Friday, September 12, 2014

Lighting the Way..., L is for Lantern

The Kipona Festival is the annual kick off for the Section of Archaeology’s busiest season.  Fortunately it was a success; we were visited by even more people this year than in years past, but it is only the beginning.   As always the dugout canoe was prominently displayed as were the replica tools used to build it.  Also on exhibit were the archaeologically recovered celts found on City Island during years of excavation in the mid to late 1990’s.  Celt’s are woodworking tools likely used in the construction of dugout canoes.  These excavations brought to light at least 8,000 years of habitation on the island; and the cache of celts recovered there suggests that perhaps people have been building canoes on City Island for a long time.   Check us out on ABC 27 news.  

Upon our return from City Island we unloaded the dugout and loaded up the digging equipment, bound for Fort Hunter.  
This marks the eighth year of excavations at Fort Hunter.  Our scientific goal has always been to discover the exact location of the French and Indian War era fort, but being the multi-taskers that we are, we have also used it as an opportunity to talk to visitors about what archaeology is (and is not) and why it’s an important tool for understanding the past.  We have uncovered many exciting clues about the fort but also about how that piece of land, between the Susquehanna River and Fishing Creek, has been used for more than 8,000 years and how it has changed over time.  We have uncovered activity areas left by its past occupants from prehistoric cooking hearths,

Hearth Feature Excavated in 2010

to the 1750’s era bake oven 

Planview of Bake Oven Excavated in 2006

Profile of Bake Oven

and road,

Plan map of Fort Hunter Side Yard Depicting Possible Road

Excavation of Cobble Feature, First Indication of Possible Road

to the pet cemetery of the Riley family 

First Dog Burial Excavated 2013

Second Dog Burial Excavated 2013

that lived in the mansion from the 1870’s through the 1920s.

We found and excavated an undocumented well 

Well During 2010 Excavations

that although it could have been built in the 1750’s, it was definitely used by the Reily’s.  It was also a central part of the “clean up” of the back gardens when public water finally came to the mansion.  It was backfilled at that time in one single episode and we know this because fragments of the same hurricane lamp were found throughout the fill.  There are other areas near the well that were clearly filled either as part of the “clean up” or perhaps to stabilize land near the drop-off to Fishing Creek.  It was in this fill area that another lamp, or in this case lantern, was recovered earlier this week. 

Complete Lantern Courtesy of  R. L. Wagner's House of Antiques

This lantern brings us to "L" portion of the blog.  It is called a Tubular Lantern.  They are often misidentified as Railroad lanterns, as some Tubular Lanterns were used in this venue.  The railroad lanterns had a slightly different design specifically for rail function and were marked with the railroad or traction company’s name.  The majority of Tubular lanterns were manufactured for farm and domestic uses.  So much so, that they have often been referred to as “barn lanterns”.   There are two types of Tubular lanterns; “cold blast” and “hot blast”.  The function of the tubes was to deliver air to the flame.  A “hot blast” design delivered a combination of fresh and partially heated air to the flame in order to encourage combustion.  A “cold blast” lantern delivered only fresh air to the flame.  

The intact example on the left is a Dietz, Blizzard No.2 and dates between 1898-1912.  Considering the similarities between it and the archaeological specimen I think we can conclude a comparable date, making it right in line with the improvements and “clean up” conducted during the Reily’s occupation of the mansion.  It’s always fascinating in archaeology to be able to link an object to an individuals’ use of the object; and being that, 
“For half a century the Reily dairy farm, graced with strutting peacocks and grazing sheep, was a familiar landmark and social center for Harrisburg.” 
I think it’s fitting that we may have just found their barn lantern.

Please check back often for updates on the excavations at Fort Hunter.  We will be there weekdays from 9:00am to 4:30pm and Sunday September 21st for Fort Hunter Day.  Also be sure to put our Workshops in Archaeology on your calendar for November 8th, this year’s topic is Climate Change and the Archaeological Record: Implications for the 21st Century.  We have some very exciting speakers lined up so don’t miss it.  More information is available on our website.

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

No comments:

Post a Comment