Friday, July 19, 2019

Upcoming Archaeology Programs in The State Museum

During the dog days of summer, The State Museum of Pennsylvania offers opportunities for all ages to beat the heat with special events and educational activities. This Week in Archaeology we invite you to take full advantage of our upcoming summer programming to get out of the sun and learn something new.

Once again, Wednesdays and Thursdays at 11:30 AM through the month of August science curators and outside partners are presenting on a wide range of topics and providing hands-on activities in the Nature Lab with the cost of admission. Don’t miss out on free admission / pay as you wish every Friday during Learn at Lunchtime.


Archaeology staff begin their contributions to the programming next Thursday, July 25th bringing back by popular demand our mock lab artifact processing demonstration and chance for children ages 3 and up to handle and wash prehistoric stone tools and chipping debris from the William Frederick Veigh Collection. Follow the links and read further for a full listing of archaeology summer programs presented by The Section of Archaeology at The State Museum.

Thursday, July 25 Nature Lab, 11:30 AM: Preserving our Past: Archaeology Lab, Andrea Carr and Callista Holmes, Laboratory Managers and Andrew Shriner, Intern


Get a behind-the-scenes view and help process artifacts with the Section of Archaeology laboratory staff, interns and volunteers. While demonstrating conservation techniques, laboratory managers Andrea Carr and Callista Holmes will discuss artifact care, provide background about the current collections that are processed in the lab and how these collections fit into the larger picture of preserving our past for our future at The State Museum. This presentation is participatory and inter-active. Questions about recording archaeological sites, documenting and conserving artifacts, donating collections, and the Section of Archaeology’s essential function as the central repository for archaeological investigations in Pennsylvania are encouraged and welcome.

Thursday, August 1 Nature Lab, 11:30 AM: Measuring and Mapping in Archaeology with State Museum’s Section of Archaeology, Janet Johnson and Melanie Mayhew, Curators


Archaeologists use math and science in excavations and in analyzing artifacts. Participate in mapping and measuring artifacts and how science has helped us to interpret our past. This is a STEM activity geared toward first through sixth grade children. Math manipulative objects are provided for younger participants.


Friday, August 2 Learn at Lunchtime, 12:15 PM: Discovering the Past at Fort Hunter with Janet Johnson, Curator of Archaeology in The State Museum


Archaeologists will share their discoveries from excavations at Fort Hunter Mansion & Park. Artifacts recovered here help to tell the story of daily activities of Native Americans 9,000 year ago, it’s role in the French & Indian War through the colonial period to present day.


Thursday, August 8 Nature Lab, 11:30 AM: Chipped Stone and the Prehistoric Toolbox featuring Steve Nissly, expert flint knapper, and Section of Archaeology curators Kurt Carr, Dave Burke and intern Alaina Helm.

This demonstration of stone tool technology will illustrate the methods and materials used by Indians in producing chipped stone tools. In addition, Alaina Helm will present the results of her wood scraping experiment where she tested the durability of different types of stone commonly used by Indians in scraping activities.

Thursday, August 15 Nature Lab, 11:30 AM: Pots of Clay and What They Say with State Museum’s Section of Archaeology, Jim Herbstritt, Historic Preservation Specialist and Kimberly Sebestyen, Curator.


Take a look at the history of Native American pottery and its importance in Archaeology. Make your own clay pot using construction techniques from before the invention of the potter’s wheel.


We hope to see you at our upcoming summer series events at The State Museum, and thank you for your continued interest, effort and support saving our past for our future!

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

Friday, July 5, 2019

Notable Women of Pennsylvania Archaeology


Continuing the celebration of women’s suffrage, this week’s blog highlights another important woman in Pennsylvania archaeology.  Mary Butler was born June 23, 1903 in Media, Pennsylvania.  She attended Vassar College, receiving a B.A. in 1925 and studied at the Sorbonne in France.  Then she attended Radcliffe, earning a master’s degree in anthropology in 1930.  Finally, in 1936 she was the first woman to earn a Ph.D. in anthropology, from the University of Pennsylvania. She would remain affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania for the rest of her career as an assistant in the American Section of the University from 1930-1939 and then as a Research Associate from 1940-1970 (Simon, 2017 and Keur, 1971).

Dr. Butler’s dissertation was “Ethnological and Historical Importance of Piedras Negras Pottery” from Guatemala.  Her first expedition to Guatemala was as a member of a team from the University in 1932.  She then directed three subsequent expeditions focusing on ceramics to determine a ceramic sequence for the region (Simon, 2017).  As well as her interest in Mesoamerican archaeology she was also interested in Northeastern American archaeology.  Unfortunately, at that time, the region “was renowned for its hostility to women’s involvement in fieldwork (women were even banned from some digs)” (Herridge, 2019).  She persevered.

In 1936, she conducted excavations in Somerset County, Pennsylvania for the Pennsylvania Historical Commission.  Excavations at the Montague site (36So4) revealed a stockaded village containing 29 houses and a variety of pits and artifacts associated with village life.

