Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Native American Artistry in Textiles

In the collections of the State Museum of Pennsylvania, Section of Archaeology, are skillfully crafted items that demonstrate the artistry of the Native American cultures who created them. This week in acknowledgement of Native American Heritage Month we will share the preservation efforts undertaken to restore and preserve one of these beautiful pieces. Also highlighted from the collection is a beaded belt and purse.

Figure 1 Delaware blouse before treatment, from the collections of The State Museum of Pennsylvania

This woman’s shirt, described in 1929 as “very old,” was acquired by ethnohistorian Frank G. Speck while visiting the Delaware Tribe who reside in Oklahoma. The blouse was in fair condition, but preservation would restore color to the garment and insure its stabilization for future display. The blouse is fabricated from red-dyed cotton, has ruffled sleeve cuffs, and a collar ornamented with German silver brooches and domed buttons. The conservator noted the following observations when examining the blouse prior to treatment.

The buttons are attached to the shirt with white cotton thread, and there were no holes in the garment. The shirt, however, was extremely creased and wrinkled from years of flat storage. Several areas of the red-dyed fabric were faded due to exposure to natural light. Importantly, green corrosion products were evident on most of the German silver ornaments which adorned the collar. German Silver is also known as nickel silver and is a silver-white allow of copper, zinc and nickel which contains no silver. Corrosion products present on the metallic discs can weaken cotton fibers which hold the buttons in position and may permanently stain surrounding fabric.

The conservation measures taken to preserve this blouse included a microscopic examination of the fibers and stitching methods employed in its construction, a tool useful for establishing the period of use of the garment. This analysis determined that the body is a single piece of fabric with a neck opening cut in the center. The ends of the fabric were hand stitched. Sleeves and ruffles were applied by both hand stitching and lockstitch machine sewing. These traits enabled the conservator to determine that the shirt was likely made in the early 20th century.

Figure 2 Blouse after treatment

To restore the color of the shirt, the creases were released within a humidification tank and the metallic discs were cleaned and preserved with a microcrystalline wax. The body of the shirt was covered with “Stabiltex,” a red material attached by hand with red silk single ply thread. The conservation treatment was funded by the Pennsylvania Heritage Foundation and will go far to ensure the long-term preservation of this beautiful blouse.

Figure 3 closeup detail of the German silver disc adorning the collar of the Delaware blouse (Tàkhwèmpës). From the collections of The State Museum of Pennsylvania.

This style of blouse is a traditional woman’s garment often worn for dance ceremonies. It was worn with a skirt adorned with ribbons in various patterns, leggings, and moccasins. A dance shawl, brooch, hair combs, headpieces and fans were also worn with these garments. There are many traditional dances of the Delaware culture. Some dances are named after foods, such as the Corn or Bean Dance; animals, such as the Raccoon and Duck Dance; and some are named for Native American tribes, such as the Cherokee Dance. Children learn these dances from their elders and feature at celebrations such as the Annual Delaware Pow Wow, held by the Delaware Tribe of Indians who held their 57th Pow Wow in May of this year.

Many associate beadwork with Native American cultures but often don’t realize that the designs created are symbolic to the creator and their tribe. The earliest beadwork was created before European contact featuring designs made from shell, bone, porcupine quills, seeds, and leather. Unfortunately, many of these elements did not survive burial in the acidic soils of the Eastern Woodlands, the homelands of the Delaware, Seneca, Cayuga, and many other groups. The tradition of beadwork has survived, however, and is skillfully executed by Native American artists across the country, many who have multi-generational heritage as beadworkers.

A visit from Lucy Parks Blalock of the Delaware Tribe of Indians, now located in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, to the State Museum was an opportunity for us to meet the creator of a beaded belt in the museum’s collection. Mrs. Blalock made the belt in the late 1920s when ethnohistorian Frank Speck visited the Delaware peoples living in Oklahoma. Mr. Speck was collecting pieces for the Pennsylvania Historical Commission at the time. Mrs. Blalock did not know that her belt was in the museum’s collection and was surprised when she was reunited with her beadwork. Mrs. Blalock spoke the Delaware language and was an important resource for linguist Jim Rementer, who has compiled the Lenape Dictionary and recorded songs and stories, helping to preserve these for future generations.

Figure 4 Lucy Parks Blalock with her beaded belt, photo from the Collections of The State Museum of Pennsylvania

Figure 5 beaded purse from the Collections of The State Museum of Pennsylvania

This beaded purse was also collected by Frank Speck and illustrates a combination of beading and silk ribbon trim in a colorful design. Denise Neil-Binion’s discussion of Delaware beadwork attributes floral motifs as a common design element of the 19th century. The red ribbon work on this piece has faded, but the striking design and vibrant colors of the beadwork remain as an example of skilled craftsmanship.

We hope you have enjoyed this blog and will continue to visit us as we highlight the collections of The State Museum of Pennsylvania, Section of Archaeology. View additional pieces from our collections.

