Friday, December 28, 2012

Lackawanna County

Our journey through the archaeological heritage of Pennsylvania in alphabetical order takes us to Lackawanna County this week.  Approximately 60% of the county is on the Glaciated Appalachian Low Plateaus section with a section of the Anthracite Valley Section running through the middle of the county. The latter contains coal deposits that were extensively mined during the 19th and early 20th centuries. The county sits on a divide between the Susquehanna and Delaware drainage basins. Most of the county is drained to the west by the Lackawanna River. A small portion of the county drains east into the Lehigh and Delaware drainage basins.

The Lackawanna Indian Path, also known as the Onaquaga and Oquaga paths went from Pittston, Pennsylvania on the North Branch of the Susquehanna to Windsor New York located just north of the Pennsylvania-New York state line. There were a number of 18th century Indian towns along the way, namely Adjouquay,Capoose Meadow and Tuscarora Town where three settlements were established on the Susquehanna during the Tuscarora migration out of North Carolina in 1766. They later moved on and the tribe eventually settled in western New York. Several other Indian paths crossed the Lackawanna Path which provided access to localities in north-central Pennsylvania as well as to the Minisink towns on the Upper Delaware.
Lackawanna County was part of Luzerne County until 1878. It was originally occupied in the mid-18th century by Connecticut colonists in their attempt to claim northern Pennsylvania. Connecticut’s occupation of the region ended with the first Wyoming Valley Massacre after the French and Indian War (Basalik et al. 1992:52). In the early 1770’s, Connecticut again sent 5000 settlers to the region and Pennsylvania’s resistance to the Connecticut presence involved a long legal battle and military struggle between the two colonies known as the Yankee-Pennamite War (Baslik et al 1992:53). This ended with a major battle involving Indians and Tories who killed over 200 people and that incident became known as the Wyoming Valley Massacre of 1778. The Lackawanna path was the principal route used by the Iroquois for their return to New York after the Wyoming Massacre.  Many of the Connecticut colonists returned home by way of this route and this departure essentially ended Connecticut’s claims on the region.
After the Revolutionary War, settlement slowly spread up the Lackawanna Valley which at this time was a sparsely populated farming region of early Pennsylvania. Along with farming, lumbering was also a significant business. Small hamlets grew around saw mills and grist mills along the Lackawanna River. Anthracite coal mining began after 1820 and the iron industry began in 1850. Coal and iron were the major industries between 1880 and 1920 and contributed nationally to America’s industrial growth. The economy began to decline after 1920 and coal mining essentially ended by 1960. Considering all of the industrial development, there are only 23 sites dating to the historic period and 68% of these were habitation/domesticate sites. One of the largest surveys conducted in the county was the Lackawanna Valley Industrial Highway (Baslik et al. 1992). This report provides a comprehensive background to the historical and industrial development of the Lackawanna Valley

In general terms, the archaeology of the county is not well known due the low density of sites and relatively few systematic excavations. Sites situated in upland settings represent 61% of the prehistoric sites. many, but not all , are small suggesting that these are foraging camps rather than base camps. Four large Late Woodland sites have been identified and include pottery. Two of these are adjacent to upland lakes and one is along the Susquehanna River and the other is along the Lackawanna. There are probably more but they may be covered with historic fill in floodplains.

 typical test unit at the Locust Ridge Road site (36Lw56)

There are no Paleoindian or Early Archaic sites recorded for the county, however, the Locust Ridge Road Site (36LW56), an Archaic to Transitional period site has been studied through systematic test excavations. This site is within the right-of-way of the proposed Thornhurst Bridge Replacement Project, a Federal mandated compliance project administered through PENNDOT with the work completed by Archaeological and Historical Consultants, Inc., a consulting firm located in central Pennsylvania (Hay and Diamanti 2012).

Most interesting was the recovery of diagnostic projectile points and steatite bowl fragments from the site which included stemmed points (Late Archaic), Perkiomen (late Transitional) fishtail and Meadowood (Early Woodland) types. Confirmed by radiocarbon dating these diagnostic point types at the Locust Ridge Road site date to the 1390 BC – 930 BC period.  In addition to wood charcoal, nuts fragments (possibly Oak and the carbonized remains of the fleshy fruits of berries (i.e. Raspberry or blackberry, huckleberry and blueberry as well as a seed of the plant – knotweed were identified.

 top row - Early Woodland points and steatite sherd; second row - Transitional Archaic perkiomen/broadspear points; third row Early Woodland fishtail-like points; bottom row Archaic stemmed points

The discoveries at Locust Ridge Road provided us with yet another glimpse into dimly illuminated past, of a poorly known region of Pennsylvania. Through the systematic study of this archaeological site long buried beneath a Lackawanna County floodplain we can begin to formulate new ideas, interpretations and perspectives about the prehistory of the archaeological heritage of our Commonwealth.     

