Friday, October 11, 2013

Our last week at Fort Hunter for 2013

The black plastic covers our excavation block,preserving our investigation till next year. 

              The expression that all good things must come to an end seems quite applicable this week as we close up the site at Fort Hunter for another year. The black plastic has gone down over the exposed level and our dirt piles will fill in the excavated areas, just waiting for our return next September.  Indian Festival Day is over and the last soil profile at Fort Hunter was drawn.  It is time to recap the season and begin to review and analyze our filed notes, feature records and photographs.  Artifacts will be washed, cataloged and analyzed in the lab this fall to look for artifact distribution patterns that will aid us in interpreting the use of this site.

As is usually the case, the last week of any archaeological field project is filled with a flurry of activity trying to complete the necessary floor maps, wall profiles and feature forms. The last week also frequently ends with a surprise.

Everyone wanted to help screen the dirt at Indian Festival Day.
Sunday, October 6th was Indian Festival Day at Fort Hunter Mansion & Park.  This program features education programming focused on Native Americans.  It is a popular program for local scout troops and many of those groups as well as others visited the excavation.  It is also an opportunity to observe flint knapping, cordage making, chopping wood with stone tools, face painting and eating Indian foods and experience the thrill of throwing the atlatl.  About 600 visitors enjoyed the various activities this beautiful setting has to offer.
Throwing the atlatl
Indian Festival Day was an opportunity to share the large block excavation unit with our curious visitors.  What are we looking for? Why are we digging here? How did we know to dig here? These are some of the questions visitors ask while observing our excavations.  Of course, we always respond that we are looking for a fort dating to the French & Indian War.  We are digging here because our historic documents and ground penetrating radar indicated potential areas for investigation.  The support and interest of visitors and volunteers is always encouraging and is a big motivator to continue this investigation.
Checking out the artifacts recovered this year at Fort Hunter

For the past three weeks, we have been working in the front yard uncovering and mapping the cobble/pebble feature associated with a hardpan soil that is at least 45 feet wide. This has been interpreted as a road (or ditch) but we do not know if the total width was being used at one time or were there different segments being used as conditions changed over time. Did it date to Colonel Clapham’s 1756 path that he took to Fort Augusta in present day Sunbury or was it a later version of this road? The plan was to cut a five foot wide, 45 foot long trench across the road in order to recover artifacts to date this feature. Monday it rained and more was predicted for late in the week so the pressure was on to complete the necessary work. By Wednesday, surprisingly few had been found. The most common artifacts from the historic period were heavily rusted pieces of iron (referred to as iron blobs) that were nearly unidentifiable but probably represent nails, spikes or bolts.

Jerry and the Otter Creek point he discovered this week
However, the most common artifacts were prehistoric in age. These were primarily chert flakes but near the end of work on Wednesday, one of our loyal volunteers, Jerry Botdorf from McClure, Pennsylvania, recovered an unbroken projectile point that represents a classic example of the Otter Creek type. This would place the soil on which the road rests as early Late Archaic or late Middle Archaic in age. Last year while testing the hardpan with a soil auger, we recovered a Brewerton side-notched projectile point and this would also be dated to the same period. The added significance of Jerry’s find was that it was located less than three feet from a charred piece of wood that can easily dated by radiocarbon analysis. The Otter Creek point type is not common in Pennsylvania and has been variously dated between 5200 and 6600 BP. Although not from an ideal context, such as a hearth, a date from this piece of charcoal could contribute to a more precise dating of the Otter Creek projectile point type.
Budding archaeologist?

            We screened a lot of soil this week hoping to find datable artifacts reflecting the age of the road. Finishing the transect was only accomplished with help from our many volunteers. This week, we had Shelia Dunn, Kim Sebastian, Marissa Seidel, the Strauss family – Clydene, Stephaney and Steve and the Finnegan family - mother Erin and her twin daughters Keara and Kaela. The Finnegan’s came after school every day (the girls are in 7th grade) and took Wednesday off from school to help us and even brought their cousin Masyn and aunt Margy Finnegan to help. These budding archaeologists were very dedicated and plan on coming out next year. 
Many hands helped us finish transecting our block

            As our followers in the Middle Atlantic know, the rains began on Thursday. We worked most of the day completing the trench, mapping the units and profiling the walls but were soaked to the skin. Knowing the rain was going to continue, we packed up all of our equipment, laid down the plastic and closed the site until next year.