Resources (PDF)

J.A.M.,. "Frank Gouldsmith Speck." Museum Bulletin XV, no. 1 (July, 1950): 3-5. Accessed November 22, 2022.

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

Friday, November 11, 2022

A Summary of the Eastern States Rock Art Research Association’s 2022 Conference

The Eastern States Rock Art Research Association (ESRARA) held its 2022 conference on Oct. 7-8, 2022, in St. Louis, Missouri. The conference brought together presenters and attendees from nine states to discuss the documentation, preservation, and interpretation of rock art sites which included petroglyph (images carved on stone) and pictograph (images painted or drawn on stone) sites in the Eastern United States. Pennsylvania was well represented with three presentations focusing on rock art sites from the Keystone State, which now has over forty petroglyph sites recorded in its cultural resource site files.

The logo for the Eastern States Rock Art Research Association (ESRARA).

A theme throughout the conference was that rock art sites often go unnoticed unless someone is looking for them. One of the presentations focused on Pennsylvania included images and discussion about seemingly forgotten sites and another previously undocumented petroglyph site in the Lower Susquehanna Valley. Located atop a small rock island in the river is carved the figure of a birdman that was previously unknown to researchers.

A figure with both human and bird-like attributes is carved on the highest section of a small rocky island in the Lower Susquehanna River. (Photo: Melanie Mayhew)

As digital technologies advance so do methods for documenting petroglyph sites. Several presentations at the conference demonstrated the use of 3D modeling using photogrammetry and LiDAR. Photogrammetry software uses images to construct a 3-dimensional model while LiDAR uses specialized equipment to collect data with a laser. A benefit of photogrammetry is that no specialized equipment is needed to collect the data, just a digital camera. Photos are then imported into photogrammetry software and a 3D model created. Unlike archaeological excavation, which is a destructive process, the study of rock art primarily uses non-destructive methods of documentation, and it promotes the preservation of sites where they were created hundreds or even thousands of years ago. 

This birds-eye view of a well-known petroglyph site in the Lower Susquehanna Valley was created by linking many images into a 3D model using photogrammetry. While this view is useful for mapping a site, it is not an angle from which the site can be easily viewed in real life. (Image: Melanie Mayhew)

Presenters also discussed new methods of illustrating sites using digital technologies. Referencing the same site as the 3D model above, the image below was created by digitally tracing a high-resolution photograph of the site using a Wacom drawing tablet and Adobe Photoshop. Drawing a site in this format provides a comprehensive method of visualizing subtle detail that has been excluded from previous attempts to map petroglyph/pictograph sites. It also gives the viewer a realistic view of the site at a specific time of day and year. Methods of mapping sites using such media as chalk or other substances are not recommended by conservators.

An original photograph taken during sunrise around the equinox (left) and the illustration created by digitally tracing the photo (right). (Images: Melanie Mayhew)

Pictographs (images drawn or painted on stone) are most often associated with western states, but one was recently rediscovered and documented in Pennsylvania. The Chickaree Hill Pictograph is a relatively small circular image drawn on the ceiling of a rock overhang in western Pennsylvania. Its red color comes from the iron-rich material, likely hematite, that was used to create the image. DStretch, a digital tool available as an app, can aid in making faded or faint pictographs more visible. This tool has helped to increase the number of visible images on previously documented pictograph sites. 

A photograph of the Chickaree Hill Pictograph from Pennsylvania’s Archaeological Site Survey (PASS) form. The circular decorated area is only a few inches across. (image: PA-SHARE)

Among other presentations, the conference included a day-long field trip to Cahokia Mounds, an UNESCO world heritage site, and two nearby petroglyph sites. One of these sites, Washington State Park, provided caution against well-meaning infrastructure improvements that can damage a site over the long term, as seen below.

The above images of Washington State Park petroglyphs show the southern (left) and northern (right) panels at the site. The northern panel remains continuously shaded by a boardwalk and overhead shelter, providing favorable conditions for organic growth which will, over time, damage the site.

For more information, visit the Eastern States Rock Art Research Association (ESRARA). For more information on Pennsylvania Petroglyphs, view our petroglyph brochure (PDF).

Links and Resources:

American Rock Art Research Association (ARARA)

ARARA is an active community dedicated to rock art preservation, research, and education. Several educational resources can be found on their website, including lesson plans for grades K-9. ARARA hosts frequent web presentations and holds an annual conference. Past web presentations can be found on their YouTube channel.

Eastern States Rock Art Research Association (ESRARA)

ESRARA is a group of dedicated professional and avocational members who focus their attention on rock art located in the Eastern United States.

Society for Pennsylvania Archaeology (SPA)

A community of professional and avocational archaeologists dedicated to the scientific study and conservation of archaeological resources in Pennsylvania and surrounding states. Their 92nd annual conference will be held in Dubois, Pennsylvania on April 14-16, 2023.

