Friday, October 18, 2013

Workshops in Archaeology

            We have been writing the last few weeks about all of the programming for Archaeology Month and the many opportunities available to learn about the archaeology of your community. If you haven’t attended a program yet, there are still a few venues remaining that you should consider attending. This week our focus is on the Workshops in Archaeology program which will be held on November 16th at The State Museum of Pennsylvania.  There is a link-2013  Workshops in Archaeology  on the upper right side of our page to the full program brochure and registration form.

Winter at Valley Forge

image credit:   Lossing (1), Benson J. Our Country. New York: Johnson and Bailey, 1895

            This year’s theme is the Archaeology of A Troubled Nation, 1775-1865. This was a pivotal time in our Nation’s history and Pennsylvania played key roles in the events of this period.  Beginning with the American Revolution our commonwealth contributed both industrial supplies and manpower to the conflicts and development of our Nation. Philadelphia was the largest city in British North America with a population of nearly 30,000 residents.  The colony was a diverse mix of English, Germans and Scots-Irish with a broad range of religious practices.  The social dynamics of Pennsylvania is important in understanding its initial reluctance to join the War for Independence.  An internal revolution had just occurred here that replaced a hierarchical colonial society under the rule of the Penn family and their ties to the British monarchy, to a freer democratic state constitution. This break from Penn family rule and its Quaker pacifist tradition empowered the Scots-Irish on the western frontier and led to radical movements to break from British rule. The abundance of raw materials in Pennsylvania had played an important role in commerce with England, and the resistance to pay taxes prompted the call to arms.

Reenactors at Brandywine Battlefield Park

Philadelphia served as the nation’s capital during most of the American Revolution. It was viewed by British forces as significant for multiple reasons and thus their desire to take control of the city. The Workshops in Archaeology program will begin with archaeology conducted on sites impacted during the American Revolutionary War.  The Continental Powder Works was constructed in April of 1776 to provide gun powder and arms to the colonial troops.  Wade Catts, Archaeologist at John Milner and Associates, will share results from recent archaeological investigations conducted here to find the remains of this site which was destroyed by British troops in September of 1777.

Cheval de frise recovered at Bristol, Pa (photo taken by Don Giles)

 Attempts by Pennsylvania to control the advance of British forces included the installation of a line of defense in the Delaware River from 1776 to August of 1777.  A series of chevaux de frise were sunk between Fort Mercer and Fort Mifflin. These lines of defense were comprised of a series of long wooden posts with large iron spikes at the tip used to puncture the hull of large sailing vessels. When Howe took control of Philadelphia in September of 1777 he soon realized the difficulty of navigating through the maze of this line of defense.  Howe was eventually successful in maneuvering through and forced the abandonment of Fort Mifflin and the retreat of George Washington’s troops to Valley Forge.  Janet Johnson, Curator at The State Museum, will share the recent discovery of a chaval de frise (singular of chevaux) near Bristol, Pennsylvania and conservation efforts currently in process to preserve this important artifact of the American Revolution.

Revolutionary War era brazier recovered at Ephrata Cloister

David Orr, Professor at Temple University, will discuss the archaeology conducted at Valley Forge and the significant contributions that archaeology has provided for interpretation and understanding of this important site.  Washington’s men camped here from December of 1777 to June of 1778. Archaeologists have researched the evidence left from this encampment to improve our understanding of this difficult time in American history. Steve Warfel, retired Senior Curator of The State Museum, will discuss evidence of a Revolutionary War Hospital at Ephrata Cloister in Lancaster County.   This hospital was established to care for soldiers who were wounded and sick from conditions at Valley Forge.  Learn how excavations at a German religious communal site yielded evidence of these Revolutionary War soldiers.

Pennsylvania continued to play a decisive role in western expansion and the War of 1812 would find us once again at the forefront of Nation building.  The Battle of Lake Erie in September of 1813 saw the defeat of the British Navy at Put-in-Bay and gave control of the Great Lakes to the United States, eliminating the threat on the northwestern frontier from British forces.  The flagship Niagara was hastily built to serve during this battle and Captain Walter Rybka, Site Administrator and Senior Captain of the Niagara, will share the history of its recovery and restoration.

