Sunday, October 18, 2020

Lowther Manor and the Shawnee presence in New Cumberland Borough

Evidence of the past can be found throughout Pennsylvania, often in closer proximity to us than we may realize. Sometimes, these clues may be found in the names of the roads we travel daily or in the creeks we take for granted. A little bit of curiosity and research can reveal little-known truths about an area. What began in March as a creek-side escape along the Yellow Breeches Creek from the stresses of lockdown, inspired me to want to learn more about the area and led to surprising revelations about the area directly across the Susquehanna River from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

In the 1730s, when colonial Pennsylvania was negotiating its boundaries with adjacent colonies and worried about the French expansion in the Allegheny Valley, the land along the Susquehanna River between the Conodoguinet and the Yellow Breeches creeks was part of a little known incident that reflects the complex political environment of the Pennsylvania frontier. The colonial government proposed to give this tract of land to the Shawnee, a Native American tribe who had migrated into the Commonwealth from the south. 

A little background is necessary to put this story in context. The invasion of North America in the 17th century by various European countries resulted in disease, warfare and the displacement of Native American tribes from their homelands. By the late 17th century, many tribes were searching for new homes. The Susquehannock Indians had controlled the Susquehanna Valley for more than a century but their power was broken by disease and a war with the Haudenosaunee (aka Iroquois) and by 1680 a political vacuum existed in the region. The Haudenosaunee recognized this issue and allowed the Susquehannocks (significantly reduced in numbers) to stay in the region with the promise they would not be involved with the fur trade. The Susquehannocks were not the only tribe suffering from the chaos caused by the European invasion. The Shawnee, originally living in Florida, had been moving north for several decades. The Haudenosaunee allowed them to move into the lower Susquehanna and also encouraged other tribes such as the Conoy and Nanticoke to do the same. There is some evidence that the Shawnee settled at the mouth of the Yellow Breeches Creek across from Harrisburg in what is now New Cumberland in about 1699. It is not clear how long they stayed at this location, maybe as late as 1728, but they eventually moved west to the Allegheny River as an increasing number of German and English immigrants moved into the area (Beckley 1973:8). 

Throughout the early 18th century, the French and English were colonizing lands around the world and competing for resources. During this time, world-wide tensions were building between France and Great Britain, eventually leading to the French and Indian War of 1756-1763. As part of that tension during the 1730s, the Pennsylvania colonial government was concerned with the activities of the French on their western border. Control of the Allegheny River Valley was crucial for the French to transport supplies and goods between the Louisiana Territory to the south, which they controlled, and Canada. The pacifist Quaker government did not believe in a standing army or militia. However, they did seem to be willing to attract Indian allies to do their fighting for them or at least act as a political barrier. In the winter of 1731, a communication was relayed to the Shawnee in the Allegheny Valley that a “large and convenient” tract of land (Lowther Manor) had been set aside for their accommodation. Lowther Manor (sometimes spelled Louther) was a 7551-acre area of land that was bound on the north by the Conodoguinet Creek, on the east by the Susquehanna River and to the south by the Yellow Breeches Creek. A straight line between the two creeks along St. Johns Church Road in modern-day Mechanicsburg formed the western boundary. This was an effort by the Pennsylvania colony to entice the Shawnee to return to the region that they had occupied many years earlier. 

This offer is considered to have been a bribe, in exchange for the Shawnee’s de facto alliance with the English Crown by way of proximity. This is no more clearly stated than in the Minutes of the Provincial Council, August 10, 1737, “all possible means ought to be used to prevent their defection and to keep them attached to the British Interest” (p.235). At the conclusion of this 1737 meeting, it was decided to send a present, valued at 10 pounds, to further entice the Shawnee (ibid). However, the Shawnee seemed to be satisfied with their home in Allegheny where they had independence and the French were supplying them with all they needed including muskets and gunpowder. An alliance with the Shawnee would reduce the number of Native Americans who supported the French and help the British to strengthen their defense against the French. The offer was not formally declined by the Shawnee until 1762, the reason for the 25-year delay is unknown.  

Today, not much more than a street name (Lowther Road) offers a clue to the largely forgotten past and its role in negotiating an effort to win the allegiance of the Shawnee. As a footnote of this event, Peter Chartier, a notable half-Shawnee/half-French trader and Shawnee leader,  was given rights in 1740 to purchase the plot of land indicated on the above map encompassing modern-day New Cumberland, Cumberland County, Pennsylvania. According to Beckley (1973:11), this was one of the early settlements on the West Shore of the Susquehanna River. Over the next several years, Chartier occasionally returned to this area, although his primary settlement was in the Upper Ohio valley. In 1745, Chartier was referred to as a “Rebel against the King of Great Britain” as recorded in Minutes of the Provincial Council. Peter Chartier accepted the “French hatchet” and moved further west with the Shawnee. There is no record of him after 1759 (Beckley 1973:10). Chartier’s trading post in Lowther Manor was likely a safe distance from the river located between modern-day 15th and 16th Streets in New Cumberland (Beckley 1973:11). 