            Over the next several months, we will be developing maps of the various features we recovered this season and analyzing the road/ditch feature in relationship to other features in the front and side yards. This process will help us to more clearly interpret this feature and plan for additional investigations next fall.  

Our project at Fort Hunter is just one of our Archaeology Month activities and there will be several more between now and Thanksgiving all for the purpose of increasing awareness of the public in our archaeological heritage. Understanding and appreciating your heritage is important for many reasons, but primarily that sense of place and heritage is something to which everyone can relate.  Preserving our archaeological resources for future generations helps to insure that our heritage isn’t lost and that we can continue to study and learn from  our past. 

Speaking of our heritage and researching the past, students from Temple University will present Dialogues with the Past: Celebrating Temple Archaeology!   This program will highlight the work of Temple’s researchers and is sponsored by the Anthropology Graduate Student Association and Temple University’s Anthrolopology Learning and Research Center . The public is invited to attend this free event on Thursday, October 24th in Gladfelter Hall on the Temple campus. 

Bifurcate points from site 36Sc81
 Research topics will include archaeology conducted at Native American sites from the Paleoindian period (16,000-10,000 years ago) through the Transitional period (4,300- 2,700 years ago). Artifacts associated with these excavations will also be on display.  Historical archaeology conducted at Brandywine Battlefield, Valley Forge and Elfreth’s Alley ( will be among the presentations covering the early military and urban sites in Philadelphia.  These students and their professors will offer a broad range of topics that are sure to enlighten participants in the archaeological heritage surrounding Philadelphia, an area that played such an important role in the development of our Commonwealth.  For questions and additional information, please contact Jen Rankin ( or Susan Bachor ( and visit their blog about the happenings of the Anthropology Lab at Temple University

Temple grad student and URS  archaeologist Jen Rankin at site 36Cr142

Archaeology Month continues throughout October with many events throughout the state. Here is the link for the Society for Pennsylvania Archaeology Month calendar;  .  We are highlighting just a few of these events, but encourage you to seek events in your community.

This weekend, October 12th & 13th, members from John Schrader Chapter 21 will be at Joanna Furnace for the Apple Festival ( ).    They will have a small exhibit and excavating the Wheelwright Shop site at Joanna, weather permitting.

North Fork Chapter 29 will meet on Friday, October 18 at 7:00 p.m. at the Heritage House, 4 Sylvania Street in Brookville, PA.  Ken Burkett will present the program “Wildcats at War: The 105th Pennsylvania Infantry”.

We will be on the road October 26th at Cabela’s in Hamburg, PA. This event is an opportunity to meet with members of the Society for Pennsylvania Archaeology and view the artifacts and site information from several local area chapters.  If you've seen our blog and always wanted to sit in the dugout canoe but have not- here’s your chance.

October 26th is also the date for the Philadelphia Archaeological Forum event, Explore Philadelphia’s Hidden Past: A 2013Archaeology Month Celebration   at the National Constitution Center.  This program is free and open to the general public.

We hope you will join us and our colleagues at one of these worthwhile events and learn more about your archaeological heritage.  Remember to register for the Workshops in Archaeology program - early registration deadline is November 8th! 

October 2013






18 North Fork Chapter 29
Brookville- Wildcats at War :The 105th Pennsylvania Infantry












24 Temple University- Philadelphia
(5-8:45)Dialogues with the Past- Gladfelter Hall,Temple


26  Cabela’s( 9-5)   Hamburg, Pa

 Philadelphia Archaeology Forum(PAF) Constitution Center(10-3)
12 Chapter 21 at Joanna Furnace Apple Festival

Westmoreland Chapter 23 at Dunham’s Sports Store-Latrobe

13  Chapter 21 at Joanna Furnace Apple Festival




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

No comments:

Post a Comment