The Hanna site (36So5) was excavated over the winter of 1935-1936, which locals purported to be the worst winter in years.  No stockade was revealed at the Hanna site, but 23 roughly circular houses were arranged in a ring, about 220 feet in diameter. 


The third site dug during this season was the Clouse site (36So3).  Situated in a semi-circle on the Youghiogheny River, with mountains close enough behind to shelter from weather, but far enough to prevent surprise attacks. This was a “strategic site”. 


These early excavations contributed to the initial understanding of the Monongahela culture; expanding our knowledge beyond the Iroquois and Algonkin groups encountered by early settlers (Butler, 1939). 

She then returned to her alma mater, Vassar College in 1939-1940, where she directed an archaeological survey of the Hudson River Valley.  Describing the survey in the Vassar Miscellany News she amusingly quips “We only sink our mattocks where the poison ivy grows…, explaining that poison ivy seemed to sprout wherever an Indian had laid his bones” (Butler, 1940).  The survey was successful, it investigated 45 sites, and included a crew made up of over one-third women. 

Mary Butler married in 1942 and began a family, eventually having both a daughter and a son.  Greatly valuing her new domestic responsibility’s, she maintained an active interest in northeastern archaeology.  Confronting the difficulties all working mothers face, she received an emergency call in 1943 from the University Museum to supervise an excavation at Broomall, PA.  “She took her 11-week-old daughter along to the dig, carrying on efficiently as director, and giving the baby her bottle during coffee and lunch break.” (Simon, 2017 and Keur, 1971).

Dr. Butler taught at several colleges throughout her career, among them are Hunter College, Vassar, and Bryn Mawr.  She was also active with the Philadelphia Anthropological Society, the Society for Pennsylvania Archaeology, the American Anthropological Association, and the Society for American Archaeology.  At the time of her passing, January 25, 1970 “she was the historian-archaeologist engaged in the restoration of the 18th century Mortonson House in Norwood, Delaware County, Pennsylvania. To this day Mary Butler is seen as a trailblazer for women in Pennsylvania Archaeology.


References:

Butler, Mary
1939       Three Archaeological Sites in Somerset, Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Historical Commission,            Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

1940       Mary Butler Describes Archaeological Methods, Findings of Valley Survey, Vassar Miscellany         News November 13, 1940 pg. 3             

Herridge, Tori
2019       Mary butler, From the Guatemalan Highlands to the Hudson Valley. Retrieved from                  https://trowelblazers.com/mary-butler/

Keur, Dorothy
1971       Mary Butler Lewis, 1903-1970. American Anthropologist 73(1):255

Simon, Janet
2017       Mary Butler Lewis Papers. University of Pennsylvania, Penn Museum Archives.



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

Friday, June 21, 2019

Wildcats, Wolves and Indian Dogs

The faunal evidence for archaeological sites in Pennsylvania portrays prehistoric Native Americans as consummate hunters and trappers. Discarded bones of mammals, birds and fishes retrieved centuries later by archaeologists from rubbish middens (trash pits) attest to the important roles that hunting and trapping played in the lives of these people. The contents of prehistoric trash middens and dumps most always show that deer, elk, bear and turkey due to their sheer body mass, were the more prolific creatures harvested for meat protein. There are animal remains reported from these trash dumps that are fewer in number and three of these are the subject of this week’s blog.


Animal bones from an archaeological context.


The wildcat, better known as the bobcat, Lynx cf. rufus is an animal found in the rugged intermontane region of northern Pennsylvania where there are swamps and dense forests. One can surmise that this fur bearing animal was trapped by Native Americans for its pelt as the coat of fur is soft to the touch which made for ideal bedding in the cold night of winter.



Bobcat


The native wolf of Pennsylvania Canis lupus was extirpated in the last century when the logging industry was in its heyday. Unlike the bobcat, which is not a gregarious animal, wolf packs roamed the remote wilderness of Pennsylvania. Early encounters with wolves are well chronicled in Pennsylvania’s early history as they were a serious menace to farm animals and were shot on sight. Native Americans however trapped them for their thick coat of fur and like the skins of bobcats, were tailored into clothing and bed covers.



 Grey Wolf


The Indian dog Canis lupus familiaris /Canis familiaris has a bond with our pet dogs of today as it has been shown genetically that all dogs are descendants of the Gray Wolf as early as the Late Pleistocene when humans were using canids for tracking and hunting game. Here in Pennsylvania and elsewhere, the common term that is used to describe these cross-bred critters is “wolfdog” Canis lupus familiaris. It is not surprising that the archaeological evidence for dogs is better represented in the bone dumps of Pennsylvania than bobcats and wolves since the bond between dogs and humans has great antiquity.