Left: a survey of Lowther Manor from 1765. Note Chartier’s Land not included in the survey. Right: The Historic map superimposed on modern imagery from Google Earth. The yellow lines are the historic roads which today roughly follow Market St./Carlisle Pike and Simpson Ferry Rd./Gettysburg Rd./Carlisle Rd. 

Nearby creeks, such as the Yellow Breeches provide an escape from the rigors of the “new normal” and a chance to imagine the resources that attracted people to this area. (image: Melanie Mayhew)

The Yellow Breeches remains a popular destination for fly fishing, bird watching, boating and tubing, with most modern visitors being unaware of its rich past. The land between the Conodoguinet and Yellow Breeches Creeks continues to be a major transportation corridor, rich with resources and providing easy access to trade routes. 

We hope you have found this post regarding community and local history of interest and encourage you to explore your own community. Preservation of our natural/historic resources begins with an appreciation of their origins and the impact those resources have had on our growth as a community and a Commonwealth.


Beckley, Gilbert W. New Cumberland Frontier. New Cumberland Old town Association.

Crist, Robert Grant (1993) Lower Allen Township: A History. Planks Suburban press, Camp Hill, PA
Donehoo, G. Patterson. (1995, 1928). Indian villages and place names in Pennsylvania. Baltimore: Gateway Press.

Hanna, C. A. (1911). The wilderness trail: Or, the ventures and adventures of the Pennsylvania traders on the Allegheny path (Vol. 2). GP Putnam's sons.

Pennsylvania Archives, Colonial Records, Volume IV, Minutes of the Provincial Council, Page 236
Pennsylvania Archives, Maps, Draughts of the Proprietary Manors in the Province of Pennsylvania, Page 35 

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

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Fort Hunter Flashback

The fall season brings to mind The State Museum of Pennsylvania’s excavations over the years at Fort Hunter Mansion & Park, a Dauphin County historic property on the Susquehanna River north of Harrisburg.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with our work at Fort Hunter, The State Museum’s Section of Archaeology’s annual excavations during the month of September and part of October have focused on areas around the current Fort Hunter mansion in hopes of finding structural evidence of the French and Indian War period fort. In these years, we uncovered archaeological evidence that shows the Fort Hunter site was in use by humans for thousands of years, beginning as a seasonal hunting and fishing site for Native Americans. This site has also been used as a family home and from which its name is derived and as a supply fort during the French and Indian War.

To begin our Fort Hunter “flashback” we will look at a few of the artifacts dating back to the prehistoric period. These artifacts include a Palmer corner-notched projectile point made in chert, which dates between 9800 and 9200 years ago; a metarhyolite broadspear, which dates between 3200 BP and 4850 BP; and a jasper Jack’s Reef corner-notched point, which dates between 1500 BP and 950 Bp. 

Note:  While teleworking from home over the past six months, the staff of the Section of Archaeology has been working hard to move our various artifact catalogue lists to Argus, a collections management program for all of the artifacts in the museum’s collections and it includes photographs. In addition, as part of Argus, we are sharing artifacts, including those from Fort Hunter and they are available to the public via the internet accessible Argus platform.

Let’s take a look at some interesting examples of prehistoric period artifacts we’ve excavated at Fort Hunter since 2006:

Palmer Projectile Point made in chert

Metarhyolite Broadspear 

Jasper Jack’s Reef Projectile Point 

Next, we will look at a few artifacts that date to the fort period.

One of these fort period artifacts is this three-inch iron cannonball, which was likely stored at Fort Hunter with the other supplies that were sent up the Susquehanna River to Fort Augusta at Northumberland, the major fort in the line of defense along the Susquehanna River.


Iron Cannonball 

Another fort period artifact is this brass star button, which may have belonged to one of the militiamen serving at Fort Hunter, although most of them did not have issued uniforms. The military didn’t designate regimental buttons until the Revolutionary War so there is no definitive way of determining if the button is a military issue.  The button may have also belonged to a member of one of the families that owned the mansion after the war.


Brass Star Button 

Additional possible fort period artifacts include gunflints. There are both English and French gunflints, which were held onto the gun by the “jaws” and when the trigger was pulled, the hammer came down causing a spark which ignited the gunpowder.

English Flint 

French Flint

There have also been other, more decorative, gun parts found at Fort Hunter including the following brass thumb and side plates.

Brass gun decorative sideplate

Brass gun decorative thumb plate

 Other interesting artifacts that have been found at Fort Hunter include a number of crucible fragments including the one below. These crucible fragments are most likely remnants from a blacksmith/gunsmith shop that was present on the property, used in the hot furnaces to melt down metals for gun repairs. 

Crucible fragment

We have also found many personal items at Fort Hunter, which include these green glass cuff links set in pewter, this brass stock buckle and several kaolin smoking pipe fragments. 

Green glass cufflinks

Brass Buckle 

Kaolin pipe fragments

We hope you have enjoyed looking back at some of the interesting artifacts we have found at Fort Hunter through the years. For additional information on the Fort Hunter artifacts and other collection’s, please visit the State Museum’s Argus website

We continue to do what we can to help preserve the past for our future during these tough times. We hope you explore all of the different sections of The State Museum and the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission through Argus to learn more about what makes Pennsylvania what it is today.

