Locations of 750 Fish Weirs Identified in the North Carolina Fish Weir Recording Project (Cranford 2019).
During a brief period of the year, a prominent fish weir is visible from the I-83 bridge in Harrisburg, PA, facing south. (image: Melanie Mayhew)
Establishing dates for stone weirs has proven to be difficult, even in areas where they have received attention from professional archaeologists. The traps or weirs located on the Potomac River by Strandberg and Tomlinson are attributed to pre-contact Native Americans or early colonial settlers. Moreover, several clusters of fish weirs in Pennsylvania are near pre-contact or contact period Native American village sites, further suggesting that these locations may have been used prior to the arrival of Europeans, although their continued use by early European settlers cannot be ruled out.
Fish weirs or traps are often located at natural rapids such as these on the Susquehanna River (image: Google Earth).
Recognizing cultural landscapes is an important line of research for archaeologists as we strive to improve our understanding of past cultural behavior. Discussions with indigenous peoples can provide additional lines of evidence that will add to our knowledge of how weirs were made and used. Examination of archaeological collections containing dietary fish remains recovered from within close proximity of these weirs improves our understanding of early diets. Modern technologies, such as satellite imagery and LiDAR are non-destructive options for gathering useful data. Recognizing and recording cultural landscapes is an important endeavor for archaeologists seeking to better understand and preserve the past.
Additional Information about Fish Weirs: