Beginning in Beaver County, northwest of Pittsburgh along the Ohio River, 11 sites, a variety of both historic and precontact, were investigated ahead of the massive construction project for oil giant Shell’s petrochemicalcomplex. Once operational, the ethane cracker plant will supply other industries with plastic pellets called nurdles (a new artifact type to be added to the lexicon for future archaeologists).
The Jack’s Reef Corner-notched projectile point seen here dates to the Middle Woodland period (1850 – 950 B.P.) and was recovered during phase II excavations at the Farmstead/Hamletsite (36BV0051), a multi-component stratified site situated on the floodplain of the Ohio River. Produced from Flint Ridge chert, the asymmetrical shape of the point is the result of reworking or resharpening its cutting edge. The artifacts and excavation records from these excavations contribute to our understanding of the past and movement across the landscape during the precontact period.
|Figure 1 Middle Woodland (1850-950 BP) Jack's Reef Corner-notched projectile point from the Farmstead/Hamlet site(36BV0051). From the collections of The State Museum of Pennsylvania.|
Traveling from the western edge of the state all the way across to the southeast corner in Delaware County, the Mid-County Expressway I-476, or Blue Route project is the next submission. A long dormant legacy project that unearthed a dozen mid-19th to early 20th century sites has received its proper processing and has now been curated. Open to traffic in 1992, the survey work conducted in the mid-1980s for this highway project identified a wide range of site functions such as farmhouses and tenant dwellings, a whetstone factory and a bottle dump associated with a prohibition-era speakeasy. This project also identified the location and boundaries of the Trinity UAME (Union American Methodist Episcopal) Church property.
Nearly all of the 137 artifacts recovered from the Trinity UAME Church (36DE0021) were either architectural in nature such as fragments of window glass and brick and nails, or tableware, including whiteware ceramics and glass drinking vessels or containers. One small find/personal church artifact that stands out is the metal watchcase opener/ key ring fob seen here, advertising Boss watchcases from a watchmaker and jeweler from nearby Malvern, Pa. A brief internet search yielded similar, although not exact examples of this fob. Additional research may be able to narrow its date of manufacture and use beyond roughly the turn of the 20th century.
Figure 2 Key ring fob/watch case opener with advertisement from 36DE0021. Collection at The State Museum of Pennsylvania
Sporting the shape of a keyhole, the fob reads “BUY BOSS WATCH CASES” and “TRADEMARK IN EVERY CASE” encircling the letters “Co” inside of a keystone on the obverse. On the reverse: “COMPLIMENTS OF JOHN KIRSCHNEK WATCHMAKER AND JEWELER MALVERN, PA”. This small find is the tangible evidence of a watchmaker and a reflection of consumerism and social behavior.
Working our way to the north, in the coal regions of Luzerne County, additional material from the University of Maryland’s Anthracite Heritage Program excavations have been submitted for curation. A residential building on Canal Street in the patch town of Lattimer was excavated, continuing their academic research on socio-economic issues and troubled labor conditions surrounding the late 19th and early 20th century coal mining industry.
A large percentage of the overall collection is comprised of architectural material like brick, nails, and window glass, as well as an assortment of turn of the last century glass beverage bottles. One small find that stands out from the Canal Street Lattimer site (36LU0312) collection is the 1887 Italian 10 centesimi coin seen here. While in relatively poor condition, this coin wonderfully represents one of the many ethnic immigrant groups that came seeking employment in the anthracite fields during coal’s heyday and ultimately settled in the region..
Figure 3 1887 copper Italian centesimi coin from the Canal Street Lattimer site(36LU0312). From the collections of The State Museum of Pennsylvania
Lastly, this week, the holidays are here, and we wish all our readers a joyous season. If you like, take a moment to view December blog posts from years past with more seasonal themes - like ChristmasTree projectile points, or children’s toys one might have found under their tree - from our 13 years (and counting!) blog archive.
2015 Phase I/II Archaeological Investigations for the Proposed Petrochemicals Complex Potter and
Center Townships, Beaver County, Pennsylvania
Carr, Kurt W. (Editor); et al.
2020 The Archaeology of Native Americans in Pennsylvania Volume I, University of Penn Press, Phila.
Jones, Sean M.; et al.
2022 Archaeological Investigations of Site 36LU312, Canal Street, Lattimer Luzerne County,
Pennsylvania, University of Maryland, Department of Anthropology.
McCarthy, John P.
1986 Determination of Eligibility Report for Archaeological Resources associated with the Mid-County Expressway L.R. 1010 Sections 300 and 400 Delaware County, Pennsylvania, John Milner and Associates
Spiess, Arthur E. (Editor)
2013 After Hopewell: The Jack’s Reef Horizon and Its Place in the Early Late Woodland Mortuary and Settlement Patterns in Northeastern North America, Papers from the 2012 ESAF meeting. Archaeology of Eastern North America Volume 40.
Website: What’s a Nurdle? (carnegiemnh.org)