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

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Archaeology Month Virtual Events… Announcing virtual Archaeology Workshop Speaker Series in October

Traditionally at this time of year our blog is full of the numerous Section of Archaeology public outreach programs scheduled in the fall to celebrate Archaeology month in October. Our excitement is so hard to contain that in a “typical” year our events start a month early at the Kipona festival in Harrisburg over Labor Day weekend. They pick up steam at our yearly excavation at Fort Hunter Mansion and Park in Dauphin County. And culminate in late October or early November at our Annual Workshops in Archaeology. 

It almost goes without saying the pandemic has altered our plans for in-person outreach this year. We continue to turn limitations on social gathering into opportunities to grow our on-line presence and find creative solutions to reach wider audiences. In lieu of the Workshops in Archaeology, we are announcing a virtual Speaker Series the first 4 Fridays in October at 12 Noon. 

Sessions will be presented over Zoom and are free, but registration is required. Once you are registered, attendees will receive an attendance link and password for all of the sessions listed. Please visit the Pennsylvania Heritage Foundation to register.

2020 Archaeology Month Poster. PDF available for download!

2020 Archaeology Month Poster. PDF available for download!

We also invite you to explore additional virtual learning content at The State Museum and visit or online collections.


This October for Archaeology month, the Museum’s Archaeology Section will present a virtual Learn at Lunchtime speaker series focusing on The Delaware Indians: Then and Now.  

Over 12,000 years ago at the Shawnee-Minisink site in Pennsylvania, the first people in the Delaware Valley left behind stone tools, evidence of their existence, in the archaeological record. 
It is not known when the Delaware Indian culture/language group began to develop/emerge within the region. The Delaware culture may have very old roots in the region, or it may be the result of a migration of people into the region within the past several millennia. 

Fast forward to 500 years ago. The historic Lenape, also called the Leni Lenape, Lenni Lenape and Delaware people lived year-round in matrilineally organized hamlet communities and villages ranging from the Delaware and Lower Hudson River Valleys to the Atlantic Coast. In 1638, one of the first recorded land treaties was negotiated for the settlement of New Sweden between five Lenape chiefs and Peter Minuit of Sweden for a tract of land approximately seventy-seven miles long in the Lower Delaware River. By the 1700s, European colonial encroachment had displaced almost all Lenape from their native lands. Most remaining Delaware tribe members living in the United States were pushed and pulled further west eventually to Indian Territory, now Oklahoma, under the Indian Removal Act in the 1860s. 

The four presentations planned for this year’s Workshops will cover the archaeological evidence of the evolution of Indian culture in the Delaware Valley. Our notable speakers will address the issue of possible origins; the history of the Delaware and their interactions with Europeans; the nature of Delaware culture today and their plans for the repatriation of Delaware human remains and sacred objects. 

Please join us in an educational series to learn more about the cultural history of the Native people of the Delaware Valley and where they are today.  

Presentations will start at 12 Noon with a brief introduction given by Dr. Kurt Carr, Sr Curator of Archaeology and the featured speaker will last approximately 20 minutes with time for question and answer. 

1)  Friday, October 2 - The Prehistoric Archaeology of the Upper Delaware 
     Dr. Roger Moeller, Archaeological Services 
This presentation will identify the Paleoindian, Archaic, Transitional, and Woodland periods at specific archeological sites with their artifacts, excavation and analytical techniques, and major findings. Given major advances in technology, the potential for future research questions will be detailed and discussed. 

2) Friday, October 9 - The Contact Period in New Jersey: An Archaeological Perspective 
        Dr. Gregory D. Lattanzi, Curator, New Jersey State Museum

New Jersey has long benefited from being an early player in the field of contact period archaeology. Starting in the early decades of the 16th century, New Jersey's Original People bore witness to the arrival of countless immigrants - the Swedes, Dutch and English, all who claimed religious and political authority over a land that was not theirs. Through this clash of cultures, we are fortunate to have documentary, archaeological, and ethnographic resources from which to reconstruct many vignettes. When strung together along with understanding the many contextual issues, we hope individual scenes provide a clearer picture of Native American life.

3) Friday, October 16 - History of the Delaware Indians in the Middle Atlantic Region
        Dr. Jean Soderlund, Professor of History Emeritus, Lehigh University (confirmed)

As Dutch, Swedes, Finns, and English arrived in the region that became Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New Jersey during the seventeenth century, Lenape’s sought reciprocal relationships for trade and mutual alliance. They remained a sovereign people, protecting personal and religious liberty, while avoiding violence when possible through peaceful conflict resolution

4) Friday, October 23 - The Delaware Indians - Where they are now? 
        Dr. Brice Obermeyer, Director, Delaware Historic Preservation 

       Lenape Relocation Histories: Understanding the Lenape Diaspora

This workshop will focus on the events and factors that led to the multiple removals of most Lenape people from the Delaware Valley.  An emphasis will be placed on the factors that pushed and pulled the Lenape out of the region to their current locations throughout the United States and Canada. The workshop will make regular use of digital maps to follow the multiple Lenape migrations west over time and to discuss the impact of these relocations in the past and today. 