The 98th Annual Pennsylvania Farm Show opens on Saturday, January 5th, 2013 and closes Saturday January 12th. This year’s exhibit theme is the Archaeology of the French and Indian War (1756-1763). We will be showcasing the State Museum’s excavations at Fort Hunter as well as excavations at Fort LeBoeuf, Fort Augusta, and Fort Loudoun. A brochure detailing the archaeology of this time period will also be available.  Our exhibit wouldn’t be complete without the 20’ dugout canoe which is always an eye catching attraction. French and Indian War period re-enactors will be present to answer questions and tell stories. Also, this year the Bureau for Historic Preservation’s exhibit booth will be located directly across the aisle from our own booth, providing a united display for the PHMC.

two visitors to the Farm Show try out our dug out canoe

We are located in the Family Living Section, on the McClay Street side, not far from the carousel and the butter sculpture- Hope to see you there! January 5th - 12th Pennsylvania Farm Show, 9-9 Saturday to Friday. 9-3 on Saturday 12th


Baslik, Kenneth J., Ronald C. Berge, Amy B. Keller, Judson M. Kratzer, Thomas R. Lewis, M.
Nadine Miller and Alan D. Tabachnick
1992    Lackawanna Valley Industrial Highway Cultural Resources Survey and Eligibility
Report. Cultural Heritage Research Services, Inc. U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration and Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

Hay, Conran A. and Melissa Diamanti
2012    Phase III Archaeological Data Recovery Site 36LW0056. Thornhurst Bridge Replacement S.R. 4003, Section 01B, Monroe [Lackawanna] County, Pennsylvania ER#01-6256-089. Report prepared for Pennsylvania Department of Transportation Engineering District 5-0.

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

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Joys of Toys!

This week, in honor of the holiday season, we have put our archaeological tour by county of Pennsylvania on hold.  Instead we are focused on toys.  The toys featured this week are from the archaeological collections curated at The State Museum of Pennsylvania.  They were recovered from archaeological sites across the commonwealth and are the tangible evidence of the people who played with and enjoyed these objects.  These toys reflect upon the lives of the children or adults who made or used them, from prehistoric to historic times. We hope you will enjoy this glimpse at toys of yesteryear and that they will bring to mind memories of toys that you enjoyed in the past. 

Native American Toy Pots
Made from various materials, toys provide hours of enjoyment for children of all ages and of all world cultures. To be sure, native children in the 16th and 17th centuries, and possibly earlier who we know as the Susquehannock Indians played with toys made from stone, bone, clay and other more fragile materials. Many of these toys resemble the common objects that were made and used in the family household on a daily basis such as clay pots. Occasionally, examples of these wonderful objects are recovered during archaeological investigations of their habitation sites. In the Delaware and lower Susquehanna River valleys of Pennsylvania several village sites have revealed information on toy pottery vessels that actually mimicked conventional size pots that were used in the village. The decorations on one exceptional toy pot from Overpeck site located near Kitnerville, Pennsylvania that was found resembles a Schultz Incised pot of the 16th century 
Overpeck site toy pot

Two smaller toy pots from the Washington Boro village site located in the small town of Washington Boro, Pennsylvania are miniature examples of Washington Boro Incised, another Susquehannock pottery type that essentially succeeded in time, the Schultz Incised type 

Washington Boro site toy pots

Following that was the Strickler Period, named after the Strickler village site, located south of Washington Boro. Here, three, more or less similarly shaped toy pots, were found together suggesting a “set” perhaps made by and used by children at the Strickler site 

Strickler site toy pots

So, in this most unusual case, these small pots not only function as toys per se but also as food containers in a food consumption environment.

Fort Hunter Toy Tea Cup

Fort Hunter porcelain tea cup

This small porcelain tea cup, probably dating to the mid-nineteenth to early twentieth century, was found at Fort Hunter in 2008 during our Archaeology Month excavations.  Prior to the industrial revolution when toy ceramic tea-sets were first mass produced and exported on a large scale, children’s tea-sets were predominately made of copper, pewter, precious metals such as gold and silver, tin-glaze earthenwares and porcelains. The earliest examples of children’s tea-sets in Western culture were produced by German toy craftsmen in the 16th century. Their expense limited their use predominately to families of wealth and prominence. During the industrial revolution, English porcelains were mass produced and lead the way for ceramic tea-sets to become a common child’s toy. (
toy cup compared to full-size mug or tankard

In 1870, Fort Hunter was owned by the Boas family and later passed to the daughter of Daniel Dick Boas, Helen Riley, and her husband, John Reily. The Reily’s, while childless, ran a successful Dairy on the property which they later left to their nine nieces and nephews. One can conclude from family photos that include many children and a menagerie of pets—pigs, dogs, and a macaque monkey to name a few—as well as, the numerous finds of child’s toys in the Mansion’s backyard—fragmentary porcelain dolls, marbles, and portions of toy tea-sets—that  the Reily’s were a doting Aunt and Uncle.  (

Transitioning from Native American toy pots to archaeological investigations of a nineteenth century American household, one can conclude that many toys for children resemble common household objects and the use of such types of toys continues over time and across cultures. Children learn how to function and live in the greater society by modeling behaviors of the adults around them.  The customs surrounding sharing food and beverages speak to the social animals that we all are, and the encouragement of child’s play to mimic the appropriate use of objects and as teaching tools to learn social etiquette continues today.

18th Century Toy Whizzer
This George II half-penny (1727-1760) has been modified to be used a toy whizzer.  A whizzer or whirligig, is a disc with two holes drilled through the middle which is then strung on a loop of string. Twisting the string and pulling the ends tight would allow the disc to spin, creating a buzzing or whirring noise. This piece is unusual due to the third hole in the center.

George II whizzer from Ephrata Cloiser
This whizzer was recovered from excavations at Ephrata Cloister (36La981), a German religious communal society established in 1732 in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.   Excavations conducted in 1999 by the State Museum under the direction of Steve Warfel in an area identified as Zion’s Hill yielded evidence of use of this area by wounded and sick Revolutionary War soldiers during the winter of 1777/1778.  Whizzers are frequently found on military sites. These may have been used by the sick and wounded soldiers or by their children who frequently accompanied them. Whichever the case, this toy reflects upon the daily activities of soldiers.

