Friday, February 6, 2009

Preservation of Byrd and Oscar Leibhart sites

The Byrd and Oscar Leibhart sites have finally been placed in hands that will ensure protection from residential development. These two sites represent some of the last major villages inhabited by the Susquehannock Indians.

The Byrd Leibhart site (36Yo170) has recently been purchased by York County and the Oscar Leibhart site (36Yo9) has been purchased by the Archaeological Conservancy. They were acquired using funds from York County, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the Farm and Natural Lands Trust of York County and the Archaeological Conservancy.

The Susquehannocks were the major Native American tribe in the lower Susquehanna Valley at the time of European contact. They controlled the fur trade in the region until about 1670. At that time they occupied the Oscar Leibhart site in York County. They briefly left here for Maryland in 1674 and returned in 1675 to occupy the nearby Byrd Leibhart site.

Several earlier Susquehannock villages have been archaeologically tested and they document over 100 years of cultural change, as the Susquehannocks gradually became the dominant Indian tribe, trading with the Europeans. Their collapse came during the 1670s due to disease, conflicts with neighboring tribes and conflicts with the Europeans.
These sites are incredibly significant because they represent some of the final occupations of this once great economic power. They dramatically illustrate the rapid cultural changes that occurred as a result of European contact. In January the Byrd Leibhart Site joined the Oscar Leibhart Site in the National Register of Historic Places.
For more information on the Susquehannocks, visit our PA Archaeology site or the Hall of Anthropology and Archaeology at The State Museum of Pennsylvania. The best synthesis of the Susquehannocks can be found in Susquehanna's Indians by Barry C. Kent. This is published by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission and it is available at the State Bookstore ( Information on the process of preserving sites can be found in the Fall issue of American Archaeology.


  1. the exhibit pictured here at the State Museum of PA is accompanied by an in-depth audio presentation, and is well worth the visit to Harrisburg. Everyone should check it out!

  2. I love this site!! My students are very interested in studying the past and this site allows them a glimpse of a variety of past cultures.