Friday, October 13, 2017

Fort Hunter Wrap Up

Fort Hunter Day 2017

In the remaining two weeks of fieldwork at Fort Hunter since our last post, our crew continued to excavate in their respective areas to the east and west of the milk house behind the mansion. Never a day went by without the archaeologists answering questions from the curious and inquisitive visitors to the park. How do you know where to dig? What are you finding? Did you have to go to school for that?

In the vicinity of the smokehouse foundation, artifacts were few and far between, suggesting that undisturbed soils with the potential to contain historic, and more optimistically fort period artifacts, had been all but exhausted through previous years’ work in this area. Careful troweling of the remaining soil did yield a handful of glazed redware sherds, very small fragments of tin-glazed earthenware and scratch blue salt-glazed stoneware. With disassembly of the smokehouse foundation completed and samples of visually distinct stones set aside for thin sectioning and sourcing analysis, the excavation block east of the milk house has closed and is ready to be backfilled. 

East block closing shot

Notable discoveries in the excavation units to the west of the milk house were predominantly prehistoric in age and included native pottery sherds, a few Late Archaic projectile points and a wide scattering of fire cracked rock.

Late Archaic projectile points (the asymmetry of the top specimen suggest it may have functioned as a knife) 

Most of these artifacts were found in a thin band of soil roughly 2 feet below the ground that was once the original land surface, referred to as a buried A horizon, and the first several inches of soil directly underlying it, the subsoil, also called the B horizon.

West trench excavation of buried A horizon (photo credit: Don Giles)

A few fragments of the pottery recovered are sections of the rim of a vessel.  Often decorated with varying patterns of incised lines and/or geometric shapes rim sherds are typically the most diagnostic portion of pre-contact ceramics. Seen below, the cord-marked horizontal and oblique lines on this sherd are indicative of the Owasco ceramic tradition which dates to c. 1000 to 1300 AD (Ritchie 1965). The ultimate in 3D jigsaw puzzles, there may be enough fragments to reconstruct upwards of half of this early fired clay container.

close up of cord marked rim sherd

One unique find this season is what appears to be a medial fragment, or middle section, of the stem portion of a native ceramic smoking pipe. The fragment is also split lengthwise, providing an interesting cross-section of the bore hole through the stem. The clay pipe fragment also exhibits shell tempering which is a characteristic of ceramics from the Late Woodland Period.

interior view of pipe stem fragment 

Despite its underwhelming context of recovery (modern utility trench fill) this artifact retains some significance in that of the tens of thousands of artifacts collected over the course of 11 field seasons, this is the only one in the assemblage to represent prehistoric tobacco use. In whole form, the pipe may have looked similar to this example below from the Strickler site.

complete ceramic pipe from the Strickler site

What does any of that have to do with the French and Indian War one might ask. Admittedly, not much, with one important exception, that it does drive home the point that this area was a strategic position on the landscape for not just hundreds, but thousands of years. There were, however, a few artifacts recovered this season that do seem to hint at echoes from the fort period.

 musket balls

gun flint

 late 18th and 19th C. brass and pewter buttons 

 tin glaze earthenware (left), and scratch blue salt glazed stoneware (right) 

These types of artifacts are intriguing, as they bare the signature of the fort period, and of the time before and shortly after, but unfortunately, due in part to the high level or earth moving activities in this particular section of the property, none were found in discrete contexts free from 19th and 20th Century material.

Susquehanna River looking upstream towards the Dauphin Narrows

It’s been said before, and it’s worth repeating, our volunteers are awesome! They are pleasant to be around, helpful with any number of tasks, and sometimes bring food to share. The amount of work accomplished this season simply would not have happened were it not for our dedicated volunteers.  A tip of the hat also goes to Dauphin County Parks and Recreation for their continuing cooperation and support. THANK YOU, to all who contributed in our efforts to uncover the past!

And a final reminder the Workshops in Archaeology program is just a short two weeks away:


The Archaeology Section of The State Museum of Pennsylvania invites you to attend the annual Workshops in Archaeology on Saturday, October28, 2017.  This program is designed to provide the public with an overview of archaeological discoveries and research being conducted in the region.  Papers presented at these sessions will focus on Ethnicity in the Archaeological Record as it can be identified at farmsteads, industrial sites, religious sites and other locations in Pennsylvania.  By recognizing cultural markers of preceding populations in Pennsylvania, archaeologists are better equipped to under-stand the fluid cultural landscape of our country.

References:

Ritchie, William A.
(1965) The Archaeology of New York State
            The Natural History Press, Garden City, New York


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

Friday, September 29, 2017

If Rocks Could Talk; Unraveling the History of Fort Hunter


It’s September and our followers know that means we are at Fort Hunter Mansion and Park continuing our investigation of this complex archaeological site.  Our mission remains the same, discover the remnants of the French & Indian War fort (1755-1762) but in the process, we have uncovered a lot more relating to the activities and occupations of those both before and after the war.