Wind-up mechanical Beetle
mid-20th century mechanical toy beetle:  wind-up mechanism visible protruding from underbelly and large, now fragmentary, flapping wings on top

     The toy pictured above has admittedly seen better days. It may take a little bit of imagination and straining of the eyes to recognize that it is (or what’s left of) a wind-up toy beetle. A small remnant of blue paint on its body and a trusty internet search reveal this as the “walking ladybug” model, made in Japan in the years following WWII. Surely at some point in the past this mechanical critter offered a great deal of amusement to its owner. Click here to see a video of a very similar mechanical insect in proper working condition.  Our rather crusty specimen comes to us from the Joseph Lewis Site (36Ch859), a domestic farmstead excavated by CHRS, Inc. from 2003 – 2007 as part of improvements to the Pennsylvania Turnpike in Chester County. The site was recommended as eligible to the National Register of Historic Places in part due to the significance of the inhabitants’ unique socio-cultural identity within the surrounding region.  “The archaeological data indicated a strong reaffirmation of the occupants’ German identity during the nineteenth century and a continued emphasis on maintaining a Germanic identity in the early twentieth century. Unlike families that lived in areas dominated by Germanic communities, the occupants of the Joseph Lewis site (36Ch859) appear to have straddled a social divide, using cultural markers that reflected their ethnic heritage as well as other cultural markers that could be recognized by the non-German community members in the area where they lived.”(Basalik, et al. 2009)



Basalik, Kenneth J. ; Philip Ruth ; T. Lewis; S. Smith; M. Alfson. Phase I/II/III Archaeological Survey Joseph Lewis Site (36Ch859) S.R. 0029 Slip Ramps Project Charlestown, East Whiteland and Tredyffrin Twps. Chester County, PA  - unpublished manuscript on file at The State Museum of Pennsylvania, Section of Archaeology

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

Friday, December 14, 2012

Our journey through the archaeological heritage of Pennsylvania in alphabetical order takes us to Juniata County this week.  Juniata is number thirty-four – meaning we are just over the half-way mark of exploring all sixty-seven counties. The western half of Juniata County resides in the Appalachian Mountain section of the Ridge and Valley physiographic province.
The Appalachian Mountain Section is defined by long narrow ridges with steep side slopes and corresponding long narrow valleys. The majority of surface geologic formations include shale and sandstone formations shaped by millions of years of tightly shifting and folding on one another. Lithic resources available include local cherts in various forms, including those rich in iron known as jasper.

The eastern half of Juniata County lies within Pennsylvania’s Susquehanna Lowland physiographic province. The Susquehanna Lowland Section is a result of glaciation and the processes of the Susquehanna River flowing over the region for thousands of years.
The Juniata River is the primary drainage stream flowing into the Susquehanna River. The Juniata River connects the Alleghenies to the Susquehanna River across the south central portion of the state. The rugged ridge and valley terrain of much of the area contributed to the development of the Juniata as a transportation route in both prehistoric and historic times. Forested mountains and ridges of this area provide natural habitats for deer, bear, birds and other fauna important for early diets.

Excavations conducted in 1929 by Robert W. Jones at the Book Mound site along the Tuscarora Creek in Beale Township yielded pottery of the Clemson Island culture group. Clemson Island habitation sites, which date to the early portion of the Late Woodland period (1000 to 650 years ago) are mainly found along the Juniata River and in the middle Susquehanna River Valley. Archaeological evidence of the Clemson Island culture indicates they built loaf-shaped, bark-covered houses and acquired food by gardening, hunting, and fishing. They also are the only people known to have constructed burial mounds in eastern Pennsylvania.

 Clemson Island potter - exterior

Clemson Island pottery - interior

Clemson Island pottery is readily identified as a fabric-impressed or cord-marked body with a coarse temper of crushed chert and or quartz. Many of these rims are identified by a row of punctuations just below the lip.  Archaeologists continue to examine this pottery as we try to better understand this culture group and what happened to them.

The Juniata River as mentioned earlier was an important transportation route as it allowed for travel between the Alleghenies and the Susquehanna River.  This trade route likely played an important role in the 1750’s as troops traveled from the Susquehanna River to remote frontier areas to the north and west.  Private and small Provincial forts were often established for protection during Indian raids.  Fort Bigham or Bigham’s Fort was a private fort located on the Juniata River, near present day Honey Grove in Tuscarora Township.  The fort was attacked on June 11, 1756.  Twenty-three settlers were either killed or taken captive and the fort was burned.  Troops conducted a forty-five man scouting party over the area up the Susquehanna to Fort Augusta, and back down through the area to just west of Fort Bigham,  but did not find the enemy.  To learn about other forts in Pennsylvania during the French & Indian War, visit our exhibit at the Pennsylvania Farm Show from January 5th thru 12th

 Fort Bigham located between Fort Granville and Patterson's Fort

The last stop on our archaeological tour was identified as part of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation project on the Route 22 Improvements through the Lewistown Narrows.  The area known as the “Long Narrows” or “Lewistown Narrows” is a narrow gap in the mountains with steep cliffs and slopes on either side.  This narrow opening was a formidable obstacle in the construction of the Juniata Division of the Pennsylvania Main Line Canal in 1826.  The Main Line linked Philadelphia and Pittsburgh and consisted of a railroad between Philadelphia and Columbia, a canal along the Susquehanna and Juniata Rivers from Columbia to Hollidaysburg, and a railroad over the Allegheny Mountains and finally another section of canal to Pittsburgh. Much of the labor was completed by Irish immigrants who were expected to move 15 cubic yards of earth each day at the rate of $11-12 dollars a month, which included tools, drink and lodging. The construction was completed with simple tools picks, shovels and wheelbarrows, in just a few years. 

 view of the tow path of the Juniata Division of the Pennsylvania Main Line Canal

excavation of the canal by Heberling Associates, Inc.