Burkett, Ken

2021 The Chickaree Hill Pictograph (36CB28). Pennsylvania Archaeologist. Vol 91(2)

Cadzow, Donald

1932 Petroglyphs [Rock Carvings] in the Susquehanna River near Safe Harbor, Pennsylvania, Safe Harbor Report No. 1. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg.

Swauger, James

1974 Rock Art of the Upper Ohio Valley. Akademische Druck, Austria.

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

Thursday, October 27, 2022

PATHWAYS TO THE PAST: 2022 Workshops in Archaeology

It’s that time of year again, October is Archaeology Month and that means it’s time for the Annual Workshops in Archaeology at The State Museum of Pennsylvania, this year we are live for the first time since 2019.  That’s right, live at The State Museum of Pennsylvania on October 29, 2022, so join us as we travel the ‘Pathways to the Past’. 

This year’s presentations will discuss not only the physical paths, portages, and trade routes that traverse Pennsylvania’s mountains and valleys, but also the less tangible and often hidden paths of the Underground Railroad, a pathway to freedom traveled by many formerly enslaved peoples.  Archaeology will be used as a tool to reveal actual paths traveled by indigenous people over thousands of years; and how those paths developed through time.  These Precontact footpaths and trails evolved into trade routes and eventually into many of the roadways we use today.

There will also be presentations at the Workshops discussing how examining these many routes across Pennsylvania have aided in examining settlement patterns from the Precontact period into the historic period. The untold stories of marginalized people who discovered their heritage through discovery and archaeology are sharing these often-unheard stories and preserving them for future generations. By bringing these stories together the process creates a tapestry of Pennsylvania’s collective heritage.

This program provides an opportunity to engage with scholars who have researched these pathways, observe the use of lithics often traded along these routes and to learn about the community preservation efforts of formerly enslaved descendants.  Unfortunately, the early registration period has already closed, but walk-in registration is available at the 3rd Street entrance The State Museum of Pennsylvania on Saturday beginning at 8:30 am.

The program is as follows:

9:10 – 9:25 Janet Johnson, Acting Senior Curator of the Section of Archaeology, The State Museum of Pennsylvania with opening remarks

9:30 – 10:00 Darrin Lowery PH.D. -Trade, Migration, or Both: Delmarva Adena-Hopewell

10:00 – 10:30 Andrew Myers, MA, RPA, Marienville Ranger District. Allegheny National Forest -The Search for the Ephemeral Feature Type: A Look at Some Potential Native America Travel Routes on the Allegheny Plateau. 

10:30 – 11:00 Break

11:00 – 11:30 Chuck Williams, PH.D., RPA, Williams Ecological, LLC. -The Venango Path: History, Archaeology, and Environment

11:30 – 12:00 Kenneth Burkett, Executive Director, Jefferson County History Center, Field Associate, Carnegie Museum – “Over the Hump”: Portages and Pathways into Western PA

12:00 – 1:30 Lunch

1:30 – 2:00 Matthew March, Education Director, Cumberland County Historical Society -The Underground Railroad through Cumberland County

2:00 – 2:30 Carmen James, Mt. Tabor Preservation Project -Mt. Tabor AME Church Preservation

2:30 – 3:00 Break

3:00 – 3:30 Kate Peresolak, MA., RPA, Pennsylvania Outdoor Corps (PAOC) Cultural Resources Crew (CRC) Leader, The Student Conservation Association -CCC Company 361-C, S-62 PA: Exploratory Archaeology at Penn Roosevelt State Park

3:30 – 4:00 Panel Discussion, Questions and Discussion with the presenters and Closing Remarks

4:00 – 4:45 Reception

In addition to the presentations, David Burke and James Herbstritt, from the Section of Archaeology, will be available during the breaks for artifact identification.  Find out what that ‘Whatsit’ really is or isn’t.  Noël Strattan and Casey Hanson from the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) will also be available during the breaks to assist with recording archaeological sites in PA-SHARE. Steve Nissly will also be demonstrating and sharing his knowledge as an expert flint knapper with attendees, as well as displaying examples of his talented craft.

Immediately following the presentation there will be a panel discussion and a participatory question-and-answer session with the presenters.  The day will conclude with an informal reception including light snacks and a chance to socialize with others interested in Pennsylvania’s past.

For additional information, please check out the link at The State Museum of Pennsylvania’s website. 

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

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Avocational Archaeologists and Upper Delaware Valley Woodland Pottery

In This Week in Pennsylvania Archaeology (TWIPA) blog we are revisiting the “Pots of the Past” series by showcasing some of the Precontact Woodland period pottery vessels that were recovered from the Upper Delaware Valley by Bill Leiser, Fred Assmus, and Dave Werner Sr. These gentlemen were avocational archaeologists with the Lenape Chapter 12, Society for Pennsylvania Archaeology, Inc. Their artifact collections, accumulated over many years (Werner 1972), were donated to the State Museum of Pennsylvania and New Jersey State Museum in 2019, 2014 and 2004. 

