Friday, September 20, 2013

Public Outreach at its Best!

Fort Hunter Day visitors enjoying the weather and viewing our excavation

Our backhoe operator Corry and his nephews checking out the excavation
Staff and volunteers on the job Sunday at Fort Hunter 

Wow! What a great day for archaeology this past Sunday at Fort Hunter Day.  The temperatures were a little cool to start, but the sun came out and so did the crowds.  Many of the visitors had seen us previous years and wanted to check out our progress and hear updates on the well excavation. With crowds estimated at around 5,000 people for this event, we were busy! “I saw you on the news, Where is the dog burial?” This was the question asked most often from the crowd and they loved hearing about this discovery. If you missed last week’s blog we uncovered one of the beloved pets believed to have belonged to the Reilys.  Take a look at the blog from September 13th if you need to catch up on who the Reilys are in the sequence of the home’s occupants.  It was great to see such enthusiasm and genuine interest from young and old at this event.  You took the time to learn something about your archaeological heritage in the exchange you had with our archaeologists. A big Thank You also goes to ABC27 News and Fox 43 News for providing coverage of our excavation and the Fort Hunter Day Festival!

The crowd loved the new information panels purchased by Fort Hunter this year.
Monday morning found everyone back on site and ready to further our investigation of the “ditch” feature uncovered this winter/early spring. To refresh your memory, we did some testing in the form of trenches in March to see if we could better define a feature (possible road?)  we had discovered during previous excavations.  This testing enabled us to look at a much larger “picture” of the stratigraphy (soil layers) and better understand and interpret these layers during our excavation.

Archaeologists identify changes in soil texture and color as a tool in interpreting the age and activities which occur at these levels. The artifacts that are recovered within these individual layers are also a tool for determining the date of an occupation level. Soils are removed by these defined levels and the artifacts recovered from each of these levels are then examined to and identified to determine the age of the occupation level.  As you can well imagine, this is a slow methodical approach to the science of archaeology but necessary in order to accurately understand a site. 

Trench 5 soil profile

The image above provides an illustration of the multiple levels of soil identified at Fort Hunter and identifies several features that we encountered.  Feature 66 in the above profile map is the area where we are focusing our attention this fall. This feature extended into adjacent trenches and is interpreted at this time as possibly a ditch or trench that would have been dug around the stockade posts to hold them in place and as an obstacle for approaching the stockade line. If our interpretation is correct this feature has the potential of producing a greatest number of fort related artifacts. 

The layer identified as Grey Hard Pan in the soil profile continues to produce heavily corroded iron.  This surface was exposed for a period of time and subject to standing water. These conditions along with the organic material caused the soil to turn grey. Again, our hope is that we can eventually confirm this as a road leading into the fort.
Feature 66 exposed
Excavations also continued behind the ice house in the area where the dog burial was discovered.  On Sunday we started to see a feature that appeared to be a second burial. This feature was excavated further this week and indeed a second dog burial was uncovered.  As noted in last week’s blog the Reilys kept dogs in the ice house, so it seems likely that these are their family pets buried here.  Photographs of the family pets show the array of dogs housed here and demonstrates how much they cherished their pets. 
The second dog burial discovered behind the ice house.

The Reilys dogs gathered for a "family photo"

A stone feature in this area is partially excavated and appears to be a corner footing for a building.  Artifacts from this unit and those adjacent have provided us with gun flints, 18th century pottery and several buttons from the fort period. We know from historic records that there were storage buildings for supplies at Fort Hunter; perhaps this is one of those buildings. We will continue to investigate this feature next week. 
Wes Stauffer  works on excavating the  stone feature in the foreground of this photo

A Bald Eagle Jasper projectile point shows evidence of heat treatment at the tip

A polished bone tip, possibly a sewing tool handle?

Artifacts coming out of the ground this week have included projectile points from the trench area on the side yard, a musket ball, ceramics, glass and corroded iron. These artifacts have unfortunately been from the fill layers above the grey hardpan and the ditch feature, so their context is mixed and unrelated to direct fort activities.  We have another puzzler- a polished bone shaft that was recovered in this mixed context.  It looks like a handle for a tool, possibly a sewing implement, but the shaft is solid at the bottom with only a shallow recess at the top. Any readers have suggestions?

This gun flint was discovered in the area behind the ice house,
in the same area where several other flints have been recovered. 

Please stop out and take a look at the excavation and remember we will close up the site for another year on October 11th.  If you missed us this past Sunday, we will be on site for Indian Festival Day on Sunday October 6th and weekdays from 9-4:30.

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

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