Dry laid stone created two lift locks at the upper end of the Narrows and one at the lower end. The lift lock chambers were 15 feet wide and 90 feet long with four-foot wide spillways along the uphill side.  Historical documents researched for the project indicated some of the canal features through the Lewistown Narrows included a river dam and feeder sluices, three lift locks and two lock houses. Detailed survey and documentation conducted by Heberling Associates prior to the highway project led to the development of a public canal park near the eastern end of the Narrows.  Heberling Associates recorded sections of the canal and produced detailed drawings of the surviving remains of the canal. At the upper end of the Narrows four feeder sluiced that fed water to 28.5 miles of the canal were located.  The associated dam was gone, but the stone feeder sluices were documented as were Lift Locks No. 14 and 15 which had been buried by fill in the mid-29th century.  The locks remain buried under portions of reconstructed US 22/322.  Visitors to Canal Park can view Lift Lock No. 13 which has been rehabilitated and commemorates the 88 locks on the canal’s Juniata Division.  Also restored were sections of the canal prism and spillway.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this trip through Juniata County’s archaeological heritage and we hope you will help us continue to preserve our past for the future.


Heberling, Scott D.  Canal in the Mountains: The Juniata Main Line Canal in the Lewistown Narrows. 2008

Hunter, William A.  Forts on the Pennsylvania Frontier, 1753 - 1758.  PHMC 1960

Kent, Barry C. ; Ira Smith III and Catherine McCann  Foundations of Pennsylvania Prehistory. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Harrisburg 1971

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

Friday, December 7, 2012

Jefferson County

TWIPA would like to thank Kenneth Burkett, executive director of the Jefferson County Historical Center, for guest blogging this week. We continue the county by county archaeological journey with Jefferson County. 

Situated in the uplands of the Appalachian Plateau physiographic region this area consists of rolling hills and moderately steep sided valleys covered in regrowth hardwood forest.  

Transecting the county are three major westward flowing waterways with the Clarion comprising the northern boundary, the Redbank Creek in the center and the Mahoning Creek near the southern border.  These waterways were important transportation routes for Native Americans travelling between the Susquehanna and Allegheny River basins requiring only short portages over the divide between their upper tributaries and the West Branch.  The presence of these prehistoric inter-regional travelers is frequently found on streamside campsites in the form of artifacts made from non-local lithics such as jasper, rhyolite, quartzite and argillite along with an occasional steatite bowl fragment from eastern Pennsylvania. From the west, Upper Mercer, Coshocton and Flint Ridge lithics originated in central Ohio.
Steatite Pot from Redbank Valley

As this area is unglaciated, the primary sources of chert are within the Pleistocene gravels of the Allegheny river and a poorer grade of local Vanport siliceous shale also referred to by archaeologists as Jefferson County chert (Burkett 2001).  This black and tan chert outcrops on hillsides in the central part of the county where several prehistoric quarry sites are known. Many more probably existed prior to their destruction by 20th century strip mining.  Often found at these locations are the stone digging picks used to expose the chert veins. Hammerstones and anvil stones are evidence that the raw material was tested for quality and the initial shaping of the tools began at the quarry. This process also served to reduce the weight of the tool blanks prior to transporting them to the habitation sites. Many of the rockshelters along the Redbank and Mahoning creeks contain enormous quantities of chert chips produced while refining or finishing these tool blanks.
Jefferson County Chert Artifacts

Formal archaeological investigations of prehistoric sites have rarely been conducted in this county. The only reported excavations are the Bunny Rock Rockshelter (36Je48), the Ridge Rockshelter (36Je49) and the Davis Rockshelter (36Je50) excavated in the Redbank drainage between Brookville and Summerville by Ken Burkett (nd.). In addition, the Dutch Hill Rockshelter (36Je132) near Belltown overlooking the Clarion River was excavated by Andrew Myers (2001).
Dutch Hill Rock Shelter 
Bunny rock Projectile Points

Jefferson County has an extensive 19th century logging history and there are many remnants of mills, raceways, bracket dams and railways found throughout the county in and along the streams and tributaries.  Annually each summer since 2005, Brian Fritz and Amanda Valko have been working at Clear Creek State Park to present a public archaeology program where volunteers help excavate, catalog artifacts and document a blacksmith’s shop that was part of the circa 1870’s Frazier Sawmill complex.

Frazier Sawmill Excavation

We hope you have enjoyed this short overview of Jefferson County and that this will inspire an interest in recording and preserving the archaeological sites in your community. For more information on the history of Jefferson County visit the web site at These resources are Pennsylvania’s heritage and for all of us it is our window into the past.  Help us to protect and preserve these archaeological resources which are crucial to our understanding of the past. We encourage every citizen to take an active role in preserving our archaeological heritage and ask that you respect these sites and Preserve our Past for the Future.