Image from Archaeology in the Upper Delaware Valley. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg.

Since the 1960’s, many of the later Precontact Woodland period sites within the Delaware River valley have been impacted by commercial development and farming. Most of these sites were located between Port Jervis, New York and the Delaware Water Gap, a river distance of nearly forty miles.  Additionally, some of these locations are now preserved by the Federal government as the Tocks Island Natural Recreation Area. Viewed from a research perspective, Precontact Woodland pottery from these archaeological collections become quite important. The Delaware Valley was the principal corridor where the camps and villages of Indigenous people lived and were the places where their objects were lost or discarded. Later, during our nation’s colonial period this segment of the Delaware was the wayward pathway between strategic points of the valley from Fort Hunter, New York (erected in 1711-12) in the Mohawk Valley and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (Wallace 1971).  Two overland paths: the Lackawanna and the Minisink, located north of the “Great Swamp”, linked this stretch of the Delaware River with the North Branch of the Susquehanna River (Evans 1755). These overland routes form a triangular-shaped corridor that Indigenous people, and later, Europeans, used to gain access to other parts of the Northeast west of the main Delaware Valley. So, having established a general environmental, archaeological, and historical back drop of the region let us now direct our attention to the images of Precontact Woodland pottery from these most interesting avocational collections. 

Wallace’s Indian Paths of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission

To begin, classification in any analysis is a procedure that requires researching older publications, reviewing the current literature, and by analyzing the actual archaeological specimens. Assigned typologies of the pottery featured in this blog were completed years ago by archaeologists (Kinsey 1972; Kraft 2001; Lenig 1965; MacNeish 1952). In our case, we present these pottery types using the terminology of the day when “groups” or “series” categories were used to analyze Precontact Woodland ceramics. A general chronology, based on radiocarbon dating when and where applicable, and the cross-comparison of decorations and form of each pottery type is also provided based on more recent investigation in the northeastern United States. We should, mention that there are other pottery types and their associated variants that exist from Upper Delaware Valley pottery collections, however, they are considered minority types that could be used for future TWIPA blog submissions. 

The Owasco series or Pahaquarra phase (Kraft 1975) is the earliest beginning circa AD. 900 and lasting to circa 1300 (~1100- 700 years ago). Owasco pottery has a wide distribution in the Northeast and parts of the Middle Atlantic area. It is most common, however, in northern Pennsylvania/New Jersey and southern New York. The Intermediate series called the Oak Hill phase is considered a “transitional” pottery phase that began circa AD. 1300 with ancestral roots in Owasco and ended circa 1400. It also overlaps with the area defined for Owasco though many examples are found geographically as far south as the Overpeck site on the middle Delaware and the early Shenks Ferry Blue Rock phase sites in the Lower Susquehanna valley. The end of the precontact Woodland pottery sequence in the Upper Delaware is characterized by the Tribal series called the Minisink phase from AD. 1400-1650. During the mid-years of the Minisink phase (circa AD. 1520 -1575) European trade goods filtered into the Upper Delaware Valley from the Atlantic coast, marking the early years of the Contact period in this region. During this period of Indigenous occupation in the Upper Delaware Valley, temporally distinct pottery variants of the Lenape Delaware culture overlap at some of the archaeological sites elsewhere.  These variants have been traced northward into the headwaters of New Jersey and New York’s Hudson Valley. This phenomenon suggests that an unmeasured level of social interaction developed among Algonquin and Iroquoian groups living there (Brumbach 1975). In like manner, some of these late-stage pottery types spread into the pre-contact North Branch valley sites of the Susquehanna where they shared ancestral links with the Cayuga and Susquehannock tribes (Herbstritt 2020; Kent 1984). 

Precontact Woodland Pottery Vessels from the Leiser, Assmus and Werner Collections

Early Stage - Owasco series (Pahaquarra phase)
  (Levanna Cord-on-Cord)
                 (Sackett Corded)
(Castle Creek Punctate collarless variety)

Middle Stage - Intermediate series (Oak Hill Phase)
(Owasco Corded Collar)
                (Kelso Corded)
        (Oak Hill Corded)

Late Stage - Tribal series (Minisink phase)
               (Chance incised)
               (Durfee Underlined)
              (Garoga Incised)
              (Munsee Incised)

We hope that you have enjoyed this journey through time that featured examples of some of the major precontact Woodland pottery vessels from the Leiser, Assmus and Werner collections. Building upon these typologies for identifying pottery types is a tool for archaeologists in tracing these culture groups and their activities across the landscape. Examining the variations of these pottery types and working with other researchers and indigenous groups, offers a more complete picture of the significance of Precontact pottery to these cultures.

