Friday, August 17, 2018

Public Programs with the Section of Archaeology 2018

Here we are, summer is ending, school is starting for many across the state of Pennsylvania and our busiest time of year is just beginning. Each year the Section of Archaeology attends and hosts several public programs to spread the word about Pennsylvania’s archaeological history.
September 1st – 3rd
City Island, Harrisburg

The kick off public program is Labor Day weekend’s Kipona Festival. Kipona, meaning, “To be upon the sparkling water,” is held each year on City Island, surrounded by the Susquehanna River. Our booth will be located on the west side of the Island, behind the baseball field. Along with knowledgeable staff and volunteers available to answer questions, our booth will highlight the over 8,000-year-old Native American archaeological record excavated on the Island.  Artifacts on display from these excavations include numerous spear points, some of which have been carbon-14 dated along with a cache of 4,000-year-old axe blades and celts. As usual, we will also be exhibiting our ever-popular 20-foot dugout canoe. This replica is based on the real dugout on display in the Archaeology gallery of the State Museum. For those interested in experimental archaeology, the stone tools, called adzes, which we made and used to “dig” out the canoe will be available for examination. Finally, there will be a variety of free brochures with information on hand summarizing the archaeology of Pennsylvania. 

Section of Archaeology staff burning and scraping log to create the dugout canoe.

This year we will also be raffling off a chance to win a behind the scenes tour of the State Museum’s Section of Archaeology laboratory! Stop by our booth to take a “ride” in the dugout canoe, marvel at the more than 8,000-year-old artifacts from right beneath our feet on City Island and fill out a raffle ticket for your chance to win!  

The State Museum of Pennsylvania’s Section of Archaeology booth at Kipona 2017.

Fort Hunter
September 5th-October 5th
Mondays-Fridays (9am-4pm)

Shortly after the end of Kipona each year, the Section of Archaeology gears up and heads to Fort Hunter Mansion and Park for our month-long excavation. This year we will be heading out to begin setting up and opening our excavation units during the first week of September with true excavations starting the following week on September 10th. As in past years, we will be excavating in the backyard behind the mansion, looking for physical evidence of the French and Indian War period fort that was supposedly built somewhere in what is now the Fort Hunter Mansion and Park. Our excavations are open for the public to visit and to speak with the archaeologists and volunteers about what we have found and what we are looking for. Unless it rains, we will be excavating from 9:00 am to 4:15 pm Monday through Friday until October 5th. We will also be working Sunday, September 16th on Fort Hunter Day. This is an annual fall celebration and craft fair sponsored by the Park. For more information on the Fort Hunter Day visit the Fort Hunter Mansion and Park website calendar of events here:

Guests listening to staff discuss what is going on in the excavations at Fort Hunter Day 2017

Also available at Fort Hunter during Fort Hunter Day and our weekly excavations are brochures and pamphlets on Pennsylvania archaeology as well as the new archaeology month poster and our registration pamphlet for the Section of Archaeology’s annual Workshops in Archaeology.

2018 Annual Workshops in Archaeology
Saturday, October 27, 2018
The State Museum of Pennsylvania
300 North Street Harrisburg, PA

October is archaeology month and as we wrap up our Fort Hunter excavations during the first week in October, we move straight into preparations for our annual Workshops in Archaeology program. We will be holding the Workshops program, on Saturday October 27, just a few days after International Archaeology Day, October 20,  (for more information on International Archaeology Day check out the website at:

International Archaeology Day Poster, available for download on the website.

The Workshops in Archaeology is a program designed to provide the public with an overview of archaeological discoveries across the Commonwealth. This year’s theme is John Smith’s Susquehannock’s: The Archaeological Context of a Native Culture and encompasses presentations from experts in the field, an ongoing flint knapping demonstration by master flint knapper Steve Nissly, and artifact identification and site recordation by the State Historic Preservation Office staff.

 SHPO staff member educating Workshops participant in recording sites.

 Brief summary of this year’s Workshops theme:
John Smith’s Susquehannocks:
The Archaeological Context
of a Native Culture
For more than 200 years, between 1550 and 1763, much of the Susquehanna River Valley was home to the Susquehannock Indian Tribe. This was a matrilineal society, different from many Indian societies, tracing kinship through the female line. They were dependent on maize agriculture, along with other domesticated foods, wild plants and animals. They lived in some of the largest Indian towns in Pennsylvania, containing one thousand or more people. Their impact on the Colonial period America was far-reaching, especially in the fur trade during the 1600s. Capt. John Smith, founding father of the English colony at Jamestown, Virginia, was the first European to describe the Susquehannocks in detail. During his exploration of the Chesapeake Bay in 1608, he stopped at the mouth of the Susquehanna River, where he made contact with sixty Susquehannocks and stated that they “are the strangest people of all those countries, both in language and attire.” At the height of the fur trade during the mid-1600s, competition with Iroquoian groups, namely the Seneca and Mohawk, led to upheaval and discord. By the late 1600s, conflict between these Indian tribes, as well as with Europeans, led to the Susquehannocks dispersal and eventual disappearance from the Susquehanna Valley in the late 1700s. The story of the rise and fall of the Susquehannocks was the fate of many Indian tribes in the eastern United States.

We welcome archaeology and history enthusiasts to this informative program that will provide insights into this fascinating period in our nation’s history. Admission to The State Museum of Pennsylvania is included with registration.

Flint knapping demonstration by Steve Nissly at 2013 Workshops in Archaeology.

So come out and join us this fall to celebrate the rich archaeological heritage from all around us. We look forward to seeing you at one of our informative programs: the Kipona Festival, our excavations at Fort Hunter and the Workshops in Archaeology where you can learn more about how you can help preserve our past for the future.

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

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