see order form for box lunch option

1:15-1:55 p.m.               Session 5       Shell Effigies and Animal 
                                                              Symbolism in Delaware Burial 
R. Dustin Cushman
Adjunct Professor of Anthropology
Rowan University

This presentation examines the use of effigy grave goods within the context of burial rituals in the Delaware Valley and adjacent regions. Burial ritual among the Delaware evolved from pre-contact forms (before 1620 A.D.) to reinforce group cooperation and network creation during contact times when such behaviors and systems would have been advantageous. Shell effigy beads and pendants tend to be the most abundant forms of animal symbolism found, though effigy pipes, turtle shell rattles, bear teeth and antler headdresses are also present. Many of the animals selected appear in Delaware stories of creation and death; and therefore may symbolize life, death, and the liminality of the in between.

1:55-2:35 p.m.             Session 6       Effigies of the Susquehannock
Janet R. Johnson
Curator, The State Museum of Pennsylvania

The Susquehannock Indians who lived in the Lower Susquehanna River from about 1575 AD to 1763 are often identified with distinct attributes of ceramic production.  Their ceramics have been examined and classified by several archaeologists in developing a typology of Susquehannock pottery attributes.   The Washington Boro phase of the Susquehannock sequence which dates from approximately 1610-1630 AD exhibits the greatest number of effigy symbols. Researchers have examined the patterns and placement of effigies on pottery as an expression of social change or acculturation.  This presentation will focus on the complexity of these design elements, examining patterns for indicators of individuality or replication across multiple Susquehannock sites.  

2:35-3:15 p.m.           Session 7       Powerful Pipes: Base Metal 
                                                          Smoking Pipes of the 17th 
                                                          and 18th Centuries
Rich Veit
Professor and Chair
Monmouth University

Tobacco pipes are among the most personal and intimate of artifacts.  Archaeologists have found them to be valuable tools for dating sites, tracking trade networks, and examining social groupings.  This presentation examines an unusual subset of tobacco pipes, the base metal smoking pipes used and possibly made by Native American peoples in the Northeast in the 17th and 18th centuries.  Ranging from miniscule to massive, these pipes, which often bear elaborate ornamentation, are found across much of eastern North America.  It concludes that metal tobacco pipes were part of a broader suite of artifacts used during the Contact Period that reflect a melding of Old and New World traditions.
3:15-3:30 p.m.            Break   coffee and snacks

3:30-4:10 p.m.            Session 8      Beadwork Designs

Rosemary Hill  
Beaver Clan and member of the Tuscarora Nation     

This presenter will share beadwork designs and techniques of raised beadwork as taught within the Tuscarora community.  Traditional designs were acquired through generations from mother, grandmother, great-aunt and several other Tuscarora women beadwork teachers. The session will highlight these beading techniques along with the reason and meaning of patterns, and variety of family connection that the beading brings to the generations of our people.
The women of the Tuscarora Nation have preserved their gift of beading by teaching to members in the community, as well as generations of their own families. This session will feature pieces of original Tuscarora bead work examples as well as examples created by the artist.

4:10-4:50 p.m.             Conclusions/Closing Summary                                                                                                                

William Engelbrecht
Professor Emeritus
SUNY/Buffalo State

We are often reluctant to study symbols of the past since we can never know with certainty the complexity of meaning with which they were imbued. Yet, Native Americans were and are spiritual people. When we who study the Native past fail to acknowledge this and ignore possible spiritual symbolism, our reconstruction of this past is impoverished. However, uncritical projection of contemporary beliefs and concerns into the past must be avoided. An approach which weighs multiple lines of evidence including Native oral tradition should be encouraged in assessing the possible meaning of past symbols.

4:50 – 5:00 p.m.           Closing Comments - questions and discussion

5:00 – 6:00 p.m.             Social in the Hall of Anthropology and                                         Archaeology, Second Floor

In addition to the presentations, attendees can share their archaeological discoveries with staff from the State Historic Preservation Office who will provide assistance with identifying artifacts and recording archaeological sites, essential tasks for protecting and preserving our archaeological heritage. An additional offering includes a demonstration by a master flintknapper who will make stone tools using Native American techniques. A reception at the close of the sessions will provide an opportunity for the attendees to meet with the presenters and staff in the Anthropology and Archaeology Gallery of The State Museum.

9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m        Flint Knapping Demonstration 
                                           –Auditorium Foyer
Steve Nissly
This presentation will feature an expert flintknapper who will demonstrate how stone tools were made during the Prehistoric and Contact periods in Pennsylvania.

9:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m         Site Recording in Cultural Resources Geographic                                            Information System-Susquehanna Room
Noel Strattan
State Historic Preservation Office

Recording of archaeological sites is an essential task in protecting and preserving our archaeological resources. 

1:10 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.       Artifact Identification –Susquehanna Room

Doug McLearen and Kira Heinrich
State Historic Preservation Office

These individuals have over 50 years of combined experience with archaeological artifacts.  Bring in your historic or prehistoric artifacts for identification and analyses by the experts.

More information and registration information can be found in the 2016 Archaeology Workshops brochure or by contacting Kurt Carr at  There is a registration fee to attend this event.

Registration Fee:   

$25.00  Early Registration 
Deadline(October 21)
            $15.00  Student                  
            $15.00  Heritage Society, SPA, 
             and PAC Members

             35.00 at door- No Discount


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

Friday, October 7, 2016

In the Yards and Under the Porch: Fort Hunter 2016

Mr. McAllister's "smokery"

             This year’s archaeological excavations at Fort Hunter Mansion and Park yielded some fascinating and unusual discoveries. The archaeology continues around the foundation of Archibald McAllister’s octagon-shaped building known as the “smokery” (Cooper 1790).  Attached on the north end of this building, we have identified a rectangular-shaped foundation that, according to documents, likely housed a wood stove to generate the smoke through a tube to the octagon smoke house.