Levanna Cord-on-Cord, Early Stage - The State Museum of Pennsylvania 

Sackett Corded, Early Stage - The State Museum of Pennsylvania

Carpenter Brook Cord-on-Cord - The State Museum of Pennsylvania

Castle Creek Punctate, Early Stage - The State Museum of Pennsylvania

Oak Hill Corded, Middle Stage - The State Museum of Pennsylvania

Kelso Corded, Middle Stage - The State Museum of Pennsylvania

Durfee Underlined, Late Stage - The State Museum of Pennsylvania

Garoga Incised, Late Stage - The State Museum of Pennsylvania

Munsee Incised, Late Stage - The State Museum of Pennsylvania

We invite you to visit with us again when we present additional interesting topics on Pennsylvania Archaeology. As a reminder, please take a moment to visit the PHMC web site for registration and other information about the annual Workshops in Archaeology Program that will be held at The State Museum of Pennsylvania on October 29th  2022. This year’s theme PATHWAYS TO THE PAST will explore the various paths indigenous groups used to navigate trade and exchange as well as the contributions archaeology has made in discovering unknown stories of the past.


References Cited

Brumbach, Hettie J.

1975       “Iroquoian” Ceramics in “Algonkian” Territory. Man in the Northeast 10: 17-28.

Evans, Lewis

1755       The General Map of the Middle British Colonies in North America. J. Almon, London.

Herbstritt, James T.

2020       The Late Woodland Period in the Susquehanna and Northern Potomac Drainage Basins, Circa AD 1100-1575 In: The Archaeology of Native Americans in Pennsylvania. Volume II. University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia.

Kent, Barry C.

1984       Susquehanna’s Indians. Anthropological Series No.6. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.

Kinsey, W. Fred III

1972       Archeology of the Upper Delaware Valley: A Study of the Cultural Chronology of the Tocks Island Reservoir. Anthropological Series Number 2. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg.

Kraft, Herbert C.

1975       The Archaeology of the Tocks Island Area. Archaeological research Center             

2001       The Lenape-Delaware Indian Heritage: 10,000 BC to AD 2000. Lenape Books

Lenig, Donald

1965       The Oak Hill Horizon and its Relation to the Development of the Five Nations Iroquois Culture. Researches and Transactions of the New York State Archaeological Association, Vol. 15, No.1 Buffalo.

MacNeish, Richard S.

1952       Iroquois Pottery Types: A Technique for the Study of Iroquois Prehistory. National Museum of Canada Bulletin No. 124. Ottawa.

Wallace, Paul A.W.

1971       Indian Paths of Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. Harrisburg.

Werner, David J.

1972       The Zimmerman Site 36-Pi-14. In: Archaeology of the Upper Delaware Valley: A Study of the Cultural Chronology of the Tocks Island Reservoir. Anthropological Series No.2. The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg.

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

Friday, September 23, 2022

Hearths, Stoves and Warm Fires

It’s that time of year again when we pull out our favorite cozy sweaters, eat and drink a lot of pumpkin spice, and snuggle up in front of the fireplace; autumn is here. Just as we do now, people throughout time have used fires to warm themselves and their homes. Evidence of this human behavior is found in both Precontact and historic archaeological sites. On Precontact sites archaeologists find dark stains in the soil filled with charcoal and fire cracked rock remains in the ground. These stains, called features, are the remains of the cooking and heating fires left by Precontact peoples. On historic sites the artifacts that indicate the use of fire tend to be more substantial, including the remnants of the cast-iron wood-burning stoves, which have been a popular form of heating since the mid-1600’s (Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia 2021).

Image of hearth feature exposing fire cracked rock and charcoal at Ft Hunter (36DA0159), note the charcoal deposit inside red circle. Image from the collection of the State Museum of Pennsylvania.

Cast iron stoves were made from pouring molten cast iron into molds to make plates, which were then bolted together to form a box. In 1642, the first cast iron stove was produced in America, in Lynn Massachusetts (Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia 2021). These stoves were improved upon over time. By the 1740’s, multi-plated stoves were in production, six plate stoves were the beginning of developing a more efficient stove design. In 1744, Benjamin Franklin created the “Pennsylvania stove”, also known as the Franklin stove, a more efficient stove than the earlier forms. This stove allowed for more heat production in the home with less heat escaping with the smoke (Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia 2021; Harris, 2013). Following the Pennsylvania stove, the ten-plate stove was yet again more efficient and could burn both wood and coal (Harris 213). Stove plates were often highly decorated and provided information about the furnace where they were produced. Often, when stove remnants are found on an archaeological site it is the fragments of one of the plates, and with luck some of the decorations or text cast into the piece remain. One such stove plate can be found in The State Museum of Pennsylvania, Section of Archaeology’s collections. 

Ten-plate cast iron stoves. Image from the collections of the Hopewell Furnace.  