The 98th Annual Pennsylvania Farm Show opens on Saturday, January 7th, 2013. This year’s exhibit theme is the Archaeology of the French and Indian War (1756-1763). We will be showcasing the State Museum’s excavations at Fort Hunter as well as excavations at Fort LeBoeuf, Fort Augusta, and Fort Loudoun. A brochure detailing the archaeology of this time period will also be available.  Our exhibit wouldn’t be complete without the 20’ dugout canoe which is always an eye catching attraction. French and Indian War period re-enactors will be present to answer questions and tell stories. Also, this year the Bureau for Historic Preservation’s exhibit booth will be located directly across the aisle from our own booth, providing a united display for the PHMC.

two visitors at the Farm Show try out our dugout canoe

We are located in the Family Living Section, on the McClay Street side, not far from the carousel and the butter sculpture- Hope to see you there! January 5th - 12th Pennsylvania Farm Show, 9-9 Saturday to Friday. 9-3 on Saturday 1/12th

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

Friday, November 30, 2012

Indiana County

 This week, our travels through the archaeology of Pennsylvania’s counties take us to Indiana County located in the western-central region of the state. We have the privilege of introducing the newest member of our staff, Callista Holmes. Calli joined our staff in early November as a lab assistant. She is a graduate of Clarion University of Pennsylvania and is enrolled in the Master’s program in Applied Archaeology at Indiana University of Pennsylvania For this blog, she solicited help from her former adviser, Dr. Beverly Chiarulli.

As part of the Pittsburgh/Laurel Highlands area, the landscape is characterized by narrow, shallow valleys and numerous water sources. The county is primarily within the Ohio Drainage Basin but the eastern edge is drained by the West Branch of the Susquehanna River. The main rivers include the Conemaugh, the Redbank and the Kiskiminetas. Many of these rivers and creeks have large flood plains, which offer prime locations for prehistoric and historic sites. Indiana County contains a relatively high density of archaeological sites at 1 site per 1.85 square miles with a total of 448 recorded sites.

        Much of Indiana County is underlain by Pennsylvania age (290–323 million years) sedimentary rocks including sandstone, shale, siltstone, limestone and coal formations (Williams and McElroy 1997; Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources 1990). The main lithic resources for the manufacture of stone tools are chert. Some of the more local sources include Monongahela, Uniontown and Ten Mile cherts, while the sources further away include Onondaga, Upper Mercer and Flint Ridge.

The geology of Indiana County also includes rich deposits of coal, which led to the significant coal industry in Indiana County and much of western Pennsylvania. A large number of strip mines and small towns supporting the mines dotted the landscape of Indiana County from the early nineteenth century through much of the twentieth century (Indiana University of Pennsylvania Libraries).  Today many of the towns that were built around the coal mining industry have gone into decline, but the development of these mines and towns, as well as the hard work of Indiana County coal miners have led to overall development of the county.

The Indiana University of Pennsylvania Late Prehistoric Project
            Since 2000, Drs. Beverly Chiarulli and Sarah Neusius of the Indiana University of Pennsylvania Anthropology Department have investigated Late Prehistoric Period sites (A.D. 10001500) in Indiana and surrounding counties. The Late Prehistoric or Late Woodland period was the time when Native groups in Pennsylvania established villages and began to grow crops such as maize (corn), beans, and squash as the mainstay of their diet. While past archaeological research suggested that the central Allegheny River Valley (including Indiana County) was uninhabited during this time period, the investigations by IUP archaeologists have found there were a large number of villages in this region along the tributaries of the Allegheny River (Johnson 1999, 2001; Chiarulli and Neusius 2007).  In the three tributary watersheds that cross Indiana County (the ConemaughBlacklick, LoyalhannaBlackleggs Creek, and Crooked Creek) there are more than 40 known villages. In all of western Pennsylvania, there are only 200 recorded villages, so 20% of the Late Prehistoric villages are in this small part of the Commonwealth. 

The goals of the IUP Late Prehistoric Project have been to reconstruct these Late Prehistoric settlement systems.  It is often difficult to envision how Pennsylvania looked a thousand years ago, because the landscape today is so different from what it was in the past.  Dense forests covered western Pennsylvania before the arrival of European settlers in the 1760s.  Today, most of these forests have disappeared as they have been cut down to create space for farms, towns and cities.  These forests have disappeared, except in the descriptions of these early settlers and today, for example, only 36 percent of Indiana County is covered by stands of second and third growth forest.

One interesting part of this research has focused on the different Late Prehistoric cultures in the northern and southern part of the county.  The villages in southern Indiana County in the Conemaugh-Blacklick watershed are part of the Monongahela culture found throughout southwestern Pennsylvania.  The villages in the northern part of the county in the Crooked Creek watershed are part of a different cultural group.  In both areas, the villages consist of stockade surrounding a ring of houses and a large open central plaza.  The main differences in the groups are in the different types of pottery they made.  In the Crooked Creek watershed, most of the IUP investigations have focused on the Mary Rinn site and the Carl Fleming site.  In the Conemaugh watershed, we have examined the Johnston site, the Walnut Hill site (36In0006), and the Squirrel Hill site (on the south side of the Conemaugh River in Westmoreland County).

Typical Monongahela Tradition Village Shape and Layout (From Powell Site)

The Mary Rinn Site in the Crooked Creek Watershed
               The Mary Rinn Site was investigated in the 1970s and 1980s by field schools from IUP directed by Virginia Gerald and in 2000 by Drs. Sarah and Phil Neusius.  Recent investigations have been conducted by Graduate Student Donna Smith who has included a ground penetrating radar survey of the site as part of her Masters Thesis research.  The site is located on a terrace along Crooked Creek.  In the early IUP field schools, Gerald identified a possible house, a stockade, and other post enclosed features.
               One advantage of conducting research at a university that has been interested in the local archaeology is that we have access to artifacts that were collected in the 1970s and 1980s.  During the past several years, we have been able to reanalyze these collections and even send samples for botanical analysis and radiocarbon dating.  Before the start of the Late Prehistoric Project, none of the sites in Indiana County had been dated.  Now, we have more than 60 standard and AMS dates from these sites and those from the surrounding counties.