Online References for Further Reading

Official Site of the Delaware Tribe of Indians / About The Tribe, 2020.


Official site of the Delaware Nation/

Pennsylvania Archaeology / Contact Period. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Archived September 10, 2015.


This Week in Pennsylvania Archaeology / Delaware County. The State Museum of Pennsylvania, Section of Archaeology, July 27, 2012.


Wikipedia / Lenape / Delaware Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma/ Delaware Nation of Oklahoma/ Stockbridge-Munsee Community of Wisconsin, / Munsee-Delaware Nation of Ontario / Moraviantown of the Thames First Nation of Ontario / Delaware of the Six Nations, Ontario. 2020.



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

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Charles L. Lucy - A True Citizen Scientist

The public is fascinated with archaeology and stories of arrowheads and broken pieces of pottery found in their own backyards. They want to know what it all means and who were the people who made these objects? Reading about past civilizations, attending lectures, volunteering for field projects, finding artifacts, and even experimenting with making and using artifacts from the past are all part of the romance of archaeology. Many people enjoy it as a hobby. 

Charles L. Lucy was a talented amateur or avocational archaeologist interested in all aspects of archaeology, but he also conducted research and published his findings. Charles L. Lucy was a toolmaker Ingersoll-Rand in Athens, Pennsylvania, but also a talented avocational archaeologist for more than 60 years.  He was born February 22, 1922 and died on June 29, 2003, at the age of 81.  Charles, or Chuck as he was known to many, was mentored under Dr. Elise Murray of the Tioga Point Museum in Athens, PA (read more about Dr. Murray in our blog from January 2020 by clicking the link).  He was a member of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History and a regional representative of the Section of Archaeology, a member of the Society for Pennsylvania Archaeology, an editor for Eastern States Archaeological Federation, a member of the New York State Archaeology Association, and a member of the Tioga Point Museum.  One of his most notable traits is that he was not only extremely interested in archaeology, but he also published his findings (see list of publications below), especially in the journal Pennsylvania Archaeologist, where you can read many of his articles.

Chucks passion for archaeology and the rich archaeological resources along the Chemung and Susquehannock Rivers led to countless excavations and research. Chuck’s interest in Susquehannock pottery, especially from the upper Susquehanna Valley was a focus of his research and led to multiple journal articles and presentations. His attention to detail in his analysis drew the attention of former State Archaeologist, John Witthoft who was interested in the area and research of Proto-Susquehannock culture attributes.  Chuck Lucy participated in excavations at numerous sites with John Witthoft and later Barry Kent. These sites include Kennedy site (36Br43), Blackman site (36Br83) and the Sick site (36Br50). Witthoft examined the Lucy collection from the Sick site for his research and publication of Susquehannock Miscellany in 1959.  Lucy’s significant contributions to the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission (PHMC) knowledge base of sites on the upper Susquehanna River and the Chemung River Valley are indispensable.

Charles Lucy excavating at the Kennedy Site with the Society for Pennsylvania Archaeology in 1983
Charles Lucy excavating at the Kennedy Site with the Society for Pennsylvania Archaeology in 1983 

When he passed, his family very generously donated his vast library to The State Museum of Pennsylvania’s Section of Archaeology library.  Unfortunately, our busy schedules while working in the office have prevented us from doing much with cataloging and organizing this most generous donation. Thanks to the quarantine (something not often said) and tele-working I have had the privilege, as one of my tasks, of working with the more than 1400 books, journals, maps, personal correspondence, and other materials that made up his library.  Most of the material centers on archaeology and anthropological topics, especially northern Pennsylvania and southern New York. It is clear Chuck had many interests, including religious texts, children’s books, general literature, and the natural world.  The titles span from Houses and House-Life of the American Aborigines from 1881 thru Yankee, The Magazine of New England Living in 2003; providing over a century’s worth of cultural information.  The wonderful condition of these materials demonstrate that they were of great importance to him.  All were signed by him and many include the date and place of purchase.  There are also many that were signed by their authors with notes about the friendship held between the author and Mr. Lucy.  Charles Lucy was a wonderful asset to Pennsylvania archaeology and his library is a true treasure.  It has been a very interesting task that I have been honored to work with this legacy left in our care. 

This addition to our research library is a wonderful asset that will benefit our research of the collections we curate and also of benefit to researchers who access our collections or as we respond to inquiries and emails regarding archaeological collections from the region.  We thank our many donors who have so generously entrusted us with their collections and continue to share these  donations through our blogs and our online collections.  

Research Library
Research Library 

A sample of publications by Charles L. Lucy


Lucy, Charles

1950                  Notes on a Small Andaste Burial Site and Andaste Archaeology. Pennsylvania

            Archaeologist 20(3-4):55-62.


