Friday, October 4, 2013

On the Road at Fort Hunter

A beautiful view of the Rockville Bridge from Fort Hunter

While thinking about our current excavation at Fort Hunter and the uncovering of what we believe to be a road, there are lots of thoughts, including quotes, which come to mind regarding roads. One quote that comes to mind is from a Robert Frost poem and deals with choosing roads in life, the phrase is and I took the one less traveled by but in the case of our road, it appears to be the road heavily traveled.

Blowing soils off of the cobble road feature

The feature that we had exposed last week was exposed further this week with an unconventional tool, a leaf blower. The silty soils covering the cobble layer were so dry and loose, that we were able to literally blow the dirt off and expose a feature full of what appears to be wheel ruts on a compacted cobble surface. There are a few ruts or trenches running parallel to the hard cobble surface that may have been drainage for the road. These units contain river cobble of medium size that could have been used later to fill in the deep ruts and provide a smoother surface.  At times the road may have been was impassable due to heavy use, and especially if the road was filled with standing water.  Our followers may recall the observation of a gray lense just above these cobbles which is created when organics break down in water over an extended period of time.

cobble road with adjacent ruts exposed

Obviously the activities of the fort would have required bringing in wagon loads of supplies for Fort Hunter, but more importantly for Fort Augusta.  Fort Augusta was the largest of the three forts built for a line of defense along the Susquehanna River.  The historic documents frequently describe the difficult conditions in transporting supplies intended for troops.  Our frustration with this road feature is that we have recovered no datable artifacts.  The few rusted globs of iron that have come from this feature don’t help us to date its use to the fort period or to subsequent occupations of the site.

PHMC Executive Director, Jim Vaughan takes a look
at the new exhibit panels at Fort Hunter

Hanging on the edge of our excavation block behind the ice house.

This has been a great week for visitors and media coverage of our excavation efforts.  Our Executive Director, Jim Vaughan came out for a visit and to learn what we had discovered this year. His visit was followed by Curatorial Supervisor, Brad Smith and the curatorial inventory team.  They were treated to a wonderful tour of the mansion. Media coverage this week included CBS 21 news and ABC27 news, both of these stations were enthusiastic and hopefully you were able to catch these news spots.

                                       A little video of our own from excavations at Fort Hunter

Next week is our last scheduled week at Fort Hunter, excavations close on October 11th.  If you haven’t stopped out to look at the site, please consider coming out on Sunday, October 6th  for Indian Festival Day. This event at Fort Hunter Mansion and Park is a great opportunity to visit with archaeologists that have been working here for the past six years. You can also try your hand at throwing an atlatl.  

Dr. Kurt Carr demonstrates the proper technique for launching an atlatl

Atlatls are spear throwers that aid in distance and accuracy when throwing a spear. They are associated with the Middle Archaic period, approximately 9,000 years ago. It is during this time that forest growth increases and broad leaf trees that produce nuts increase.  This forest growth provides food resources for animals from birds to deer and elk. This also brings an increase in population and the demand for food increases, necessitating the development of this hunting tool. Come give it a try and take time to visit with the archaeologists, who knows what discoveries might be found on the road to Fort Hunter!  

Many thanks to those of you who attended our Learn at Lunchtime presentation today with Dr. Bernard Means and Janet Johnson. If you would like to purchase a copy of this publication and couldn't make the book signing, there are copies of Shovel Ready, Archaeology and Roosevelt's New Deal for America available at the State Museum gift shop. This was the first of many scheduled events during Archaeology Month in October so please continue to check the blog for updates to events. 

Dr. Means during the Shovel Ready presentation and book signing event

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

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