Porch trench excavation (photo by Don Giles)

                In the yard east of the mansion unanticipated discoveries were made. This area is identified as the porch trench is actually an expansion of last year’s trench. There, a compressed B-horizon soil 4500 to 700 years old (Late Archaic to Late Woodland periods) was encountered containing  artifacts.  Overlying these intact cultural deposits are soils containing 19th century and early 20th century artifacts, though some dated earlier, to the 18th century “fort occupation”.

B horizon artifacts: Archaic projectile points and Woodland ceramics

                The mansion’s high terrace setting must have been a desirable camping location for early Indians passing through the Susquehanna valley as is demonstrated by the many fire altered cobble features that we have encountered. Over the years, these features have been found at different locations around the mansion complex and they are always associated with the B-horizon soils underlying the site’s much altered land surface. Other features of this type must have existed in the upper-most soil horizons but were destroyed by the first plowings when the land was cleared and cultivated for domestic use.

This year two prehistoric cobble hearth features were excavated. The first one, though partially destroyed by a water main to the mansion, contained fire cracked and reddened rocks that may have been heated in place since traces of charcoal and soot staining was observed around and beneath some of the cobbles. A second though completely intact cobble feature was found at the south end of the trench. Charcoal was also present though widely scattered and difficult to recover. The porch trench also revealed large, round to square shaped postmolds paralleling  the mansion’s central section suggest that both of these prehistoric features were hidden in historic times by a roofed porch supported by three or more vertically emplaced posts.

Fire cracked rock feature

                Amongst the fire cracked cobble features and elsewhere within the site’s B-horizon, staff archaeologists recovered flaked stone tools, along with stemmed and notched projectile points mostly representative of the Late Archaic, Transitional and Woodland periods.  Early Woodland interior/exterior cord-marked and Middle Woodland exterior cord-marked interior plain pot sherds and several Late Woodland (Shenks Ferry Incised) sherds were also present in this soil stratum indicating a long period of site use with little soil deposition over time.

18th Century glass and ceramic artifacts - North yard trench

18th Century metal artifacts - North yard trench 

                In late September, PHMC staff and volunteers opened a five by fifteen foot trench in the yard north of the mansion where previous test trenching in 2008 revealed evidence of a sealed mid-18th century period occupation located 2 feet below a series of recent fill deposits. The efforts were, indeed, rewarding for within the trench was found a fire reddened ashy and charcoal stained deposit of paved cobbled with a midden composed of the butchered bones of beef, pig and an assortment of other mammals comingled with a few fish bones, broken window and bottle glass, iron nails and glazed ceramics clearly linked to on-site architectural/subsistence related activities. The presence of these objects strongly suggest that we are in the general area of a large domestic mid-18th century occupation, perhaps the very one linked to Samuel Hunter’s blockhouse mentioned in Clarence Busch’s Frontier Fort of Pennsylvania (1896).

Pig and beef teeth - North yard trench

Butchered bone refuse - 18th Century, North yard trench

                Next year presents yet another opportunity for us to experience the fascination and discovery of the archaeology at Fort Hunter – and the mystery continues. . . . . . . 

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

Friday, September 23, 2016

Excavation continues at Fort Hunter

  This week in Pennsylvania Archaeology we review the foundation of an early smoke house uncovered by the archaeological excavations currently being conducted at Fort Hunter Mansion and Park by the Section of Archaeology of The State Museum of Pennsylvania. The structure was built by Colonel Archibald McAllister in the early 19th century on his plantation along North Front Street in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Col. McAllister started his plantation at the site of a French and Indian War fort in about 1787 by building a large stone house at the junction of Fishing Creek and the Susquehanna River. He was a very successful entrepreneur with his farming activities, eventually his operations included a grist and saw mill, a blacksmith shop and a tavern.

The smoke house was described in the agricultural newspaper Cultivator by Daniel Chandler in 1835 based on his visit to the farm in 1828. He described Col. McAllister as “a gentlemen of science and refined observation”. Chandler was especially impressed with his household conveniences notably the milk house, smoke house and clothes line, describing each in detail. The smoke house “was a wooden octagon building ….. perfectly tight except the door-way”. Chandler noted that the smoke house was unique in that it was elevated off the ground by a foot or more and that “no fire was admitted into the building” therefore reducing the chances of the building catching fire. The smoke for curing the meats was introduced into the building by a tube from a stove in an adjacent room.  Typically, in a conventional smokehouse the smoke is generated by a brick fireplace in the center of the earthen floor or by an iron stove in the building.  It was noted that McAllister’s arrangement provided a perfectly dry building allowing him to store his meats in the smokehouse until they were consumed.

The smokehouse foundation is not an artifact in the traditional sense, but is an archaeological feature, a technical term that applies to objects such as post molds, foundations, walk ways, roads and other remains that cannot be removed from the site. This treasure is the rocks which form the foundation of a structure – as in this case the base for the smokehouse. The archaeological footprint of Col. McAllister’s innovative smoke house design consists of a circular stone foundation 12 feet in diameter allowing for the unique octagonal building. The connecting room for the stove can be seen in the picture as an “L” shaped alignment of rocks to the right of the main foundation.

Excavations at Fort Hunter will continue weekdays 9am - 4pm, through October 7th.
For more information, visit or the Hall of Anthropology and Archaeology at The State Museum of Pennsylvania .