Friday, July 19, 2019

Upcoming Archaeology Programs in The State Museum

During the dog days of summer, The State Museum of Pennsylvania offers opportunities for all ages to beat the heat with special events and educational activities. This Week in Archaeology we invite you to take full advantage of our upcoming summer programming to get out of the sun and learn something new.

Once again, Wednesdays and Thursdays at 11:30 AM through the month of August science curators and outside partners are presenting on a wide range of topics and providing hands-on activities in the Nature Lab with the cost of admission. Don’t miss out on free admission / pay as you wish every Friday during Learn at Lunchtime.


Archaeology staff begin their contributions to the programming next Thursday, July 25th bringing back by popular demand our mock lab artifact processing demonstration and chance for children ages 3 and up to handle and wash prehistoric stone tools and chipping debris from the William Frederick Veigh Collection. Follow the links and read further for a full listing of archaeology summer programs presented by The Section of Archaeology at The State Museum.

Thursday, July 25 Nature Lab, 11:30 AM: Preserving our Past: Archaeology Lab, Andrea Carr and Callista Holmes, Laboratory Managers and Andrew Shriner, Intern


Get a behind-the-scenes view and help process artifacts with the Section of Archaeology laboratory staff, interns and volunteers. While demonstrating conservation techniques, laboratory managers Andrea Carr and Callista Holmes will discuss artifact care, provide background about the current collections that are processed in the lab and how these collections fit into the larger picture of preserving our past for our future at The State Museum. This presentation is participatory and inter-active. Questions about recording archaeological sites, documenting and conserving artifacts, donating collections, and the Section of Archaeology’s essential function as the central repository for archaeological investigations in Pennsylvania are encouraged and welcome.

Thursday, August 1 Nature Lab, 11:30 AM: Measuring and Mapping in Archaeology with State Museum’s Section of Archaeology, Janet Johnson and Melanie Mayhew, Curators


Archaeologists use math and science in excavations and in analyzing artifacts. Participate in mapping and measuring artifacts and how science has helped us to interpret our past. This is a STEM activity geared toward first through sixth grade children. Math manipulative objects are provided for younger participants.


Friday, August 2 Learn at Lunchtime, 12:15 PM: Discovering the Past at Fort Hunter with Janet Johnson, Curator of Archaeology in The State Museum


Archaeologists will share their discoveries from excavations at Fort Hunter Mansion & Park. Artifacts recovered here help to tell the story of daily activities of Native Americans 9,000 year ago, it’s role in the French & Indian War through the colonial period to present day.


Thursday, August 8 Nature Lab, 11:30 AM: Chipped Stone and the Prehistoric Toolbox featuring Steve Nissly, expert flint knapper, and Section of Archaeology curators Kurt Carr, Dave Burke and intern Alaina Helm.

This demonstration of stone tool technology will illustrate the methods and materials used by Indians in producing chipped stone tools. In addition, Alaina Helm will present the results of her wood scraping experiment where she tested the durability of different types of stone commonly used by Indians in scraping activities.

Thursday, August 15 Nature Lab, 11:30 AM: Pots of Clay and What They Say with State Museum’s Section of Archaeology, Jim Herbstritt, Historic Preservation Specialist and Kimberly Sebestyen, Curator.


Take a look at the history of Native American pottery and its importance in Archaeology. Make your own clay pot using construction techniques from before the invention of the potter’s wheel.


We hope to see you at our upcoming summer series events at The State Museum, and thank you for your continued interest, effort and support saving our past for our future!

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

Friday, July 5, 2019

Notable Women of Pennsylvania Archaeology


Continuing the celebration of women’s suffrage, this week’s blog highlights another important woman in Pennsylvania archaeology.  Mary Butler was born June 23, 1903 in Media, Pennsylvania.  She attended Vassar College, receiving a B.A. in 1925 and studied at the Sorbonne in France.  Then she attended Radcliffe, earning a master’s degree in anthropology in 1930.  Finally, in 1936 she was the first woman to earn a Ph.D. in anthropology, from the University of Pennsylvania. She would remain affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania for the rest of her career as an assistant in the American Section of the University from 1930-1939 and then as a Research Associate from 1940-1970 (Simon, 2017 and Keur, 1971).

Dr. Butler’s dissertation was “Ethnological and Historical Importance of Piedras Negras Pottery” from Guatemala.  Her first expedition to Guatemala was as a member of a team from the University in 1932.  She then directed three subsequent expeditions focusing on ceramics to determine a ceramic sequence for the region (Simon, 2017).  As well as her interest in Mesoamerican archaeology she was also interested in Northeastern American archaeology.  Unfortunately, at that time, the region “was renowned for its hostility to women’s involvement in fieldwork (women were even banned from some digs)” (Herridge, 2019).  She persevered.

In 1936, she conducted excavations in Somerset County, Pennsylvania for the Pennsylvania Historical Commission.  Excavations at the Montague site (36So4) revealed a stockaded village containing 29 houses and a variety of pits and artifacts associated with village life.

The Hanna site (36So5) was excavated over the winter of 1935-1936, which locals purported to be the worst winter in years.  No stockade was revealed at the Hanna site, but 23 roughly circular houses were arranged in a ring, about 220 feet in diameter. 


The third site dug during this season was the Clouse site (36So3).  Situated in a semi-circle on the Youghiogheny River, with mountains close enough behind to shelter from weather, but far enough to prevent surprise attacks. This was a “strategic site”. 


These early excavations contributed to the initial understanding of the Monongahela culture; expanding our knowledge beyond the Iroquois and Algonkin groups encountered by early settlers (Butler, 1939). 

She then returned to her alma mater, Vassar College in 1939-1940, where she directed an archaeological survey of the Hudson River Valley.  Describing the survey in the Vassar Miscellany News she amusingly quips “We only sink our mattocks where the poison ivy grows…, explaining that poison ivy seemed to sprout wherever an Indian had laid his bones” (Butler, 1940).  The survey was successful, it investigated 45 sites, and included a crew made up of over one-third women. 

Mary Butler married in 1942 and began a family, eventually having both a daughter and a son.  Greatly valuing her new domestic responsibility’s, she maintained an active interest in northeastern archaeology.  Confronting the difficulties all working mothers face, she received an emergency call in 1943 from the University Museum to supervise an excavation at Broomall, PA.  “She took her 11-week-old daughter along to the dig, carrying on efficiently as director, and giving the baby her bottle during coffee and lunch break.” (Simon, 2017 and Keur, 1971).

Dr. Butler taught at several colleges throughout her career, among them are Hunter College, Vassar, and Bryn Mawr.  She was also active with the Philadelphia Anthropological Society, the Society for Pennsylvania Archaeology, the American Anthropological Association, and the Society for American Archaeology.  At the time of her passing, January 25, 1970 “she was the historian-archaeologist engaged in the restoration of the 18th century Mortonson House in Norwood, Delaware County, Pennsylvania. To this day Mary Butler is seen as a trailblazer for women in Pennsylvania Archaeology.


References:

Butler, Mary
1939       Three Archaeological Sites in Somerset, Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Historical Commission,            Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

1940       Mary Butler Describes Archaeological Methods, Findings of Valley Survey, Vassar Miscellany         News November 13, 1940 pg. 3             

Herridge, Tori
2019       Mary butler, From the Guatemalan Highlands to the Hudson Valley. Retrieved from                  https://trowelblazers.com/mary-butler/

Keur, Dorothy
1971       Mary Butler Lewis, 1903-1970. American Anthropologist 73(1):255

Simon, Janet
2017       Mary Butler Lewis Papers. University of Pennsylvania, Penn Museum Archives.



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

Friday, June 21, 2019

Wildcats, Wolves and Indian Dogs

The faunal evidence for archaeological sites in Pennsylvania portrays prehistoric Native Americans as consummate hunters and trappers. Discarded bones of mammals, birds and fishes retrieved centuries later by archaeologists from rubbish middens (trash pits) attest to the important roles that hunting and trapping played in the lives of these people. The contents of prehistoric trash middens and dumps most always show that deer, elk, bear and turkey due to their sheer body mass, were the more prolific creatures harvested for meat protein. There are animal remains reported from these trash dumps that are fewer in number and three of these are the subject of this week’s blog.


Animal bones from an archaeological context.


The wildcat, better known as the bobcat, Lynx cf. rufus is an animal found in the rugged intermontane region of northern Pennsylvania where there are swamps and dense forests. One can surmise that this fur bearing animal was trapped by Native Americans for its pelt as the coat of fur is soft to the touch which made for ideal bedding in the cold night of winter.



Bobcat


The native wolf of Pennsylvania Canis lupus was extirpated in the last century when the logging industry was in its heyday. Unlike the bobcat, which is not a gregarious animal, wolf packs roamed the remote wilderness of Pennsylvania. Early encounters with wolves are well chronicled in Pennsylvania’s early history as they were a serious menace to farm animals and were shot on sight. Native Americans however trapped them for their thick coat of fur and like the skins of bobcats, were tailored into clothing and bed covers.



 Grey Wolf


The Indian dog Canis lupus familiaris /Canis familiaris has a bond with our pet dogs of today as it has been shown genetically that all dogs are descendants of the Gray Wolf as early as the Late Pleistocene when humans were using canids for tracking and hunting game. Here in Pennsylvania and elsewhere, the common term that is used to describe these cross-bred critters is “wolfdog” Canis lupus familiaris. It is not surprising that the archaeological evidence for dogs is better represented in the bone dumps of Pennsylvania than bobcats and wolves since the bond between dogs and humans has great antiquity.


Indian Dog


The butchered remains of bobcats, wolves and dogs that were eaten are mainly from Late Prehistoric and Contact period Native American village dump sites in the lower Upper Ohio Valley of southwestern Pennsylvania and the lower Susquehanna Valley of southeastern Pennsylvania. In the former region, these remains are associated with Monongahela habitation sites of the AD. 1000 – 1600 period that were occupied from the Forks of the Ohio to the Pennsylvania/West Virginia border south of Pittsburgh. The southeastern sites are mainly located in the Washington Boro area south of Harrisburg and the Raystown Branch of the Juniata River, now inundated by the Raystown Reservoir near Huntingdon. The Susquehannock Indians lived in these valleys from circa AD. 1500 – 1675 and they were the people who hunted, killed and consumed the animals herein described. The archaeo-faunal record for the later Susquehannock dump sites from the 1680’s to the mid-1760’s period is sparse and therefore cannot be summarized at this time.

We hope that you have enjoyed this brief presentation on the archaeological evidence for wildcats, wolves and dogs and their relationship to the Native American people who once lived in Pennsylvania. Please join us again as we present other interesting and fascinating topics on  Pennsylvania Archaeology in This Week in Pennsylvania Archaeology.

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