1959                  Pottery Types of the Upper Susquehanna. Pennsylvania Archaeologist 29(1):28-37.


1971                  Pottery Types of the Upper Susquehanna. In Foundations of Pennsylvania Prehistory,

            edited by Barry C.  Kent, Ira F. Smith, and Catherine McCann, pp. 381-392.

            Anthropological Series, No. 1, Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission,



1991a                The Owasco Culture: An Update. Journal of Middle Atlantic Archaeology 7:147-168.


1991b               The Tioga Point Farm Sites 36BR3 and 36BR52:1983 Excavations. Pennsylvania

            Archaeologist 61(1):1-18.


Lucy, Charles L., and Catherine McCann

1983                  The Wells Site, Asylum Township, Bradford County, Pennsylvania.  Pennsylvania

            Archaeologist 53(3)1-12.


Lucy, Charles L. & Richard J. McCracken

1985                  Blackman Site (36BR83): A Proto-Susquehannock Village. Pennsylvania Archaeologist



Lucy, Charles L. and Leroy Vanderpoel

1979                  The Tioga Point Farm Site. Pennsylvania Archaeologist 49(1-2):1-12


This week we feature a true citizen scientist. For more information, visit or the Hall of Anthropology and Archaeology at The State Museum of Pennsylvania .

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Leisurely Activities Discovered Through Archaeology

During these recent pandemic months of living, working, and finding entertainment in our homes it is hard to imagine a time before the internet, television, and cell phones existed.  Have you ever wondered what people from other eras did in their free time? Unlike us, peoples from other centuries had very little free time unless they were among the wealthy of society.

The Fort Hunter site (36Da159) in Harrisburg, Dauphin County, is one of the few places where we can get a more complete look into the types of entertainment enjoyed by people of another time. We can see this through a combination of historic documents and photographs and the objects we have recovered from the archaeological excavations at the property.

Fort Hunter Mansion

Fort Hunter Mansion 

In 1870, the Fort Hunter property was sold to Daniel Boas as a second home and retreat from the rigors of city living. Mr. Boas was killed in a carriage accident only eight years later. His daughter Helen married John Reily and they began living in the mansion while they farmed and managed the property. Although John ran the farm and other business ventures while Helen became heavily involved in charities and social causes, they both had significant time to host gatherings for their friends and families at Fort Hunter.

Many photographs show the Reilys enjoying time with their friends around the property, including several of them playing badminton in the side yard of the house. Some of you may recognize this area as the location that the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, the State Museum, has been exploring through archaeology for the past decade. 

John and Helen Reily and guests (circa 1890s) playing badminton in the side yard of the house

John and Helen Reily and guests (circa 1890s) playing badminton in the side yard of the house

During the Victorian (1837-1901) and Edwardian (1901-1910/1914) periods, games that could be played in the yard were popular. Badminton (or shuttlecock), lawn bowling, croquet, tennis, and other games were played by both men and women. An afternoon could easily be spent engaged in throwing horseshoes, many of which have been found in the yard. Meanwhile, children may have played with marbles, jacks, or dolls, or emulated their elders by playing many of the same yard games.

All of this exercise in the yard would have worked up the guests’ appetites. Many food and drink-related artifacts have been recovered from the yard area and the area around the outbuildings behind the mansion house. Dishes and utensils, drinking glasses, beer and ginger beer bottles, and food remains including large amounts of oyster and clam shell suggest the possibility of a party or picnic on a nice summer day.

Beer bottles, dishes and utensils, drinking glasses, and remains of food have been found in the yard area

Hunting and fishing recreationally were outdoor activities that were also very popular at this time. Finds from near the porch on the east side of the house indicate that perhaps the Reilys and friends may have been practicing their shooting skills. Large numbers of .22 caliber shells and pieces of clay pigeon indicate that they may have been shooting skeet right in the back yard. 

Clay pigeon pieces and brass shell casing

We also know that the Reilys had a cabin on their property north of the main farm in the area now covered by the Harrisburg Country Club. Accounts indicate that they spent time there, likely hunting in the woods and fishing from the creek.

 The Reilys also enjoyed taking care of their farm animals and their beloved house pets, of which they had many over the years. During their time at Fort Hunter, Helen and John had numerous dogs of all shapes and sizes, a parrot, and a macaque (an Old-World monkey), as well as a very large hog, dairy cows, poultry, and prize horses. Not only do we have the photographs that show these animals but we also have proof from the ground itself. Excavations near the house have produced several Dauphin County dog tags and the skeletons of two dogs were recovered behind some of the outbuildings in the yard.  

1920s Dauphin County dog tag recovered from excavations at Fort Hunter

A gathering at Fort Hunter with one of the Reily’s pet dogs

A gathering at Fort Hunter with one of the Reily’s pet dogs

Many other pictures and descriptions of the Reilys with their animals show the amount of time they spent taking care of them and enjoying their company. Horses were especially important to both Helen and John, as Helen became an accomplished rider as a young girl and John showed off his driving skills in an expensive carriage with a matched team. As noted above, horseshoes have been found in the yard around the house.

