Friday, December 18, 2009

Susquehannocks at the Overpeck Site (36Bu5)

In May 2007 Lou Farina, Forks of the Delaware Chapter 14, Society for Pennsylvania Archaeology Inc., donated four pottery vessels to The State Museum of Pennsylvania. These exceptionally fine examples of Native American origin were recovered by Mr. Farina and others during salvage excavations at the Overpeck Site from 1963-1967. Located on a terrace of the Delaware River at Kintnersville, Overpeck was a stratified multicomponent archaeological site lost to a soil mining operation.

Figure 1: Lou Farina and his donation of ceramic vessels from the Overpeck Site

Overpeck is perhaps best known for the pottery type Overpeck Incised, a unique Late Woodland type that has been described by John Witthoft (1947), former State Anthropologist and long time member of Chapter 14. Through the efforts of the chapter much information was garnered from the Overpeck Site investigations which has led to the completion of several reports published in Pennsylvania Archaeologist (Forks of the Delaware Chapter #14, 1980; Freyermuth and Staats 1992).

Of importance at Overpeck was the discovery of fourteen human burials, some containing early Contact Period European trade metal in the form of beads and pendants. The remains were disturbed by the mining operation though enough information survived that allows for some interpretation of the burials and their place of origin in history. Comingled with these deposits confined to the upper soil layers at Overpeck were numerous Late Woodland and Contact period potsherds essentially representative of the entire Delaware Valley sequence. Of interest, however, in the present discussion are the four vessels reconstructed by Mr. Farina as depicted in Figures 1 and 2.

Figure 2: Farina donation close-up

The large central vessel is of the Iroquois Linear type common over much of Iroquoia and dates to the circa 13th century A.D. The small vessel at its base, a "toy or juvenile" pot is from the Susquehannock occupation at Overpeck and dates to the Contact period (circa late 16th century A.D.). The two remaining large vessels, as well , are Susquehannock and fit with the Schultz Phase which is also dated to the latter part of the 16th century in the adjacent Susquehanna Valley.

As a side note, there have been other Susquehannock pottery specimens found at the Overpeck Site and many of these are curated at the State Museum of Pennsylvania where they can be studied by researchers and others interested in Native American material culture. The Farina donation of artifacts from the now lost Overpeck Site has added a new dimension to our understanding of Delaware Valley history.


Forks of the Delaware Chapter #14
1980 The Overpeck Site (36Bu5) Pennsylvania Archaeologist 50 (3): 1-46.

Freyermuth, Doris A. and F. Dayton Staats
1992 A Supplementary Report on the Late Woodland Ceramics from the Overpeck Site (36Bu5) Pennsylvania Archaeologist 62(1): 53-61.

Witthoft, John
Nd. The Overpeck Site. Unpublished manuscript in the manuscript files of the Section of Archaeology, State Museum of Pennsylvania.

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

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