Indian Dog


The butchered remains of bobcats, wolves and dogs that were eaten are mainly from Late Prehistoric and Contact period Native American village dump sites in the lower Upper Ohio Valley of southwestern Pennsylvania and the lower Susquehanna Valley of southeastern Pennsylvania. In the former region, these remains are associated with Monongahela habitation sites of the AD. 1000 – 1600 period that were occupied from the Forks of the Ohio to the Pennsylvania/West Virginia border south of Pittsburgh. The southeastern sites are mainly located in the Washington Boro area south of Harrisburg and the Raystown Branch of the Juniata River, now inundated by the Raystown Reservoir near Huntingdon. The Susquehannock Indians lived in these valleys from circa AD. 1500 – 1675 and they were the people who hunted, killed and consumed the animals herein described. The archaeo-faunal record for the later Susquehannock dump sites from the 1680’s to the mid-1760’s period is sparse and therefore cannot be summarized at this time.

We hope that you have enjoyed this brief presentation on the archaeological evidence for wildcats, wolves and dogs and their relationship to the Native American people who once lived in Pennsylvania. Please join us again as we present other interesting and fascinating topics on  Pennsylvania Archaeology in This Week in Pennsylvania Archaeology.

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

Friday, June 7, 2019

Notable Women of Archaeology: Frances Dorrance

Tuesday, June 4th was an important anniversary.  It marked a century since the United States Congress passed the 19th Amendment which guaranteed the right for women to vote.  One remarkable woman that lived during that time was instrumental in Pennsylvania’s archaeological heritage.  Frances Dorrance would have been 41 years old at the time and had already accomplished much.  She was born in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania on June 30, 1877 to a prominent family.  Her affluence allowed her to attend Wyoming Seminary graduating in 1896 and Vassar College where she graduated in 1900.  She also received a degree from the New York School of Library Science at Albany (Kent, 1975).


Frances worked in several libraries over the years, but it was in 1922 that she became the director of the Wyoming Historical and Geologic Society.  It was in this capacity that she became interested in archaeology.  At that time, knowledge of Pennsylvania’s prehistory was very lacking “in view of the scientific necessity of such a comprehensive study and exploration of the territory, since less is known about the Indian occupation of Pennsylvania than about that of almost any other state in the union” (Dorrance, 1927). 



In 1924, Ms. Dorrance began a three-part plan to investigate the eastern part of Pennsylvania, including the 47 counties from the Delaware River to the Allegheny Divide.  To begin this endeavor an archaeological survey/questionnaire was developed. More than 13,000 survey questionnaires were sent to “postmasters, foresters, grange and society officers, leaders of groups of people, Boy and Girl Scout leaders, individual collectors and known experts in the region” (Dorrance, 1927).  Of the 13,000 distributed, roughly 2,000 were returned with a range of information from offers of assistance, ownership information of more than 1,200 artifact collections and the locations of trails and 1,900 sites.  A map of site locations was generated from this information.   By 1927 the Pennsylvania Historic Commission (precursor to the Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission (PHMC)) took over the responsibility of the Wyoming Valley Survey and included the remaining 20 counties.  This was the beginning phase of the Pennsylvania Archaeological Site Survey or PASS files.


The second part of the plan was to investigate the newly identified sites.  Many professional organizations offered assistance including the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences, the National Research Council, the American Museum of Natural History, and many more. 

The scientific integrity of the investigations was very important. The third part of the plan was that “An administrative body is to be formed of representatives of the contributing organizations and individuals, and the actual investigations are to be made by trained workers under a Director General” (Dorrance, 1927).  This organization would become The Society for Pennsylvania Archaeology that is still going strong today.  Frances served as chairman of a committee in 1929 to organize a group of people interested in Pennsylvania’s prehistory.  Invitations were sent to about 200 people, of these 19 attended the first meeting of the Society for Pennsylvania Archaeology on May 6, 1929 at the State Library in Harrisburg.  Dr. J. Alden Mason was elected the first president and Frances was elected secretary (Mason, 1930).  A position she held until 1934 when she was elected president.

Frances was also instrumental in organizing the EasternStates Archaeological Federation (ESAF).  Knowing that the early native inhabitants did not recognize the political boundaries of state lines several state societies decided to join in this federation to share information.  She was also a member of the Pennsylvania Historical Commission from 1929-1955 (Wilkes-Barre Times Leader, 1967).  In 1952 she was named one of the Distinguished Daughters of Pennsylvania and in 1954 she was the first woman in the country to receive the Distinguished Service Citation from the American Legion. After a long and notable life, Frances Dorrance passed on January 6, 1973 (Wilkes-Barre Times Leader, 1973).



We hope you have enjoyed this profile of this important woman in Pennsylvania’s archaeological heritage and the significant contributions she made to preserving the past. Preservation of our archaeological resources is important to our heritage. Please join us in supporting the efforts of Frances Dorrance in recording and preserving our archaeological sites in Pennsylvania. To learn more about recording sites, please visit https://pahistoricpreservation.com/shpo-electronic-submissions-online-data-entry/


Dorrance, Frances
1927       Archaeological Field Work in North America During 1926. American Anthropologist 29 (2):313-     337
1934       Presidents Letter. Pennsylvania Archaeologist 4 (1):2

Kent, Barry
1973       Frances Dorrance, 1877-1973. Pennsylvania Archaeologist 45 (1-2): 104-105

Mason, J. Alden
1930       How and Why the Society was Organized. Pennsylvania Archaeologist 1 (1): 4

Wilkes Barre Times Leader
1967       Frances Dorrance “90 Years Young”. The Evening News, Wilkes-Barre Record 29 June Page 12

1973       Miss Frances Dorrance, Member of Distinguished Family, Dies.  The Evening News, Wilkes-Barre Record 7 January Page 14



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

Friday, May 24, 2019

Barry C. Kent

This weekend, May 25-27,2019 is Memorial Day weekend and generally referred to as the beginning of summer. Many of us will have plans for picnics and outdoor activities and may attend a memorial service honoring our military who died in service. Most of us have forgotten or never knew that Memorial Day was originally Decoration Day and was created to honor the thousands of men who died in our nation’s Civil War.  As the United States engaged in additional wars, the remembrances were expanded to all of our fallen soldiers.  Since many will visit cemeteries to pay tribute to these individuals it is also a time to remember other family members as well. We recently lost an important member of our archaeological community, Barry C. Kent. The blog this week will share some of his notable contributions to Pennsylvania’s archaeological heritage, his endearing friendship and his legacy of stewardship.


Barry was a native of York County and reminisced about his discovery as a young nine-year-old of an arrowhead while attending a YMCA hike on an island in the Susquehanna River. It was an experience that nearly every archaeologist can relate to- that first point or significant discovery!  Barry attributed this discovery and other subsequent finds as a camper at Camp Minqua along the Susquehanna, to his interest in anthropology and archaeology.  John DeBarbadillo was the Camp Director and Barry’s mentor in those early days. Barry’s mother also influenced his interest in the past in her role as a curator at the historic Gates House and Plough Tavern in the city of York, York County, PA.  His mother was clearly proud of his accomplishments, especially in his future role at the William Penn Memorial Museum (now The State Museum of Pennsylvania) and had saved many newspaper articles about Barry’s experiences. 


Barry met John Witthoft in 1953 at Indian Steps Museum in York County. John was the curator at the State Museum and was installing new exhibits on loan to Indian Steps. It was during this time that he met Fred Kinsey, also associated with the museum’s archaeology department. These important figures in Pennsylvania archaeology left a huge impression on Barry and no doubt influenced his career path after high school.  Barry and good friend David Hally discovered the Kent-Hally site on Bare Island and conducted test excavations on Piney Island. The significance of Piney Island was its deeply stratified deposits which provided radiocarbon dates associated with the Archaic period. Additional excavation experience at Sheep Rock Shelter (36Hu1) in Huntingdon County, in 1959 provided another opportunity to explore remarkable sites in Pennsylvania prehistory.  Barry completed his undergraduate studies in 1961 at the University of Pittsburgh, his master’s at the University of Michigan in 1964 and in 1966 he was hired as the State Archaeologist at the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.

His research of Archaic period spear point types in the lower Susquehanna valley was the foundation for his Ph.D. dissertation (Pennsylvania State University, 1970).  Partially based on his work on Piney Island, he classified points from this region based on geometric attributes and grouped them by drainage basin. The signature Bare Island point from the named site, is of the Late Archaic Piedmont tradition. Described as generally produced in quartz lithic material and is characterized by its “narrow width, irregular outline, thick cross-section, and minimal shoulders” (Kent 1996).
Barry’s position as State Archaeologist at the museum allowed for additional excavation experience, but it was also a critical period of development of the Hall of Anthropology and Archaeology at the newly opened William Penn Memorial Museum.  Fred Kinsey and John Witthoft had both developed concepts and preliminary content for the new gallery before leaving for other positions, but design, installation and labels were necessary to bring this comprehensive picture of Pennsylvania’s culture history together.  The gallery was formally opened in 1975 and has stood the test of time. It is still one of the more popular exhibit areas in The State Museum. 

While his early career focused on culture periods of some of the earliest Indian groups in Pennsylvania, it is his research and interest during the Late Woodland/ Contact period which left an indelible mark on our understanding of the Susquehannock Indians who lived in the lower Susquehanna River Valley from around 1550 to 1763.  Barry’s comprehensive examination of historic documents, excavation and artifact analysis have provided a culture history for a group of people whose story would have been lost had it not been for his incredible research.
It was during this research period that I had the good fortune of meeting Dr. Kent to interview him for an undergraduate research project. It was his encouragement to apply for an internship with him the following year that led to my own career in archaeology. His ability to inspire young archaeologists never ended as he was always willing to answer questions and exchange thoughts- never judging another’s abilities or intellect.