Hopefully this blog illustrates the importance of matching historic archaeological finds with research. Although what comes out of the ground is important in itself, sometimes finding that photograph or first-hand account can give you a bigger picture of the site and assist in the understanding of the events that took place there. A unique connection to the past and the individual who left the tangible evidence of their activities is felt when you locate a photograph showing an object that you have pulled from the ground.

Learn more about the Reilys and their time at Fort Hunter  or take a tour of the mansion house. Inside the mansion you will find a great assortment of furniture, clothing, children’s toys, and other vestiges of their lives at Fort Hunter. As well, their archives contain hundreds of photographs, documents, and artifacts that document the lives of generations of people who lived and worked at Fort Hunter. To learn more about our excavations and findings at Fort Hunter, search this blog. See additional images of activities of the Reily family

Please continue to follow us through these weeks as we continue to work from home and stay safe! Remember to visit our on-line collections to view some of the artifacts recovered from Fort Hunter and learn more about their connection to the occupants of this site. 

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

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Uncovering what the metarhyolite quarries in the South Mountain area meant to Native Americans

This Week in Pennsylvania Archaeology comes to you from archaeologist Robert Bodnar with help from geologist Robert C. Smith II and archaeologist Hettie L. Ballweber. Mr. Bodnar and colleagues have been investigating metarhyolite quarries in the South Mountain area of Adams and Franklin Counties of south-central Pennsylvania for many years. The following is a preliminary report on their recent work at one quarry location.

By way of background, metarhyolite (commonly listed as rhyolite in the older literature) is a metamorphosed volcanic rock found in different colors, most commonly dark blue or banded but this quarry is located in the less common, purple variety. The material flakes well and is good for stone tool manufacture. Native Americans began using it at least 10,000 years ago and beginning 4000 years ago, it was intensively used and traded in the Susquehanna, Delaware and Chesapeake Bay drainages. The research presented below is the initial step in understanding how groups of Native Americans used these quarries and how this material was distributed throughout the Middle Atlantic region.

Mr. Bodnar can be contacted at with any questions you might have. We hope you enjoy this presentation.

Seeing Purple: Archaeological Investigations of a Prehistoric Metarhyolite Quarry on South Mountain in Adams County, Pennsylvania.

On June 16, 1994 an article was published in the Gettysburg Times titled: County’s First Industry: Rhyolite Richness. It was written by the late Dr. Louis S. Morgan of Wichita, Kansas. Morgan grew up on a farm in Adams County, Pennsylvania and attended high school in Gettysburg. It was during his childhood that he was expected to follow behind his family’s horse-drawn plow. During this arduous task, he had fun collecting the prehistoric artifacts (he notes sometimes made from purple rhyolite - aka metarhyolite) that the plow would turn up. 

Presumed Selby Bay/Fox Creek Point (purple). Possibly, manufactured from metarhyolite that originated from the South Mountain quarry currently under investigation. (Morgan Collection, Adams County Historical Society #127).  Photo scale rectangles are 1 centimeter long.
Presumed Selby Bay/Fox Creek Point (purple). Possibly, manufactured from metarhyolite that originated from the South Mountain quarry currently under investigation. (Morgan Collection, Adams County Historical Society #127).  Photo scale rectangles are 1 centimeter long.  

The metarhyolite stone artifacts (spear points, etc.) that Dr. Morgan happily collected were the finished products of an industrial process that began at one of the prehistoric metarhyolite quarries that dot the landscape on South Mountain in Adams and Franklin Counties in Pennsylvania.

 A prehistoric quarry, as defined by George Odell, is a specific location on a landscape at which a lithic resource was extracted. They are usually characterized by huge quantities of waste material resulting from this process. Such is the case with the metarhyolite quarry (designated as 36AD0576 in the Pennsylvania Archaeological Site Survey files managed by the State Historic Preservation Office, of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission) now under investigation on South Mountain. This prehistoric industrial site was initially identified by the presence of scattered cultural surface material that included large amounts of purple waste flakes, hammerstones, hammerstone fragments, discoidal cores, preforms, and their rejected and broken forms – think of all the debris scattered around a modern limestone quarry. Also visible at the quarry site were metarhyolite outcrops that included a large float boulder (a large block of stone that has broken away from the bedrock). Some of these boulders show signs of being culturally modified or worked. Initially, two discernable quarry pit features (large shallow depressions in the ground surface) were also observed. These two pit features were circular in nature and measure approximately 9’ and 25’ in diameter, respectively. A field investigation was initiated with permission from the owner.  During the summer of 2019 an east/west Trench, 1, was excavated through the center of the 9’ quarry pit and beginning in June of 2020 an east/west Trench, 2, was excavated through the center of the larger 25’ quarry pit. The following is a preliminary report of the initial results of the 2019/2020 excavations although the excavations and analyses are still ongoing.

Trench 2 looking west across the approximate 25’ quarry pit feature. A large culturally impacted metarhyolite float boulder approximately 5’6” long and 1’6” thick protrudes from the northern wall. Hammer mark scars are visible on the radius of the exposed float portion and numerous large diabase hammer fragments, sometimes greater than 18lbs., were located near the float.