Excavated by The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission under the direction of the Section of Archaeology from Washington Crossing Historic Park at the Thompson Neely Grist mill site, 36Bu18.  This stove plate was recovered in seven pieces from the stone foundation scattered inside and against the wall of the foundation, portions of it were missing. When placed together the sections of stove plate have an embossed design and text which reads, “DALE-FU and OTTS-1770.” As with many types of artifacts even the smallest bit of detail or information can help tell a story of that artifact and its creators’ history. In the case of these stove plate fragments the text present provides just enough information to deduce that this stove was produced at the Colebrookdale Furnace in 1770, during which time Thomas Potts Jr. was managing and proprietor of the furnace (Gemmell 1949; The Committee for Historical Research 1914).  

Stove plate fragments found at the Thompson Neely Sawmill site, 36Bu18. Image from the collection of The State Museum of Pennsylvania.

Additional research of the furnace provided further insight into the significance of these fragments. In 1716, Thomas Rutter a blacksmith from England, built Rutter’s Forge, a bloomery forge, which made crude wrought iron from local ore. A few years later, around 1720, Thomas Rutter together with Thomas Potts and investors from Philadelphia built the first blast furnace in Pennsylvania, Colebrookdale Furnace. Located on Iron Stone Creek in Berks County, it was purportedly named after the famous Coalbrookdale works in England.  Historic records indicate that from the beginning Potts was the managing force of the Colebrookdale Furnace (Gemmell 1949; The Committee for Historical Research 1914). Colebrookdale Furnace was a typical pyramid shaped charcoal furnace with water powered bellows, which is why it and other furnaces of the era were located on creeks and rivers (Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission 2019).

Earlier Colebrookdale Furnace stove plate with furnace name and Thomas Rutter on the plate. Image from the collection of The State Museum of Pennsylvania, Community & Domestic Life. 

Together the Rutter and Potts families owned several furnace and forge facilities including Colebrookdale Furnace and Forge, Mount Pleasant Furnace and Forge, as well as Spring, Amity, Rutter’s, Pool, Pine, Little Pine and McCall’s Forges. Rutter died in March of 1730 making Potts the principal owner and manager of these businesses. Between 1729 through the mid-1760s Colebrookdale Furnace provided the pig iron to several other furnaces in the area and was a very active furnace from its start until the beginning of the American Revolution. Account ledgers for the furnace recorded the years of production and the number of pots and kettles produced there with many of the vessels going to the Quaker community in Berks County.  The historic mill property from which this artifact was recovered served the surrounding communities and Philadelphia merchants. This trade allowed for the growth and expansion of the Thompson Neely House and family. Historic records indicate that William Neely had married Robert Thompson’s daughter in 1766 and was likely the proprietor at the time the stove plate was created.

Thomas Potts died in 1752, leaving the Colebrookdale Furnace to his son Thomas Potts Jr. Eventually the furnace was no longer in use or in the Potts family as none of Thomas Potts Jr.’s children wanted it (Gemmell 1949; The Committee for Historical Research 1914). The Colebrookdale furnace was a highly successful iron furnace while in operation, especially during the time it was managed by the Potts and Rutter families. As the first blast furnace in Pennsylvania the, Colebrookdale Furnace made a significant contribution to the spread of the iron industry in central and eastern Pennsylvania.  By 1775, the southeastern region of Pennsylvania contained the highest concentration of forges and furnaces in the country, contributing to our nation’s ability to gain independence from Britain since we were no longer dependent on English supply. 

We hope you have enjoyed this post in This Week in Pennsylvania Archaeology (TWIPA) as we examine how archaeologists can use limited details to uncover the history of an artifact and our archaeological heritage. Pennsylvania’s rich industrial heritage contributed to our growth as a Commonwealth. The workers who labored in these furnaces were skilled tradesmen from diverse backgrounds and are to be recognized for their contributions to the growth of our industrial record. You may have the chance to enjoy a nice warm fire this chilly autumn and if so, think about the long history of cast iron stoves and the prevalence of the Rutter and Potts families in Pennsylvania’s 18th-century iron industry. Broken stove plate fragments are a tool for archaeologists to examine the past and connect to the families who operated the furnace that produced this product and the families who purchased it.  Pathways to the Past is the theme for this year’s Workshops in Archaeology scheduled for October 29th, 2022 at The State Museum of Pennsylvania we hope you will join us as we explore the trails, pathways and stories that connect us to our archaeological past. 


Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopedia 

2021 stove. Electronic Document. Accessed September 9, 2022.

Gemmell, Alfred

1949 The Charcoal Iron Industry in the Perkiomen Valley. Hartenstine Printing House, Norristown, Pennsylvania. 

Harris, Howell

2013       A Collection of Stoves from American Museums, I: Plate Stoves. A Stove Less Ordinary (blog). October 22. Accessed September 9, 2022.