During the 1970’s the effects of the Historic Preservation Act of 1966 was beginning to impact the workflow and duties of the Archaeology Section. The Act had placed responsibility on the states to identify and inventory significant prehistoric and historic sites. It also required recovery of data from these sites if they couldn’t be protected. The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission was the agency responsible for implementing these responsibilities and Barry developed Guidelines for what is now referred to as the Archaeological Site Survey in Pennsylvania or PASS files. These Survey Guidelines laid the foundation for Review Archaeology in Pennsylvania. These early survey projects along with site protection laws requiring excavation of impacted resources, led to an increase in the number of archaeological collections curated at the museum. Barry’s leadership and guidance of the program in the late 70’s and early 1980’s contributed to major surveys of our archaeological resources in Pennsylvania and the recording of much of our site data.  

The opportunity to review these projects and learn the review process from Barry was a rewarding experience which broadened my exposure to preservation laws and ultimately, curation of these collections.  Processing collections from excavations conducted by the Commission during the summer months was an opportunity to research Susquehannock material culture and the fascinating fur trade of the Contact Period. A primary focus of research during that internship resulted in the research publication of 18th Century Indian Towns and Villages in Pennsylvania. Kent, Rice, Ota 1982.  

Barry’s publication of Susquehanna’s Indians in 1984 is currently the only comprehensive publication of this culture group. His research has provided archaeologists with a sequence of events that impacted the Susquehannocks from their first encounters with John Smith through the attacks and massacre by the Paxtang Boys in 1763. His analysis of their pottery, trade artifacts and settlement patterns have been challenged by few, as our knowledge of Susquehannock sites has expanded through additional discoveries.  Barry humbly acknowledged that his research was just the beginning- others would have to continue.

There are so many stories and memories of this great man, he loved a good joke, a great burger and the outdoors. He loved people- enriched and broadened our knowledge of archaeology and these shoes will never be filled. We can only carry on the lessons that he taught so well of stewardship for collections, sites and the mentoring of young minds.  

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

Friday, May 10, 2019

Netsinkers

The theme of this week’s blog is focused on a group of implements labeled as netsinkers or more precisely, they are identified as notched cobbles or notched and trimmed implements. There are two general types or forms. Many archaeologists identify both forms as netsinkers i.e. being attached to a fishing net to weigh them down in the water or used on throwing nets to catch birds or small mammals. However, it is clear that these two types are made differently and hypothetically, they may have different functions. The purpose of this blog is to make some very preliminary observations on “netsinkers” in the collection of The State Museum of Pennsylvania in order to narrow down and identify function. Our database consists of random specimens from our collection and basic metric data from three netsinker caches.

The simple notched cobble is the most common “netsinker “ type and this is illustrated in a cache from 36Da11. This feature contained 80 specimens and the metrics are summarized in the table below. These are simple bi-notched cobbles with the notches generally placed at the mid-point of the long axis. They are made from sandstones and silt stones. The notches appear to be created by one or two blows from a hammerstone on either side of the cobble forming indentations ranging between 10 mm and 20 mm and 2 mm to 6 mm deep. These are relatively small for this type. Larger examples of this type are known averaging 60 mm wide and 100 mm long with notches 15 mm to 35 mm wide and up to 10 mm deep. This type is first identified during Middle Archaic times from sites along the major rivers of Pennsylvania dating to 7500 years ago and extending up through the Late Woodland period.


The netsinker cache from 36Da11.




Interestingly, we found a picture of a cache of notched cobble netsinker blanks from the Faucett site (36Pi13a).




The second type of “netsinker” is represented by two caches; one is a cache of 72 specimens from Santos site (36Pi37) from the Leiser collection and the second is a cache of 25 specimens from Tioga Point (36Br3). Both of these are distinguished from the first type or form as their edges are trimmed around most or all of the perimeter and exhibit a more regular shape. The majority of these tools are the result of splitting a fine-grained sandstone cobble longitudinally. Over half of the specimens from 36Pi37 retain the outer cortex of the cobble. The 36Pi37 specimens are generally rectangular and the 36Br3 specimens are generally round to sub-rectangular. The specimens in both caches are generally thinner than the notched type averaging 5 to 20 mm thick. Although many of the notches appear to be the result of hammerstone blows forming a rounded concavity, more commonly they have a more “V” shaped concavity suggesting they were created by a different type of hammer. Also, the edges on the ends of this type are frequently rounded. This rounding could result from abrasion against some other material or they may simply be the product of the trimming process although the latter seems less likely. This artifact type seems to only date to the Late Woodland period.