Trench 2 looking west across the approximate 25’ quarry pit feature. A large culturally impacted metarhyolite float boulder approximately 5’6” long and 1’6” thick protrudes from the northern wall. Hammer mark scars are visible on the radius of the exposed float portion and numerous large diabase hammer fragments, sometimes greater than 18lbs., were located near the float.

Based on the analysis thus far, it is postulated that a Middle Woodland, Selby Bay phase (dating 1800 to 1100 years ago), single component quarry site was discovered. Thomas Mayr (1972) first defined the Selby Bay phase characterized by Selby Bay points. Henry Wright (1973) recorded some variants of the Selby Bay point (stemmed, lanceolate, and side-notched) among other things. With respect to the quarry under investigation, Curry and Kavanagh (1991) as well as Mayr (1972) note that one of the most common Selby Bay traits is their almost exclusive use of metarhyolite for their flaking material. The Selby Bay quarrymen traveled from the coastal plain areas to the distant Catoctin and South Mountains for their desired metarhyolite, although some trading cannot be ruled out. A radiocarbon date of A.D. 410 +/- 30 was obtained from Trench 1 in 2019. The dated charcoal sample was removed from a burning event located near the bedrock at 93 centimetres in depth. This date fits well within the Selby Bay Cultural Complex A.D. 300 – 700 (Wright 1973) and A.D. 200 – 900 (Inashima 2008). In addition to the radiocarbon date, five Selby Bay related artifacts have been recovered from the two trenches.

Selby Bay/Fox Creek diagnostics recovered at quarry site 36AD0576. The first two artifacts are from Trench 2 and the third artifact was recovered from Trench 1. The third artifact is also metarhyolite, but not of a metarhyolite type that is known by this author to occur in place near the quarry under investigation. The quarrymen likely brought it with them to the site and then lost or discarded it.
Selby Bay/Fox Creek diagnostics recovered at quarry site 36AD0576. The first two artifacts are from Trench 2 and the third artifact was recovered from Trench 1. The third artifact is also metarhyolite, but not of a metarhyolite type that is known by this author to occur in place near the quarry under investigation. The quarrymen likely brought it with them to the site and then lost or discarded it.  

Two thinned bifaces recovered in Trench 2 that resemble what Henry Wright called Selby Bay Phase rough metarhyolite bifaces (Wright 1973 Figure 7m). It is possible, based on their thinned forms, that they were used as tools. Edge wear analysis has not been completed.
Two thinned bifaces recovered in Trench 2 that resemble what Henry Wright called Selby Bay Phase rough metarhyolite bifaces (Wright 1973 Figure 7m). It is possible, based on their thinned forms, that they were used as tools. Edge wear analysis has not been completed.

Based on the evidence gathered thus far, the Selby Bay quarrymen were likely following an industrial quarry site procedure consisting of: material extraction, reduction and removal of low grade material, and rough-out/preform production (Sullivan and Rozen 1985). Some limited final tool production also took place. The target “ore” here seems to be an aphanitic phase of the circa 564 million year old Catoctin Metarhyolite (Aleinikoff et al., 1995). This formation began as a near surface volcanic flow that was later metamorphosed forming metarhyolite. The matrix appears to be a dusky purple and the interstitial igneous flow breccia with various, more reddish hues (personal communication Smith II, 2020). In Trench 1 the target ore was dusky purple in the form of buried float slabs near the bedrock interface. In Trench 2 the target ore seems to be a dusky purple with more reddish hues occurring as float.

Heavily worked float boulder protruding from the northern wall of Trench 2. The photo scale is one meter.

Heavily worked float boulder protruding from the northern wall of Trench 2. The photo scale is one meter. 

When interpreting the extraction process that took place, research from Hatch (1993) lends some guidance. His quarry development model proposes three stages of extraction which seem to fit, with modification, the evidence that is being uncovered at the current quarry site.

Stage one involves the quarrymen detaching a suitable piece of material from an exposed bedrock source or simply selecting useable surface material. Cresson (2015 personal communication) states that the quarrying of exposed surface material is common during the Middle Woodland period (2100 to 1100 years ago). To aid in the detachment process, large hand held hammerstones were most likely employed. Hammerstones are the principle quarry tool being found at the site. Ritchie (1929) states that “the hammer is the tool of tools. No single implement was more indispensable to primitive man”. The quarry site hammerstones were made predominantly from diabase, but metarhyolite, quartz, metabasalt, and quartzite were also observed in decreasing amounts. Most of the hammerstones are broken and many are very fragmented. Two types of diabase hammerstones were used. The most common type was medium-grained York Haven Diabase, and the second type was a fine-grained Rossville Diabase (personal communication Smith II, 2020). Interestingly, the nearest diabase source is many miles distant and some of the fragments weigh up to 19 pounds. Tremendous effort was put forth by the quarrymen just to get the diabase hammerstones to the site. 