National Park Service

2020      Cast Iron Stove Production at Hopewell Furnace. Electronic Document. Accessed September 9, 2022.

 Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission

2019       Colebrookdale Furnace Historical Marker. Electronic Document. Accessed September 9, 2022.

 The Committee on Historical Research

1914     Forges and Furnaces in the Province of Pennsylvania, Prepared by the Committee on Historical Research.  Prepared for The Pennsylvania Society of the Colonial Dames of America. Philadelphia, Pa.

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

Friday, August 26, 2022

Small Project Results in Remarkable Find

Recent additions to the collections of the Section of Archaeology

Artifact collections from development projects required to undertake the Section 106 process continue to be submitted to the State Museum of Pennsylvania’s Section of Archaeology for curation. The Archaeological Services program at Indiana University of Pennsylvania recently delivered artifact collections to the State Museum of PA, some dating to as far back as the 1980s.

Avid readers of TWIPA may have observed that many of our posts dealing with cultural resource management (CRM) projects are the product of PennDoT construction activities. This week, we turn our attention to another state agency that has conducted archaeological investigations prior to some of its own proposed development.

For many Pennsylvanians, summertime is synonymous with on-the-water recreation, be it fishing or floating, from innertubes to speedboats, and ensuring safe access to the water is critical to making the most of this important resource. To that end, in the early 1990s the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) proposed expanding parking at three of its boat launches along the Juniata River in Juniata County and one farther west in Huntingdon County. 

The PFBC (like all state agencies) is, under the StateHistory Code, obligated to identify and evaluate cultural resources that may be impacted by their construction activities. In 1994 the PFBC employed Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s Archaeological Services Program to conduct Phase I archaeological surveys at each of the areas under consideration for expanded parking.

In short, two of the four access sites, the Mifflintown Access and the Thompsontown Access were identified as having intact archaeological deposits that were recommended to undergo Phase II evaluation should the parking expansion projects proceed.

The Phase I survey Mifflintown Access site (36JU0099) specifically, involved the excavation of two 1x1m units. Chert, sandstone and metarhyolite debitage as well as a contracting stem projectile point of metarhyolite were recovered from excavation unit A-1 before groundwater forced it to be abandoned at approximately 140 cm below ground surface. 

Metarhyolite contracting stem point from 36JU0099, excavation unit A1, image from the collections of The State Museum of Pennsylvania

Excavation unit A-2 produced additional debitage in modest quantities, but the most impressive find would be this unfinished stone axe pictured below. The report authors determined the projectile point and chipped stone axe to be consistent with the Late Archaic through Middle Woodland time periods.

Unfinished, pecked and chipped ¾ grooved axe (5.6 lbs, 11 inches long) – side A,  recovered from the buried A horizon of excavation unit A2, 36JU0099. Image from the collection of The State Museum of Pennsylvania

Unfinished, pecked and chipped ¾ grooved axe (5.6 lbs, 11 inches long) – side B, recovered from the buried A horizon of excavation unit A2. Image from the collection of The State Museum of Pennsylvania

The addition of this large specimen to the curated artifacts at the State Museum is especially fortuitous in that it was received after the design and printing of this year’s Archaeology Month poster “The Mighty Axe”  . TWIPA has also gone in depth on the axe as an artifact type, and those posts can be found here, and here

In comparing project maps with available Google satellite images, it appears that the PFBC has forgone, or at least has postponed, ambitions to expand the parking lots at the Mifflintown and Thompsontown boat launches. New and potentially important cultural resources were discovered because of this survey work, and the sites continue to remain undeveloped for future investigations.

Looking ahead – October is Archaeology Month, and the annual Workshops in Archaeology program will be here before you know it.  To check out additional information on stone tools from the Section of Archaeology, visit the on-linecollection data of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.


Koetje, Todd A.; Tracy Johnston

1998  -   Report of the Phase I Archaeological Survey for the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission Juniata River Access Projects Huntingdon and Juniata Counties, PA (manuscript on file Section of Archaeology, The State Museum of Pennsylvania)

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

Friday, August 12, 2022

New Market Site Ceramics - A Philadelphia Discovery

For the last several weeks, our blog posts have focused on the 50th anniversary of Tropical Storm Agnes and its impact on archaeological sites and cultural resources in Pennsylvania. This week, we would like to turn back to happier subjects and have a look at some of the beautiful ceramic vessels from a site discovered in the city of Philadelphia.

In the 1970s, construction of portions of I-95 and urban redevelopment projects occurred in the oldest sections of the city near the waterfront, prompting archaeological investigations in the areas that would be affected by demolition and construction activities. Several new historic archaeological sites were discovered as a result of these investigations, including the New Market site, 36PH0015.

In the 18th century, the public market, consisting of a row of covered shed stalls, ran along the middle of Second Street between Pine and South streets. The area surrounding the market was marked by the homes of the wealthy and influential. Thousands of artifacts recovered from excavations in this area yielded information on the diet, lifestyle, and economic status of the people who once lived and worked there. 