Our current excavation units are located to the rear of the mansion on either side of the milk house.  On the west side, closest to the corner of the yard and at the confluence of Fishing Creek and the Susquehanna River, archaeologists are uncovering historic and prehistoric activities.  The construction activities are modern (post-1900) water and sewer pipes that bisect the units through two distinct levels. This construction disturbed the soils, but a corner of our westernmost unit was spared.  Digging through the layers of soil and time, this unit has produced pre-historic pottery approximately 1100 years old, a fire-cracked rock feature (cooking hearth), and two Late Archaic points.   Once again, the landscape is reminding us that this was an important spot for peoples for thousands of years and continues to attract visitors to the park.  

modern waterline cutting through unit N75 W35

Recovery of  Koens-Crispin broadspear







A beautiful jasper broadspear


On the east side of the milk house, we continue to investigate a foundation identified as Archibald McAllister’s smokehouse  which still is not yielding many artifacts.  Documentation indicates that this was an octagonal, wooden structure approximately 16 feet in diameter. It also indicates that it was set a foot or more above the ground.  Our examination of the foundation has yielded little in the way of artifacts that would aid in dating the construction of this building, but it has provided insight into the construction methods employed.   The stone foundation that appeared “a foot or more above the ground” was actually set on a rubble stone foundation below ground at approximately the same depth.  This foundation of laid stone consists of sandstone and diabase rock of varying sizes with the largest (10-12”) boulder type at the base with medium and small stones fitted around this base layer.  Intermittent fill of soils mixed with small pebbles and wedge or cut rock complete the foundation.  This random rubble construction consists of stone that are not uniform in shape nor size but were arranged to distribute the weight of the building.  The bottom of the builders’ trench has proven to be consistently level, allowing for a solid foundation for the smokehouse structure.  
Feature 99, smokehouse foundation during removal


The description of McAllister’s octagonal smokehouse doesn’t provide a height dimension for the structure but Carl Lounsbury, architectural historian at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation states that a sharply pitched roof is essential for containing heat and smoke.  He goes on to state that the more intricate the roofing timbers, the more places to hang meat.  Meats were hung in a variety of ways with pegs, nails, hooks and chains.  Smokehouses from the 18th century don’t seem to follow a prescribed design as some are rectangular, square, round, and our octagonal shape at Fort Hunter.  Building materials vary from brick, stone and wood and there seems to be no set height- other than the need for a pitch sufficient for hanging the meats.  Preparation of meats for smoking requires salting which in turn affects the construction materials.  In wood, the cells of timber become infused with salt which weakens the wood cell structure and causes the surface of the wood to soften.  Brick smokehouses show signs of degradation on the bricks and mortar and the surfaces become friable from salt intrusions.  The smokehouse that was constructed without sufficient ventilation had humidity problems which led to molds and potentially harmful meats.  To repel insects- the cured meat was either coated with pepper or hickory ash.  


The following recipe for curing hams is dated December 6, 1841 from the files of John Newberry, Columbia, NC

To 12 hams of common size
take  8 lbs. brown shugar, 1 ½ lbs. christalised salt petre, 5 lbs. fine salt

Rub them with this and let them lie in a cask with the skins downward. Then make pickle with the strongest coarse salt that will bear an egg. Add about two or three quarts of lie refined by boiling and skimming. When cold, cover hams with it and keep them down with a stone and let them lie three or four weeks according to their size. Then hang then up in the smoke house and after 24 hours smoke them with good sound hickory wood and repeat it every morning till that are sufficiently smoked. If dipped in ashes when first taken from the pickle it is useful in preserving them from the fly.


Colonial Williamsburg smokes meats as part of their programming and indicates that smoking usually lasts about two weeks but that hams, shoulders and bacons age inside a smokehouse for at least two years and may be exposed to multiple rounds of smoke curing.  This agrees with the references cited for the McAllister smokehouse that the meats were hung there year- round. It is curious as to why such a large smokehouse was used at the McAllister farm when most of the family were gone by the time of the 1828 visit.  Was this meat consumed at the tavern or sold in the nearby communities?  Research we will pursue this winter after our field season ends. 


The location of an external stove referenced in the documentation is a source for research as well since there is no indicator as to its size, shape or location only that smoke is “conveyed through a tube from the outside”.  The stones to the north of our circular foundation have been removed and we found little evidence of burning or heated surfaces.  Unfortunately, the artifacts were unable to provide a date of placement for these rocks and excavation didn’t reveal their purpose.  Additional soil tests planned for later this year may aid in identifying the method and heat source for the interior of the smokehouse. 
Rocks to the north of smokehouse foundation

The media coverage this season has been great with Fox 43 , and ABC 27 both featuring Kurt Carr, Senior Curator of Archaeology and our crew leader. PennLive interviewed Kurt and posted some great excavation shots.  This media coverage has brought lots of folks to the site and we’ve enjoyed meeting everyone and sharing the significance of archaeology and our rich local heritage.  The school groups who have helped us to excavate and screen dirt and all of the volunteers are amazing.  We only have one more week, excavations close on October 5th and we will be cleaning up and closing the site on the sixth.  

We hope you can join us at Fort Hunter as part of our Archaeology Month in Pennsylvania activities, but if you aren’t able to visit us here- perhaps you can check out other programs offered by the Pennsylvania archaeological community.  On October 28th be sure to join us for the annual Workshops in Archaeology program. This year’s theme is Ethnicity in the Archaeological Record and once again we have a terrific group of presenters scheduled for the day.   

References
Smokehouses, Foursquare and Stolid, These Buildings Were a Hardworking Adornment to the Colonial Backyard, Michael Olmert. CW Journal: Winter 2004-05. 

The Cultivator: A Monthly Publication, devoted to Agriculture- each No. 16 pages. Albany, June 1835.




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

Friday, September 15, 2017

A 2fer: Triangles and Archaeology



The Triangular Shaped Projectile Points
and
The First Week of Archaeology at Fort Hunter

The main topic for this week’s blog is a very common artifact in Pennsylvania, the triangular projectile point. It is especially oriented to the projectile point nerds in our audience - those readers who are fascinated with the shapes of projectile points and how they are grouped into types. To our readers who are interested in artifacts – their age, function and how they were made – this blog is for you.

Triangular projectile points or arrow heads are associated with the Late Woodland period - dating from 900 AD to 1550 AD. Archaeologists have long recognized that there seems to be two different shapes or types of triangles in the Northeast. The slightly larger form was named the Levanna type by William Ritchie (1961). This type is approximately as wide as it is long, like an equilateral triangle, and usually with a concave base. According to Ritchie (1961) they average 3.1 cm to 4.5 cm in length; they are usually well flaked and date between 900 AD and 1350 AD. It is assumed they were used as arrow points. In Pennsylvania, this type is associated with Clemson Island and Owasco pottery types. 
Levanna Points
 
The second type, first described by Scully (1951), is the Madison type. It averages 2.5 cm long and is more commonly isosceles in shape or longer than wide. Although the two types clearly overlap in time, Madison triangles are generally thought to date after the Levanna type from 1300 AD to 1600 AD. In the Ohio Valley of Pennsylvania, these are sometimes referred to as Mississippian or Fort Ancient points and they are associate with the Monongahela culture. A sample of 50 Shenks Ferry triangular points from the Quarry site in Lancaster County (36La1100) dating to approximately 1500 AD, averaged 2.1 cm in length. Interestingly, a study conducted by Graybill et al. found that there was a reduction in the width of these points between early Shenks Ferry and late Shenks Ferry.

Madisson Triangles from the Quarry site
   Although some archaeologists have argued that not all triangles could be pigeonholed into the Levanna or Madison type, it was believed that all triangular projectile points dated to the Late Woodland period and functioned as arrow points. However, in New England and New York, other types of triangular projectile point types have been found in Archaic contexts. The Beekman triangle is described by Ritchie (1971) as being associated with Late Archaic, Vosburg points in New York State dating to 4700 BP. He described these as equilateral in shape with excurvate or straight edges, and with moderate grinding of the base. On Martha’s Vineyard, Ritchie (1971) identified Squibnocket triangles in Late Archaic contexts, dating to 4200 BP. These were shaped like equilateral or isosceles triangles but with no grinding on the base. Hunterbrook triangles (Wingerson and Wingerson 1976) were defined based on the Hunter Brook Rockshelter along the Hudson River as equilateral in shape with excurvate edges and a ground and thinned base. However, Archaic triangles were rare and limited to New York and New England. For some archaeologists, there was a lingering question as to whether these were really Archaic in age or were they Late Woodland points that had washed into Archaic strata.
    Beginning in the 1990’s, the chronological interpretation of these points began to change with the excavation of a large number of triangles from stratified Archaic sites at the Abbott Farm Complex along the Delaware River in New Jersey. This was unequivocal evidence that triangular points were being made and used during the Archaic period.  The radiocarbon dates from the Area D site (28Me1-D) at Abbott Farm extended the age of these points back to 6500 BP. Since that time, a number of other sites in Pennsylvania, such as Memorial Park (36Cn164), West Water Street (36Cn175), East Bank (36Nb16), Mifflinville (36Co17), Raker (36Nb58), P-11(36Pe60) and the Wallis site (36Pe16) have produced dates on Beekman or Hunterbrook triangles ranging from 6500 BP to 3600 BP.