Notched and trimmed implements from 36Pi37



 Notched and trimmed implements from 36Br3




If these two types of artifacts both functioned as netsinkers, then what is the purpose of trimming the Late Woodland type into a consistent shape. This second type was found stacked in neat piles at 36Pi37 and at the Harry’s Farm site in New Jersey. The simple notched type is usually found in a randomly placed pile as they are less uniform. Maybe, the stacking allowed for a more organized form of transporting the net which prevented it from tangling. Or maybe the different sizes but regular shapes of the notched and trimmed type were actually part of making the net.

A once neatly stacked set of notched and trimmed netsinkers from the Harry’s Farm site in New Jersey ( Compliments of Kraft 2001 p269)


Alternatively, the notched and trimmed type may have functioned as digging hoes. This is mainly based on the rounded edges of many specimens of this type. The wear patterns on the edges need to be examined in detail but many have asked why are they found in caches? The Harry’s Farm cache contained 32 specimens – who needs 32 hoes and their size prevents them from being attached to handles.
These are just a few of the observations and questions that need to be addressed in determining the function of this artifact type. If you are aware of any “netsinker” caches, please send us pictures and allow us to take some measurements.  
This is just one example of the comparative research that archaeologists perform every day. By examining these changes in tool types and forms we can begin the process of understanding their function to better interpret the past. The benefit of the collections in the Section of Archaeology at The State Museum is that this large repository provides us with a lot of comparative data and aids in identifying the various forms of these tools. We hope to continue to analyze the differences in these notched implements and research other caches of this distinct tool. 

Dr. Barry C. Kent (center)



Finally, the staff of the Section of Archaeology in the State Museum, along with archaeologists throughout the Middle Atlantic region are deeply saddened at the passing of our dear colleague, mentor and friend, Dr. Barry C. Kent. He died on May 8th , 2019.  He was the Pennsylvania State Archaeologist between 1966 and 1986 and shaped what has become the statewide archaeological program for the Commonwealth. Barry implemented design concepts and developed much of the Hall of Anthropology and Archaeology at The State Museum.  His extensive field work and research led to significant contributions in Susquehannock culture history, Woodland period pottery analysis, Archaic projectile points typology, gunflints, experimental lithic analysis and the formal establishment of the Pennsylvania Archaeological Site Survey files (PASS). His regional archaeology program organized at universities expanded site survey, assisted with compliance projects and enhanced the relationships between the professional and the avocational community. He also initiated public outreach programs such as the Archaeology exhibit at the annual Pennsylvania Farm Show. He was always the teacher and mentor, sharing his knowledge freely with professional and avocational archaeologists alike.

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

Friday, April 26, 2019

The Mysterious Abraham Miller Pottery

In some of our previous blog posts we have looked at other ceramics produced in the early years of the 19th-century in Philadelphia (for example, see Made in America: Philadelphia Queensware Pottery in the Early 19th Century, December 16, 2016), but now we turn to some pieces that are a little more mysterious.

Philadelphia was the largest urban area in the United States at the turn of the 19th-century and many important potteries operated there. Several of these potteries were located in the oldest sections of the city. One of these was the Abraham Miller Pottery on Zane Street (now Filbert) between Seventh and Eighth Streets. An earlier pottery, owned by Daniel Topham, was established on this lot in the 1760s. Topham is believed to have produced mainly red earthenwares (redware) at his pottery, using clays dug from nearby parts of the city. Following Topham’s death in 1783, the property was purchased by Andrew Miller, Sr., who also produced redwares.  Miller appears in the 1798 federal tax assessment as owning a “house & Lott in Zan st” as well as a frame stable and brick pot house.By 1799, Andrew Miller, Sr’s oldest son Andrew, Jr. had joined him in the running of the pottery. His younger son, Abraham, is listed in city directories for 1806-1808 as a “potter” and it is not known if he was a partner at that time.


In 1809, the two sons took over the operations of the pottery from their father. They became known for production of “Common coarse earthen ware”, mainly in the form of black and brown tea pots. Andrew, Jr. died in 1821 and their father in 1826 and Abraham took control of the pottery. He soon added black and red tea and coffee pots, portable earthenware furnaces, fire bricks, sugar molds, and other ceramic wares to the production.  Miller became highly successful and moved the manufacturing portion of his works to a new site on James Street, while retaining the warehouse at Zane Street. In the 1850s, he bought property on Callowhill Street and moved his operations there. 


Advertisement for Abraham Miller’s pottery on Callowhill Street (from Susan Myers 1980)


The State Museum of Pennsylvania (TSMOP) curates several pieces of Abraham Miller’s pottery. We know that this is Miller’s work due to the fact that these pieces are marked on the base with “ABM MILLER”, as seen in the photo below. “Maker’s marks” such as this one were often used by potteries to identify their work to the public. A maker’s mark can consist of a company name, an individual’s name, or even a symbol, such as an anchor or an eagle. 

Abraham Miller Maker’s Mark on base of bowl


 Although archaeological excavations have been conducted on the site of the Topham and later Miller pottery in Zane Street (the Metropolitan Detention Center Project, site 36Ph91), most of the recovered artifacts reflect only Topham’s redware production here. No marked or specifically Miller-identified pieces were recovered from this site.

However, marked Abraham Miller ceramics have been found elsewhere in Philadelphia. The pieces of Miller pottery in the TSMOP collections were recovered from two archaeological sites about two blocks from the Miller pottery on Callowhill Street - sites 36Ph49 and 36Ph84.  Site 36Ph49 was discovered during investigations for the Gateway Redevelopment Project that were conducted in 1991. The Gateway parcel was located within the block bounded by North 15th, North 16th, and Spring streets and the Vine Street expressway exit ramp.\

A bowl, a baking dish, and two plates with Miller’s mark were recovered from 36Ph49. The two plates are identical and may have been part of a set. They resemble yellow ware in color but have a hard white paste and dimpled glaze that looks like orange peel, which is usually indicative of salt-glazing (adding salt to the firing process).

Plates from site 36Ph49

Orange peel-like dimpling in glaze of plate, indicating salt-glazing in the kiln



The bowl is cream colored and unevenly shaped with orange peel dimpled glaze. It is reminiscent of creamware but is too thick and poorly glazed to be categorized as such. 

Cream colored bowl from site 36Ph49

The baking dish is also a thick and poorly glazed piece with a greenish-yellow color and vitreous paste.

Baking dish from site 36Ph49

Baking dish from site 36Ph49 showing over-fired glaze and maker’s mark

Site 36Ph84 was located approximately a block north of site 36Ph49 under what is currently the Vine Street Expressway and was discovered during surveys for that project. Once a residential neighborhood, the buildings here would have been demolished to make way for the highway. A bowl and a plate with Miller’s mark were discovered at this site. The plate is the same size and design as the two plates recovered from site 36Ph49 except that the appearance is more in line with a typical yellow ware piece.

Possible yellow ware plate from site 36Ph84

The wide-lipped bowl is similar to the baking dish from 36Ph49. The appearance of the glaze is a greenish-yellow and is burned and bubbled in many spots. This piece is heavy and thick with a hard paste.
Greenish-yellow bowl with over-fired glaze from site 36Ph84

Back of bowl from 36Ph84 showing over-fired glaze 



So, what do we make of these strange pieces that don’t exactly “fit the mold”? Abraham Miller is known to have experimented throughout his career with various types of earthenwares – porcelain, white earthenware, queensware, yellow ware, Rockingham-like brownware, and bisquit. It is quite possible these pieces in the TSMOP collections represent examples of the experimentation of Abraham Miller in his pottery. Perhaps he was trying to invent a new type of pottery by putting together different combinations of glazes, pastes, and firing techniques, but couldn’t quite perfect it before his death in 1858.

Until more is known about Miller’s work, it is possible to continue to speculate about these unusual specimens. And to wonder what other interesting pieces may be in the collections that are not marked with Miller’s name…

We hope you have enjoyed this post and encourage you to read more about this early industry in Pennsylvania and potteries in your community. A current exhibit at Landis Valley Farm Museum (https://www.landisvalleymuseum.org/explore/collections/visitor-center-exhibit/) highlights some of the redware potters of Pennsylvania and includes pieces from the archaeology collection of the State Museum.  Preserving the history and works of these early crafts is important in recognizing the value of archaeology in our communities and appreciating our heritage.
 
Sources Used and Additional Reading:
Barber, Edwin Atlee
1893    Pottery and Porcelain of the United States. G. P. Putnam’s Sons, New York. Reprinted 1976 by Feingold & Lewis, New York, NY.

Myers, Susan H.
1980    Handcraft to Industry: Philadelphia Ceramics in the First Half of the Nineteenth Century. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC.

Ramsay, John
1947    American Potters and Pottery. Tudor Publishing Co., New York, NY.

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

Friday, April 12, 2019

A Different View of the Early and Middle Woodland Periods in Southwestern Pennsylvania

Paul A. Raber
Heberling Associates, Inc.

Like the rest of us, archaeologists get set in their ways. They become used to looking at the same types of archaeological sites and doing so in the same ways. Sometimes it takes an outside force to pull them away from their pet subjects and ingrained habits. Cultural resource management (CRM) studies required by federal and state historic preservation laws and regulation have served this purpose in North American archaeology over the past half century. Archaeological field studies directed by the dictates of project design have come to dominate the practice of archaeology in the United States, with highway improvements and public works projects defining areas of required archaeological testing and study. Archaeologists may grumble about the limitations imposed on their interests by project boundaries and scopes—the really great site that we know is just outside the project area—but CRM studies have benefited the discipline of archaeology by directing the attention of archaeologists to settings and sites that we might otherwise have ignored.