The reconstructed Flagship Niagara under sail 

Pennsylvania’s Quakers had long opposed slavery and the Gradual Emancipation Act of 1780 led to establishment of the abolitionist movement.  The Underground Railroad which helped escaping slaves travel into Canada was supported by many citizens of the commonwealth.  Thaddeus Stevens was an opponent of slavery in the U.S. Congress in 1859 and lived with his African American housekeeper and companion in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Excavations at the Thaddeus Stevens and Lydia Hamilton Smith site have led archaeologists, James Delle and Mary Ann Levine, Archaeology Professors from Franklin & Marshall and Kutztown University,  to speculate that modifications to their home may provide evidence that it was used as a hiding place for fugitive slaves.  John Roby, Professor at Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP)  will share his research of an archaeological investigation at a free African American homestead in Susquehanna County.  The Dennis Farm was established in 1793 by Prince Perkins, a free African American from Connecticut after his service in the Revolutionary War.  This farm has remained with the same family for seven generations.
Peter F. Rothermel’s  painting “Battle of Gettysburg: Pickett’s Charge"
on display at The State Museum

The Civil War found Pennsylvania again playing an important role in supplying ammunition, guns and clothing to troops. Iron and steel were the leading industries, producing about half of the nation’s iron. Three times Pennsylvania was invaded by southern forces- each time they were defeated and driven out, protecting the other northeastern states. The Battle of Gettysburg is considered the major turning point in the struggle to save the Union. Nearly 350,000 Pennsylvanians served during the Civil War and nearly a third of General Meade’s army who fought at Gettysburg were Pennsylvanians. Ben Resnick, Archaeologist at GAI Consultants, will share his research into the analysis and interpretation of a Civil War battlefield burial and the treatment of these remains.  Archaeologist Judd Kratzer will summarize the day with closing thoughts and provide an opportunity for participants to ask questions.
Artifacts recovered from Gettysburg Battlefield site

Additional venues available throughout the day will include an artifact identification session, an opportunity to complete archaeological site recording and two informational programs with Steve Nissly, a highly skilled flintknapper and John Heckman, a Civil War historian and reenactor. The day will end with a wine and cheese reception in the Anthropology and Archaeology Gallery of The State Museum. 

We hope you can join us for this program which is our speakers have prepared as a presentations geared towards the general public to share in their archaeological discoveries. Preserving our archaeological heritage is important for future generations and understanding what archaeology contributes to our past, enables us to make good decisions about preservation.

Don’t forget about the other Archaeology Month opportunities going on throughout the state this month.  Here are two flyers for programs in the Philadelphia area you won’t want to miss.
Free Program at Temple University on October 24th

Join us as Temple University’s Department of Anthropology and Anthropology Graduate Student Association host Dialogues with the Past: Celebrating Temple Archaeology. 
This program will highlight recent research by Temple’s students and faculty, offering a broad range of topics to enlighten participants in the archaeological heritage surrounding Pennsylvania and nearby regions.  Research topics will include archaeology conducted at Native American sites from the Paleoindian period to European Contact, as well as historical archaeology conducted at Brandywine Battlefield, Valley Forge and Elfreth’s Alley (  Artifacts associated with these excavations will also be on display. 

The public is invited to attend this free event from 5pm to 8:30pm on Thursday, October 24th in Gladfelter Hall on the Temple University’s main campus (  An opening reception will begin in the Anthropology Lab at 5pm, followed by student and faculty presentations in Gladfelter room 107.  The event will conclude with an opportunity to interact with Temple researchers and view artifact exhibits and demonstrations.  
For questions and a detailed schedule, please contact Jen Rankin (  Make sure to visit our blog about the happenings of the Anthropology Lab at Temple University (

 While in Philadelphia you might want to check out this event on Saturday, October 26th offered by the Philadelphia Archaeological forum 

 We hope to see you soon at the Workshops in Archaeology or one of these other wonderful venues! 

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

1 comment:

  1. Not "Battle of Gettysburg: Pickett's Charge," but "Battle of Gettysburg: Charge of Pennsylvania Reserves at Plum Run (as seen from the Confederate side)."