Archaic Triangles from the Abbott Farm Complex (Custer 2001)
 
   There has been an effort to physically distinguish Archaic triangles from later Woodland triangles at the Abbott Farm Complex. Stewart (1998) states that a “healthy percentage” of Archaic triangles can be distinguished from Late Woodland triangles by “1) a patterned approach to the pressure flaking of bases, and 2) the asymmetrical aspect of the basal edge angle.” In addition, they exhibit “finer workmanship, symmetry and thinness than later types” (Wall et al. 1996: 10). Katz (2000) on the other hand, presents data that suggest that Archaic through Early Woodland triangles are difficult to distinguish from Late Woodland triangles.
   There is one final lingering question. How were Archaic triangles used? Archaic triangles are indistinguishable from Late Woodland triangles so, logically, we might conclude that they also functioned as arrow points.
 
     Triangular points such as the Madison and Levanna types are practically synonymous with the Late Woodland period, the introduction of the bow and arrow, well-made pottery, the introduction of farming; and village life. The received wisdom is that Indian populations were increasing; they began growing corn to feed the additional people; the bow and arrow was a more efficient for hunting compared to the atlatl; and it was also a more effective weapon in warfare. However, it is now clear that this scenario is rather simplistic and the appearance of the bow and arrow occurred much earlier.


Opening Excavations for the 2017 Season at Fort Hunter
The excavations at the Fort Hunter site (36Da159) were opened on September 7th, delayed one day by rain. The main areas for this year’s work are the smokehouse and the western trench. The backfill was removed from the western trench and the walls were cut and the floor troweled in the smokehouse block. The western trench is situated directly north of the mansion. It was first opened in 2008 and subsequently expanded in 2016. It is an area that contains multiple layers of late 18th, early 19th century occupations over a series of prehistoric occupations. The area probably relates to either the fort period (1756-1763) or the early to middle McAllister period (1787-1830).
West block
 

In the smokehouse block, several suspected features from last year were more easily defined. These will be further investigated to better define the smokehouse structure and to determine if this was also the site of an earlier smokehouse. Towards the end of this season, the smokehouse foundation will be removed to recover artifacts that may more exactly determine the date of this structure.
Smokehouse block
We had a very interesting interview with Marcus Schneck of Pennlive that will be aired the week of September 18th.
Marcus Schneck Interview
 
This is going to be an exciting excavation season, so please join us. The site is open to the public from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm weekdays, weather permitting. Friday the 15th  (TONIGHT), we are celebrating 3rd in the Burg so the site will be opened until 6:00 pm.  This coming Sunday, September 17th is Fort Hunter Day and we will be open for public visitation and will be excavating from 10:00 am until 5:00 pm.
 
We hope to see you there!
 
References
Custer, Jay F.
2001    Classification Guide for Arrowheads and Spearpoints of Eastern Pennsylvania and the Central Middle Atlantic, Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg.
 
Graybill, Jeffrey R., James T. Herbstritt, Andrea J. Carr and Melanie R.Wing
2014    Shenks Ferry Triangles, Seriation and Dating. Pennsylvania Archaeologist 84(2): 36-41.
 
Katz, Gregory
2000    Archaic Period Triangular Projectile Points in the Middle Atlantic Region. Paper  
            presented at the 65th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology,
            Philadelphia.
 
Ritchie, William A
1961    A Typology and Nomenclature for New York Projectile Points. New York State Museum
            Science Service, Bulletin No. 384, Albany.
 
1971    A Typology and Nomenclature for New York Projectile Points. New York State Museum and Science Service Bulletin No. 384. Albany, New York.
 
Scully, Edward
1951    Some Central Mississippi Valley Projectile Point Types. Museum of Anthropology, University of Michigan
 
Stewart, R. Michael
1998    Archaic Triangles at the Abbott Farm National Landmark: Typological Implications
            For Prehistoric Studies in the Middle Atlantic Region. Paper accompanying an
            exhibit of Archaic-Age Bifaces at the Annual Meeting of the Middle Atlantic
            Archaeological Conference, Cape May, New Jersey. Sponsored by the Archaeological
            Society of New Jersey and the New Jersey Department of Transportation.
 
Wall, Robert D., R. Michael Stewart, and John Cavallo
1996    The Lithic Technology of the Trenton Complex. Trenton Complex Archaeology: Report 13. Prepared for the Federal Highway Administration and the New Jersey Department of Transportation by the Cultural Resource Group, Louis Berger & Associates, Inc., East Orange, New Jersey.
 
Wingerson, Roberta and Richard Wingerson
1976    The Hunter Brook Rockshelter.  Bulletin of the New York State Archaeological Association 68:19-28. 
 

 
 

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