Diabase hammerstones: 19 pound medium-grained quarry boulder left, smaller Rossville Diabase pictured
Diabase hammerstones: 19 pound medium-grained quarry boulder left, smaller Rossville Diabase pictured 

Stage two of Hatch’s quarry development model would involve the quarrymen digging around a near surface exposure in order to get at the targeted ore. Two hoe-like metarhyolite digging tools were recovered from the quarry excavation which would help with this task. Hatch states that stage two can be a progression into stage three. That would depend on the surface exposure’s size, and whether targeted ore was encountered as bedrock.

Finally, stage three, as Hatch describes, would be a progression to larger, deeper, and more labor-intensive quarry pits.

Initial data from Trench 2 indicates that the quarrymen began digging at an exposure (stage two) and then followed the targeted ore vertically and horizontally. As the quarry workers exposed, extracted, and reduced the targeted ore, they discarded their waste behind them leaving a larger deeper pit (stage three) filled with the debris of their labor.

Two different reduction technologies (tool making strategies) were likely being employed at the site: discoidal core reduction (Terradas 2003) and staged bifacial reduction (Callahan 1979). During the Selby Bay Middle Woodland Period both technologies were used (Stewart 1992 and Cresson n.d.). Evidence of discoidal core reduction at the site included numerous discoidal cores, trihedral platform flakes, and flake preforms. 

Basically, this reduction method is straight forward: hit then flip, hit then flip in a circular fashion. When the core is flipped, the flake scar on the reverse side becomes the next striking platform (Clarchaeology 2013).

Example of flake preform (personal communication Nissly, 2020).

Example of flake preform (personal communication Nissly, 2020).

Exhausted discoidal cores were numerous at the site. Sizes varied from large 11+” in diameter to smaller 2.5” in diameter.

Exhausted discoidal cores were numerous at the site. Sizes varied from large 11+” in diameter to smaller 2.5” in diameter. 

The staged bifacial reduction technology is used when the quarrymen want to reduce a block of stone to a single finished artifact. The mass goes through a series of steps that includes shaping and thinning. Unwanted and surplus material is removed during this process creating a lot of waste (Crabtree 1985).

Evidence of the staged bifacial reduction technology from the site.

Evidence of the staged bifacial reduction technology from the site.

Dr. Morgan ended his article in the Gettysburg Times with a hope that his donation of thousands of artifacts (some purple) might someday be beneficial to a person wanting to learn more about the great rhyolite industry that drew a distant people, like the Selby Bay, to a place now called Adams County, Pennsylvania.




Aleinikoff, J.N., Zartman, R.E., Walter, M, Rankin, D.W., Lyttle, P.T., and W.C. Burton

1995    U-Pb ages of metarhyolites of the Catoctin and Mount Rogers Formations, central and southern Appalachians: Evidence for two pulses of Lapetan Rifting, American Journal of Science, v. 295, p. 428-454.



Callahan, Errett

1979    The Basics of Biface Knapping in the Eastern Fluted Point Tradition: A Manual for Flintknappers and Lithic Analysts. Archaeology of Eastern North America 7(1):1-180.



2013    August, 24 Discoidal Core Reduction (with commentary) by Dr. Chris Clarkson.

https: //



Crabtree, Don, and John D. Speth

1985    Experiments in Flintworking Vol. II. Special Publication # 10. Experiments in Replicating Hohokam Points. Vol. 16: 1 (1974) Reprinted From Tebiwa.


Cresson, J.

N.D.     Fox Creek Reduction Strategies. Ms. available through the author, Moorestown, New Jersey.


Curry, Dennis C., and Maureen Kavanagh

1991    The Middle to Late Woodland Transition in Maryland. North American Archaeologist 12(1): 3-28.


Hatch, James W.

1993    Research into the Prehistoric Jasper Quarries of Bucks, Lehigh and Berks Counties, Pennsylvania, Report submitted to the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, PA.


Inashima, Paul Y.

2008    Establishing a Radiocarbon Data Based Framework for Northeastern Virginia Archaeology. Quarterly Bulletin of the Archaeological Society of Virginia 63(4): 251


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1972    Selby Bay in Retrospect. Maryland Archaeology 8(1):2-5.


Odell, G.H.

2004    Lithic Analysis. New York: Springer.


Ritchie, W.A.

1929    ‘Hammerstones, Anvils, and Certain Pitted Stones’. In L. H. Morgan Research and Transactions of the New York State Archaeological Association VII, 2.


Stewart, R. Michael

1992    Observations on the Middle Woodland Period of Virginia: A Middle Atlantic Region Perspective. In Middle and Late Woodland Research in Virginia: A Synthesis, edited by Theodore R. Reinhart and Mary Ellen N. Hodges, pp. 1-38. Archaeological Society of Virginia, Special Publication No. 29.


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1985    Debitage Analysis and Archaeological Interpretation. American Antiquity 50:755-779.


Terradas, X.

2003    Discoid flaking method: Conception and technological variability. In M. Peresani (ed.), Discoid Lithic Technology: Advances and Implications, pp. 19-31. BAR International Series 1120. Oxford: Archaeopress.

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1973    An Archeological Sequence in the Middle Chesapeake Region, Maryland. Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Maryland Geological Survey, Archeological Studies No. 1.




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