IUP Students Mapping the Mary Rinn Site

               For the Mary Rinn Site, we continued our investigations of the collection curated at IUP by sending flotation samples from some of Gerald’s features and those from Smith’s investigations to Dr. Jack Rossen of Ithaca College for analyses.  One of the samples he analysed was made of the remains of branches used as firewood and was primarily white oak, hickory, maple (Acer sp.), and black walnut (Juglans nigra), This sample also contained two tropical domesticates (maize and gourd) and also included seeds of two possible species from the Eastern Agricultural Complex, marshelder and maygrass as well as seeds from wild plants, sumac and purslane and hickory nuts.  The Eastern Agricultural Complex includes native plants from the upper Ohio Valley that were domesticated.  Maize, beans, tobacco, and gourds are considered “tropical” domesticates because they are native to Mexico and were first domesticated there and then spread throughout North America.

Donna Smith Excavating at the Mary Rinn Site (October 2011)

               According to Rossen (May 2009) marshelder is a plant with nutritious oily seeds that has a long history of utilization throughout the eastern U.S. woodlands  (Asch and Asch 1985; Yarnell 1978). It came under cultivation sometime during the Late Archaic or Early Woodland period, as indicated by gradual but large increases in seed length and its archaeological occurrence in large caches (Yarnell 1978).  After A.D. 1000, marshelder was still used by some groups in the Midwest and eastern US.  Since the Mary Rinn sample is far outside the plant’s natural range it should be considered a cultivated specimen.
               We now have four dates for the Mary Rinn Site (.  One was from the 2000 IUP Field School, two are standard dates from features excavated by Gerald (F211 and F227) and one is an AMS date of a maize sample from the botanical analysis. The maize date is the most recent and dates to approximately A.D. 1250.  This date overlaps with the other three from the site, although it is at the end of their range.  While it is the latest date from Mary Rinn, it is the earliest date on maize that we have from any of the Late Prehistoric project sites.

Mary Rinn ceramics are predominately limestone tempered although there is also grit and quartz tempered examples. IUP now has the collections from Gerald’s investigations as well as a large collection known as the Boyer collection that was donated to the university by a local collector in the 1960s. Rims are commonly straight and decorations can include incisions and punctuations.  Incisions can be straight, horizontal or oblique lines. 

Ceramic Vessel from the Mary Rinn Site

Investigations of the Johnston Site (36In002) in the Conemaugh Watershed
            The Johnston site is located on the first terrace of the Conemaugh River south of Blairsville, Indiana County, Pennsylvania.  Discovered by Ralph Solecki of the Smithsonian River Basin Survey in October 1950 in advance of the construction of the Conemaugh Dam, this site was quickly recognized as an important Late Prehistoric, Monongahela village.  Excavations by Dr. Don Dragoo of the Carnegie Museum in 1952 revealed two to four parallel stockades encircling a village which measured approximately 450 feet in diameter.  Circular house structures averaging 20 feet across with and without attached storage structures were found in a ring around a central plaza typical of Monongahela Villages (Means 2007).  Large quantities of shell-tempered  ceramics,  lithic artifacts,  many bone tools especially bone beads,  cannel coal objects, discoidals, faunal remains and other artifacts were recovered in these excavations (Dragoo 1956, Guilday 1956 ).  Dragoo’s assemblages are curated at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History.

            Dragoo estimated that 150-225 individuals lived at this village, and determined that the village was primarily occupied in the late sixteenth century.  Subsequent studies of Dragoo’s Johnston ceramic assemblage along with materials from the McJunkin site led to the identification of a Late Middle Monongahela Johnston Phase dating from ca AD 1450-1590 (George 1977; Johnson and Means 2007).  The primary defining characteristic of this phase is the presence of McFate Incised ware and Conemaugh Cord-Impressed sherds among typical Monongahela ceramic types.  Unlike other Monongahela Tradition ceramic assemblages, high frequencies of the Johnston sherds are believed to have been marked with final S-twist cordage.  Some discussions have suggested that the Johnston Phase represents an amalgamation of “McFate people” and “Mononghaela people” (Johnson 2001: 71-72) and even that one portion of the village at Johnston might have been where McFate as opposed to people of Monongahela ethnicity actually resided (George 1997).
            As part of the IUP Late Prehistoric Project, Chiarulli and Neusius wanted to document the location of the Johnston site, and their investigations found that it was intact, with the old plowzone encountered by Dragoo buried under nearly one meter of recent alluvium.  These alluvial deposits apparently are the result of flood episodes since the construction of the Conemaugh dam.  The initial test pits dug in 2005 yielded the first radiocarbon date from the site.  This date (Beta 206279)  was 630 + 40 BP or Cal AD 1290-1410, was substantially earlier than the presumed late sixteenth century date for the site as well as earlier than the defined beginning of the Johnston Phase.  While analysis of the 2012 field season is still underway, the 2010 fieldschool has lead to an increased understanding of the site.

Photo of 2010 IUP Field School Excavations (Photo by Seth Mitchell)

The IUP 2010 Investigations 
            The 2010 field school included eight weeks of excavation between May and July, 2010.  We have completed a preliminary catalogue of the 2010 artifacts, finished flotation of most of the feature samples, obtained additional AMS radiocarbon dates, and had additional botanical samples analyzed by Dr. Jack Rossen of Ithaca College.  Two graduate students have complete MA theses on analysis of material from the Johnston site.  Seth Mitchell (2011) analyzed rimsherds from all the IUP investigations and compared these to Dragoo’s published material and Lisa Dugas (2011) analyzed bone tools from the site for a comparison of assemblages from other Monongahela villages.  Current MA student, Laura Kaufman, is comparing the condition of faunal material from the IUP and Dragoo excavations to determine if the material has deteriorated during the past 50 years for her thesis.  Two undergraduate honors theses have also used material from the Johnston investigations.  Michael Deemer (2012) investigated the use of heat treatment of chert at the site through a comparison of experimentally heated samples and Jordon Galentine (2012) compared rim styles from the Johnston site with sites in the Crooked Creek watershed. 