Recent archaeological studies in connection with a highway project in southwestern Pennsylvania highlighted this phenomenon. Proposed federally-funded improvements to State Route 519 in North Strabane Township, Washington County required that the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), Engineering District 12-0 consider possible project effects to archaeological sites. Among the precontact archaeological sites discovered during preliminary surveys was a small site overlooking a tributary to Chartiers Creek. Initial testing and subsequent large-scale excavation of site 36WH1729 revealed the remains of numerous brief encampments there, almost all of which dated to the Early and Middle Woodland periods, roughly spanning the period 1000 BC to 1000 AD (Raber 2018). This was a time of profound change in the Native cultures of eastern North America, witnessing the first sustained experimentation with plant crops, new technologies like pottery, and connections with regional ceremonial complexes like Adena and Hopewell based in the Middle Ohio River valley to the west (see previous posts here and here, for example).

Our understanding of this period and the ties of local peoples to the Adena and Hopewell complexes, however, has been heavily influenced by the traditional focus on the sometimes spectacular remains found at mound sites like McKees Rock Mound and dozens of other burial mounds in southwestern Pennsylvania and adjacent regions of the upper Ohio Valley, or those uncovered at semi-permanent hamlet or village sites like those at the Fairchance Mound and Village site in nearby West Virginia. Available archaeological information is heavily biased towards those site types.

The work at 36WH1729 joins several other recent studies in drawing attention to the distinctive set of activities and the use of local resources that occurred at small, briefly occupied campsites in the Ohio Valley and elsewhere in Pennsylvania (see Nass and Henshaw 2017; Raber 2017a, 2017b). Such studies have contributed detailed information on what happened at these small sites and how the sites were related to seasonal occupations at larger base camps and other specialized sites through large-scale exposures and intensive post-excavation studies of artifacts and features.

The excavations at 36WH1729 exposed roughly 26% of the core site area, recovering more than 6400 stone artifacts and pottery fragments and 178 kg of fire-cracked rock. The exposure of 93 m2 revealed twelve confirmed or likely pre-Contact cultural features, all of which seem to have been hearth or hearth remnants, as would be expected at small, briefly occupied camps, where the family or task group present would have gathered around a hearth to cook, socialize and conduct most of the varied activities documented in the excavated remains. We defined the dates of occupation with 15 radiocarbon dates on charcoal taken from features and other contexts.

The results of excavation and post-excavation analyses provide a detailed picture of life at a  small upland camp used repeatedly during the Early and Middle Woodland periods. Studies of microscopic wear on stone tools allowed us to characterize some of the activities that occurred at successive camps at 36WH1729, while analyses of pollen and residues on both stone tools and pottery expanded our knowledge of the local environment, activities, and the materials obtained and used at the site. Small groups—probably nuclear families—camped here for short periods during the fall, hunted white-tailed deer and other game, and collected nuts and other wild plants available in the cleared areas around the site. Much of the activity seems to have focused on the collection and processing of black walnuts, the butchering of deer carcasses for meat, and the working of hides, bone, and antler. Most of the meat, hides, and nuts were processed and preserved to be later used or consumed at seasonal camps.

These tasks were accomplished using flaked stone tools of local Uniontown chert that was obtained within a short distance of the site. Some 97% of the toolstone used at 36WH1729 was Uniontown chert obtained from nearby—but currently undefined—sources. The site was occupied for perhaps a few days or a week during the fall, when the nut crop and game could be harvested in the vicinity of the camps. The inhabitants returned to base camps or hamlets along the larger streams’ drainage for the winter season. They must also have used nearby Early and Middle Woodland period burial mounds, but there is no evidence to indicate that they visited the mounds while camped at the site.

The studies at 36WH1729 provided a new perspective on life during the Early and Middle Woodland periods in the upper Ohio Valley, one very different from that derived from the traditional focus on burial mounds and villages. The daily lives of families and small bands, and their intimate knowledge of the changing local environment evident in the use of resources like Uniontown chert, deer and wild plants, are all delineated in the material remains from small sites like 36WH1729. As the body of our knowledge of small sites accumulates, we can ask new and more detailed and relevant questions about how the past inhabitants of the region lived and adapted to changing conditions.

Our ability to ask such questions, however, depends on paying attention to the small sites that were critical parts of past settlement systems. Giving such small sites their due reflects the major impact CRM archaeology has had on the study of the past.


References:
Nass, John P, Jr. and Marc Henshaw
2017    The Value of Small Sites for the Study of Late Woodland Subsistence: An Example from Southwestern Pennsylvania. Journal of Middle Atlantic Archaeology 33:27-48.
Raber, Paul A.
2017a  The Significance of Small Sites in the Upper Ohio River Drainage: Investigations at 36WH1619. Pennsylvania Archaeologist 87(1):1-28.
2017b  Eight Thousand Years on the Banks of Aughwick Creek: archaeological Studies at 36HU224, The Pogue Bridge North Site. Byways to the Past Series. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg.

2018    The Early and Middle Woodland Periods at Small Site in the Upper Ohio Valley: The Evidence from 36WH1729. Pennsylvania Archaeologist 87(1):1-28. 



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