Some of these artifacts went on display in Philadelphia as part of the collections of the Atwater Kent Museum; however, after a time the collection was put into storage in the city. While in storage, the boxes of artifacts were damaged by water and vandalism and many objects ended up being dumped from their original boxes and bags, losing their context or connection to the original site. They were later donated to The State Museum of Pennsylvania, where they are currently curated.


Map of the City of Philadelphia c. 1802 Showing the Early City and Delaware River Waterfront (public domain) 

During the early years of settlement of the city of Philadelphia, most of the ceramics that people used were imported from Britain or Europe. A popular type of ceramic that was introduced to Europe in the 16th century was porcelain from China. English attempts to reproduce Chinese porcelain in the early to mid-1700s were unsuccessful but resulted in new types of ceramics, including tin-glazed earthenware and salt-glazed stoneware.

Many types of ceramics were recovered from Site 36PH0015 including lovely, delicate tea and table wares made of salt-glazed stoneware. These wares are marked by thin vessel walls and an orange-peel-like surface appearance and were very popular in the 18th century.  Other examples of scratch blue (and black) decorated salt-glazed stoneware have geometric or floral designs etched into the vessel body.

Examples of Delicate Salt-glazed Stoneware Tea and Table Wares from 36PH0015 (photo by PHMC)

Examples of Floral Designs in Scratch Blue and Black Salt-glazed Stoneware from 36PH0015 (photo by PHMC) 

Another common type of ceramic found at site 36PH0015 was red earthenware or redware, so-called due to its red color. Redware has been made for centuries and continues to be produced to this day. Although the first redware would have been brought to Philadelphia from England and Europe, local potteries were soon established. Clay sources were discovered within the city itself that were used for manufacture of bricks and for making redware pottery.

These large redware serving plates, or chargers, are typically highly decorated. Decorative elements on these chargers include colored glazes and slips, combed slips, and depictions of figures, animals, and flowers, as well as geometric designs.

Decorative Redware Chargers from Site 36PH0015. Charger at Left Displays a Horse and Rider Scene (photo by PHMC)

Decorative Redware Chargers from Site 36PH0015 (photo by PHMC)

Other forms of decorative ceramics from 36PH0015 include bowls, candlestick holders, figurines, mugs, pitchers, chamberpots, and other objects. A lovely polychrome painted redware bowl in the collection may be an example of work from 18th-century Moravian potters. 

Decorated Redware Bowl, Staffordshire Candlestick Holder, and Polychrome Painted Redware Bowl (photo by PHMC)

Other objects are more utilitarian and less decorative, including these three small glazed redware pieces. The small size of the mug indicates that it may have been for a child.

Small Redware Jugs and Mug (photo by PHMC)

Dishes, mugs, and cups often featured bright colors and whimsical designs such as the creamware pieces pictured below. Popular designs included using metallic oxides to make ‘clouded’ and ‘tortoiseshell’ color palettes and fruit and vegetable shapes such as the melon tureen and cauliflower-shaped teacup. Creamware was highly fashionable at the turn of the 19th century and wealthy Philadelphians would have bought these flashy and unique ceramics to keep up with trends. 

Examples of Decorative Creamware: Wieldonware Plate, Stylized Sprig-molded Melon Tureen Lid, Cauliflower Teacup, and Striped Teacup (photo by PHMC)

These are just a few of the many different types of ceramics that were recovered during excavations at this site. Due to the number of archaeological projects and recorded sites in Philadelphia, there are also many other site collections that contain these types of ceramics. As always, the New Market artifact assemblage and other collections held by the Section of Archaeology are available for use by anyone with scholarly research objectives.

We hope you’ve enjoyed learning more about these beautiful ceramics and the important information that they hold for archaeologists in understanding the daily lives of early Philadelphia citizens. Below is a list of some of the many publications relating to archaeology in Philadelphia. We hope you will be inspired to examine the archaeological record of your community and help us to preserve the past.


For Additional Reading:

Carpentier, Donald and Jonathan Rickard 

2001    Slip Decoration in the Age of Industrialization. Ceramics in America 2001. Chipstone Foundation, Milwaukee, WI. 


Cotter, John L., Daniel G. Roberts Michael Parrington

1992    The Buried Past: An Archaeological History of Philadelphia. University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia Pa.


Liggett, Barbara

1978    Archaeology at New Market Exhibit Catalogue. The Athenaeum of Philadelphia.


Myers, Susan H.

1980    Handcraft to Industry: Philadelphia Ceramic in the First Half of the Nineteenth Century. Smithsonian Studies in History and Technology, No. 43. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C.


Orr, David G. 

2003    Samuel Malkin in Philadelphia: A Remarkable Slipware Assemblage. Ceramics in America 2003, pp. 252-255 (  


Yamin, Rebecca 

2008    Digging in the City of Brotherly Love: Stories from Philadelphia Archaeology. Yale University Press, New Haven, CT. 


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