Dragoo’s excavations at the Johnston Site
            The 2010 excavations, to the east of the 2008 block, traced the easternmost of the two stockades we had previously identified as well as the stockade trench to the southeast   This stockade is now identified as Stockade 1(it was the first stockade identified) and the stockade line to the west of this is designated Stockade 2.  Most importantly, the units to the east of Stockade 1 encountered a large number of features including many post molds and possible house structures.  Excavations approximately a meter to the east of Stockade 1 documented a third line of posts, which, though small, may represent a third stockade line. This newly discovered stockade is designated as Stockade 3.   A recent analysis of AMS and standard radiocarbon dates from the stockades suggests that stockades 1 and 2 may date as early as the Kiskimentas Phase of the Early Monongahela Period (A.D. 1150-1290)  while Stockade 3 dates to the Middle Monongahela Johnston Phase (Neusius and Chiaurlli 2012).
Comparison of Dragoo’s excavations and IUP 2008 Excavations (note the increase in deposition covering the site Dragoo photos courtesy of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History)

            We were not able to investigate the western portion of the village during the 2010 field school.  However, in the fall of 2010, Seth Mitchell, one of the graduate students initiated investigations of the western side of the village by excavating four shovel tests based on the results of Sagi’s (2009) highest phosphate and magnetic susceptibility readings.  These appeared to correlate with the location of the domestic ring on the western edge of the village plaza.  This approach proved productive and one of the initial shovel tests encountered obvious features beneath the alluvium.  This shovel test pit was expanded to a two meter square which revealed a number of postholes and one side of a post enclosed pit. Botanical analysis of material from a flotation sample from this feature (FT 244) has been completed, and a single fourteenth century AMS date obtained from a maize kernel was obtained.
            Mitchell’s (2011) results provide us with an indication of the location of the western side of the village.  Several lines of evidence suggest that there are differences between the material we have recovered and the Dragoo ceramic sample.  Mitchell’s analysis examined only the rim sherds and identified 169 individual vessels.  He found that the ceramic types in the IUP assemblage are generally consistent with Dragoo’s sample with a few significant differences.   The major difference is that some of the Middle and Early Woodland and the distinctive McFate Incised types are not present in the IUP sample.  Mitchell suggests that the difference could result from a later occupation in the western part of the village. 

lower left image:  Monongahela house reconstruction on City Island by PHMC 

Site Dating
            New dates from the IUP investigations continue to differ from the traditional wisdom about this site.  Even when we look only at the thirteen calibrated AMS dates we have obtained from botanical remains, there is a longer time span than the late fifteenth through sixteenth centuries.  The dates come from two separate laboratories, Beta Analytic and the Illinois Geological Survey and are in general agreement about the time span.    Both the fourteenth and the fifteenth centuries are well represented in this sequence of dates, and a sixteenth century occupation less well documented by the intercepts for our dates.  Moreover, the single date we now have from the west side is a fourteenth century date.  Thus, we cannot conclude that most of Dragoo’s excavations were parts of the site occupied later than the eastern area where our excavations have concentrated.  Even with the presence of McFate Incised ceramics, our present conclusion is that the site was occupied between AD 1250 and 1600.
Botanical Analyses of the Johnston Site
            Since 2006, we have had botanical analyses conducted on samples by Dr. DeeAnn Wymer of Bloomsburg University and her students and Dr. Jack Rossen of Ithaca College.  Dr. Wymer has examined 12 samples and Dr. Rossen has examined 11 samples.   The samples show that the Johnston site residents were farmers who relied on both tropical and native cultigens (maize, gourd, bean, maygrass, erect knotweed).  Like Mary Rinn, the Johnston site is among the northernmost sites to contain seeds of the “Eastern Agricultural Complex,” which was really a horticultural or house gardening suite of plants.  Nutshell and wild plant seeds are also present in low frequencies (Rossen 2010). 
            Beans are relatively rare in archaeological sites in Pennsylvania and seem to have arrived in Pennsylvania later than the other domesticated plants like maize and gourds.  Two fragmentary beans were recovered from one of the post enclosed pits at the Johnston site.  Plants from the Eastern Agricultural Complex were also recovered from the Johnston site and include the seeds of two plants, maygrass and erect knotweed.  Wymer and Stenhilper’s analysis found similar results, although their analysis of material from the stockade trench and one of the post enclosed pits identified additional species, like tobacco.  Nutshell for these three features is represented mostly by Carya (hickory) and Juglandaceae (walnut family) specimens with some possible Quercus (oak acorn). As expected from a substantial Late Prehistoric village site, maize (Zea mays) was present and was recovered from feature contexts.  These specimens included fragmented kernels, intact and partial cupules, minute cob fragments, glumes, and cob fragments with attached cupules. A few carbonized seeds were recovered from these samples and represent species in the fruit/berry, grass/weedy and cultivated categories (see Table 7 Slide 30). 
Each year as we analyze more data from the Late Prehistoric Project sites, we gain new insights on these settlements in Indiana County.  This year, by combining data from excavations to provide context, botanical analyses and AMS radiocarbon dates for the botanicals, I believe we have begun to address some of the questions related to the use of tropical domesticates (like maize, beans, and gourds), and the relationship between these food sources and the major changes in climate that occurred during the medieval warm period prior to A.D. 1300 and the following “Little Ice Age” from A.D. 1300-1450.
To that end, we now have botanical samples from 7 sites (36Wm477, 36In0002, 36In059, 36In362, 36In160, 36In026, and 36In29 are part of the IUP Late Prehistoric investigation.  We plan to include eastern agricultural complex species as well as domesticates like tobacco and continue dating maize from additional sites.
These botanical analyses also show the connections between the sites and the ancient forests in that the wood samples identified in the botanical analyses reflect the composition of those forests.  One of the reasons we see the continued reuse of site locations is because these are places that are not covered by thick ancient forests.  Whether because of the natural setting or the loss of trees due to lightning strikes, it seems likely that villages are located again and again in the same locations because these were the locations that did not have to be cleared. 

