Friday, December 28, 2012

Lackawanna County

Our journey through the archaeological heritage of Pennsylvania in alphabetical order takes us to Lackawanna County this week.  Approximately 60% of the county is on the Glaciated Appalachian Low Plateaus section with a section of the Anthracite Valley Section running through the middle of the county. The latter contains coal deposits that were extensively mined during the 19th and early 20th centuries. The county sits on a divide between the Susquehanna and Delaware drainage basins. Most of the county is drained to the west by the Lackawanna River. A small portion of the county drains east into the Lehigh and Delaware drainage basins.

The Lackawanna Indian Path, also known as the Onaquaga and Oquaga paths went from Pittston, Pennsylvania on the North Branch of the Susquehanna to Windsor New York located just north of the Pennsylvania-New York state line. There were a number of 18th century Indian towns along the way, namely Adjouquay,Capoose Meadow and Tuscarora Town where three settlements were established on the Susquehanna during the Tuscarora migration out of North Carolina in 1766. They later moved on and the tribe eventually settled in western New York. Several other Indian paths crossed the Lackawanna Path which provided access to localities in north-central Pennsylvania as well as to the Minisink towns on the Upper Delaware.
Lackawanna County was part of Luzerne County until 1878. It was originally occupied in the mid-18th century by Connecticut colonists in their attempt to claim northern Pennsylvania. Connecticut’s occupation of the region ended with the first Wyoming Valley Massacre after the French and Indian War (Basalik et al. 1992:52). In the early 1770’s, Connecticut again sent 5000 settlers to the region and Pennsylvania’s resistance to the Connecticut presence involved a long legal battle and military struggle between the two colonies known as the Yankee-Pennamite War (Baslik et al 1992:53). This ended with a major battle involving Indians and Tories who killed over 200 people and that incident became known as the Wyoming Valley Massacre of 1778. The Lackawanna path was the principal route used by the Iroquois for their return to New York after the Wyoming Massacre.  Many of the Connecticut colonists returned home by way of this route and this departure essentially ended Connecticut’s claims on the region.
After the Revolutionary War, settlement slowly spread up the Lackawanna Valley which at this time was a sparsely populated farming region of early Pennsylvania. Along with farming, lumbering was also a significant business. Small hamlets grew around saw mills and grist mills along the Lackawanna River. Anthracite coal mining began after 1820 and the iron industry began in 1850. Coal and iron were the major industries between 1880 and 1920 and contributed nationally to America’s industrial growth. The economy began to decline after 1920 and coal mining essentially ended by 1960. Considering all of the industrial development, there are only 23 sites dating to the historic period and 68% of these were habitation/domesticate sites. One of the largest surveys conducted in the county was the Lackawanna Valley Industrial Highway (Baslik et al. 1992). This report provides a comprehensive background to the historical and industrial development of the Lackawanna Valley

In general terms, the archaeology of the county is not well known due the low density of sites and relatively few systematic excavations. Sites situated in upland settings represent 61% of the prehistoric sites. many, but not all , are small suggesting that these are foraging camps rather than base camps. Four large Late Woodland sites have been identified and include pottery. Two of these are adjacent to upland lakes and one is along the Susquehanna River and the other is along the Lackawanna. There are probably more but they may be covered with historic fill in floodplains.

 typical test unit at the Locust Ridge Road site (36Lw56)

There are no Paleoindian or Early Archaic sites recorded for the county, however, the Locust Ridge Road Site (36LW56), an Archaic to Transitional period site has been studied through systematic test excavations. This site is within the right-of-way of the proposed Thornhurst Bridge Replacement Project, a Federal mandated compliance project administered through PENNDOT with the work completed by Archaeological and Historical Consultants, Inc., a consulting firm located in central Pennsylvania (Hay and Diamanti 2012).

Most interesting was the recovery of diagnostic projectile points and steatite bowl fragments from the site which included stemmed points (Late Archaic), Perkiomen (late Transitional) fishtail and Meadowood (Early Woodland) types. Confirmed by radiocarbon dating these diagnostic point types at the Locust Ridge Road site date to the 1390 BC – 930 BC period.  In addition to wood charcoal, nuts fragments (possibly Oak and the carbonized remains of the fleshy fruits of berries (i.e. Raspberry or blackberry, huckleberry and blueberry as well as a seed of the plant – knotweed were identified.

 top row - Early Woodland points and steatite sherd; second row - Transitional Archaic perkiomen/broadspear points; third row Early Woodland fishtail-like points; bottom row Archaic stemmed points

The discoveries at Locust Ridge Road provided us with yet another glimpse into dimly illuminated past, of a poorly known region of Pennsylvania. Through the systematic study of this archaeological site long buried beneath a Lackawanna County floodplain we can begin to formulate new ideas, interpretations and perspectives about the prehistory of the archaeological heritage of our Commonwealth.     

The 98th Annual Pennsylvania Farm Show opens on Saturday, January 5th, 2013 and closes Saturday January 12th. This year’s exhibit theme is the Archaeology of the French and Indian War (1756-1763). We will be showcasing the State Museum’s excavations at Fort Hunter as well as excavations at Fort LeBoeuf, Fort Augusta, and Fort Loudoun. A brochure detailing the archaeology of this time period will also be available.  Our exhibit wouldn’t be complete without the 20’ dugout canoe which is always an eye catching attraction. French and Indian War period re-enactors will be present to answer questions and tell stories. Also, this year the Bureau for Historic Preservation’s exhibit booth will be located directly across the aisle from our own booth, providing a united display for the PHMC.

two visitors to the Farm Show try out our dug out canoe

We are located in the Family Living Section, on the McClay Street side, not far from the carousel and the butter sculpture- Hope to see you there! January 5th - 12th Pennsylvania Farm Show, 9-9 Saturday to Friday. 9-3 on Saturday 12th


Baslik, Kenneth J., Ronald C. Berge, Amy B. Keller, Judson M. Kratzer, Thomas R. Lewis, M.
Nadine Miller and Alan D. Tabachnick
1992    Lackawanna Valley Industrial Highway Cultural Resources Survey and Eligibility
Report. Cultural Heritage Research Services, Inc. U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration and Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

Hay, Conran A. and Melissa Diamanti
2012    Phase III Archaeological Data Recovery Site 36LW0056. Thornhurst Bridge Replacement S.R. 4003, Section 01B, Monroe [Lackawanna] County, Pennsylvania ER#01-6256-089. Report prepared for Pennsylvania Department of Transportation Engineering District 5-0.

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

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