Friday, August 24, 2012

Forest County is the Home of the Forest Notched Projectile Point Type

This week, our travel through the archaeology of Pennsylvania takes us to Forest County located in the northwestern section of the state. This county is situated in the High Plateaus Section of the Upper Allegheny drainage basin. The region is generally mountainous and the current population is very low. It is known as a rural vacation area and almost 75% of the existing dwellings are vacation homes. There is a relatively small number of sites recorded for the county (n=139) but this represents a relatively high density (n=1/2.91 square miles). Much of the county is within the limits of the Allegheny National Forest where the extensive forest cover limits surface collecting and the recordation of sites. The main waterways are the Allegheny and the Tionesta and numerous of are recorded on thei floodplains. However, over half of the sites are in upland areas and many of these are rockshelters (n=33).

In contrast to most counties, where prehistoric sites outnumber historic sites, in Forest County they are evenly split. The historic sites primarily date to the late 19th century or the 20th century. Most of these are industrial sites (sawmills, oil wells and railroad related sites) reflecting the logging industry or more commonly the oil industry. Nineteen surveys have been conducted in compliance with state and federal historic preservation laws and over 50% of these were on Allegheny National Forest property. These resulted in the management of twenty sites, most frequently related to the logging or oil industries.

Excavating shovel test units during a Phase I survey conducted by Skelly and Loy, Inc at the Tionesta Lake Outflow Campground project.

Sites dating to all prehistoric time periods have been recorded in the PASS files, unfortunately only 24% of the prehistoric sites have been assigned to a specific time period. The two Paleoindian sites are along the Allegheny River. One of these (36Fo65) is in a stratified setting which is very rare for Paleoindian sites (there are only four other stratified Paleoindian sites in the Commonwealth).  The upper levels produced Late Prehistoric pottery and Intrusive Mound culture artifacts but the artifacts had been disturbed by later activities. The lower soil strata were well stratified and contained a late Paleoindian assemblage of tools that had probably not been disturbed for at least the past 10,000 years. Across a small creek from this site was a second stratified occupation (36Fo66). This produced an Early Archaic projectile point but it was recovered from an eroding stream bank. The well stratified portions of this site contained Late Archaic and Early Woodland components. The Early Woodland component included a Forest Notched projectile point, a quantity of Half-Moon pottery, a fireclay pipe preform, a sandstone tubular pipe and a drilled stone pendant. All of these artifacts are typical of this time period and represent the Transitional period equivalent in the upper Ohio Valley region of the Commonwealth. Both of these sites were archaeologically tested by Andrew Myers (Archaeologist, Lone Tree Archaeology and Environmental, Inc).

One of the more spectacular sites from the stand point of numbers and varieties of artifacts is the Siggins site (36Fo1) situated on a wide floodplain of the Allegheny River. It has produced artifacts from Early Archaic through Middle Woodland times. These include, Kirk Corner-Notched points, bifurcate points, Brewerton points, Forest Notched points, Ashtabula points, Adena points, blocked-end fireclay tubular pipes, copper artifacts, Flint Ridge chalcedony blades (probably dating to the Hopewell period), platform pipes, and gorgets. Interestingly, the definition of the Forest Notched projectile point type is based on the Siggins site. The Forest Notched point type was defined by William Mayer-Oakes in 1955 when he reported on an early survey in the region. Later, Richard George of the Carnegie Museum conducted additional analyses of this point type and defined it as an expanding stemmed projectile point with “gracefully executed curving shoulders”.  This point type was radiocarbon dated at other sites to between approximately 2500 BP and 3100 BP. Mayer-Oakes also recorded a large number of tubular fireclay pipes at Siggins and other Forest County sites. Fireclay is a soft, shale-like rock that is easily carved and was extensively used beginning as early as Late Archaic times. Mayer-Oakes reported a large number of tubular pipes from the region and some were unfinished. Traditionally, fireclay supposedly originates near Portsmouth, Ohio but Mayer-Oakes speculated that there was a local source for this raw material.

Projectile Points from the Siggins site (36Fo1)

Forest Notched Points from the Siggins site

Forest Notched projectile points, tubular pipes, and Half-Moon pottery are an interesting assemblage of artifacts but their cultural context is not well known. They are clearly contemporary and related to the Fishtail Complex of the eastern Middle Atlantic region and seemingly represent the local manifestation of this time period in the Upper Ohio Valley. However, the dates for this complex of artifacts overlap with the Adena Mound builders and Adena artifacts are sometimes found with Forest Notched points. The Fishtail Complex in eastern Pennsylvania is clearly a different culture/adaptation than the Adena Complex concentrated in Ohio and Indiana. Were Adena people using Forest Notched points? is Adena a separate culture from the people who made Forest Notched points? Was there a local population who borrowed traits from both of these cultures? This is a very dynamic period in Native American prehistory and we may never understand the true relationship between these two groups.

Fireclay pipes in various stages of production

We hope you have enjoyed this short overview of Forest County and that this will inspire an interest in recording and preserving the archaeological sites in your community.  These resources are Pennsylvania’s heritage and for all of us it is our window into the past.  Help us to protect and preserve these archaeological resources which are crucial to our understanding of the past.

George, Richard L.
1998    The Early Woodland Thorpe Site and the Forest Notched Point. Archaeology of Eastern North America. 26:1-33.

Grote, Todd and Andrew Myers
2012    Preliminary Alluvial Geoarchaeology of 36Fo66 Indian Camp Run2), Forest County, Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania Archaeologist 2(1):32-46.

Mayer-Oakes, William J.
1955    Prehistory of the Upper Ohio Valley; An Introductory Archaeological Study. Anthropological Series, No 2. Annuals of Carnegie Museum 34, Pittsburgh.

Myers, Andrew J. and Malinda Moses Myers
2007    A preliminary Report of the Paleoindian Assemblage from Indian Camp Run No. 1 (36FO0065). Pennsylvania Archaeologist 77(2):1-33. 

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

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