The Indiana County Frontier
            Our initial interpretation of a frontier between these two watersheds developed from several observations. The first is that previous researchers such as Johnson and George have described the Late Woodland or Late Prehistoric sites along the Conemaugh Blacklick and Crooked Creek as being part of distinct cultural traditions. Sites along the Conemaugh Blacklick, like the Johnson Site (36In2) and the Squirrel Hill Site have been identified as part of the Monongahela Cultural Tradition found in southwestern Pennsylvania and actually have been used to define one of the Monongahela Phases, the Johnston Phase (AD 1450-1590) (George 1977; Johnson 2001). The Monongahela Tradition is commonly referred to as part of the Late Prehistoric tradition which implies that it is related to groups from the same time period to the west in the Ohio Valley.                           

            The Johnston Phase is also thought to be distinct from other Monongahela phases in that it shows connections to the McFate Cultures found in Northwestern Pennsylvania. The Crooked Creek sites are defined as Late Woodland cultures and are thought to show a stronger connection to sites to the north along the Allegheny River, especially the Fishbasket sites along Redbank Creek excavated by Ken Burkett (see the Armstrong County blog) So we start with a situation in which previous researchers have defined distinct cultural traditions located about 20 miles apart (based on the distance between the main streams).

            Funding to support this research has been provided by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, the Indiana University of Pennsylvania Anthropology Department, IUP College of Humanities and Social Sciences, and University Senate Research Program, the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration Transportation Enhancement Program.
            Special thanks to the US Army Corps of Engineers, Pittsburgh District, especially Deborah Campbell, Norrice King, and Paul Toman for permission to investigate the Johnston Site in 2010.  Special thanks are also made to the dozens of IUP students who participated in field schools in 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008, and 2010 and other IUP faculty and staff members including Dr. Philip Neusius and Dr. Ben Ford for their assistance with various aspects of this project.

References Cited
Chairulli, Beverly A.
2005       New Research on the Late Prehistoric Cultures of Indiana County:  The Carl Fleming Site (36IN26). Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Pennsylvania Archaeology, Morgantown, Pennsylvania April 23.

2001       Prehistoric Settlement Patterns in Upland Settings: An Analysis of Site Data in  Watershed D (Conemaugh River-Black Lick Creek).  In Prehistoric Settlement Patterns in Upland Settings: An Analysis of Site Data in a Sample of Exempted Watersheds. Report prepared for the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Bureau of Historic  Preservation.

Chiarulli, Beverly A. and Sarah W. Neusius
2010       Report on the 2008 Archaeological Investigations and Proposed 2010 Investigations at the Johnston Site (36IN2), Indiana County, Pennsylvania. 1-60

2009       Preliminary Report on the 2008 Excavations at the Johnston Site (36In2). Prepared for the USACE Pittsburgh District 2008 Excavations at the Johnston Site (36In2) Indiana County, Pennsylvania

2008       Report on the 2006 Archaeological Investigations and Proposed 2008 Investigations at the Johnston Site (36In2), Indiana County, Pennsylvania. Report submitted to the Pittsburgh District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, April.

2007       New Dates from the IUP Late Prehistoric Project.  Paper given at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Pennsylvania Archaeology, Allentown, PA.

2004       Late Woodland/Late Prehistoric Settlement in the Central Allegheny Valley.  Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Pennsylvania

Deemer, Michael
2012  Thermal Alteration At The Johnston Site.  A Thesis Submitted to the Department of AnthropologyIn Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Honors Degree Bachelor of Arts

Dragoo, Don.
1956   Excavations at the Johnston Site, Indiana County, Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania  Archaeologist 69(1): 1-96.

Dugas, Lisa
2011       Monongahela Bone Technology: A Zooarchaeological Approach To Identity. MA thesis submitted to the School of Graduate Studies and Research. Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

Espino, Jason, A. Boon, A. Brown, C. Holmes
2012       Analysis of Lithic and Ceramic Artifacts from Select Excavation Units at the Hatfield Site (36WH678): Modeling Lithic Procurement Patterns and Measuring Ceramic Variation. Electronic document,
Artifacts_from_Select_Units_at_the_Hatfield_Site.pdf, Accessed November 29, 2012.

George, Richard L.
2007       Further Discussion of Drew Tradition Radiocarbon Dates, Migration, Mea  Culpa, Etc. Pennsylvania Archaeologist 77(2): 70-75.

1997       McFate Artifacts in a Monongahela Context:  McJunkin, Johnson, and Squirrel Hill.  Pennsylvania Archaeologist 67(1): 35-44

1978    The McJunkin Site:  A Preliminary Report.  Pennsylvania  Archaeologist 48(4):  33-47.

Galentine, Jordon
2012       A Ceramics Analysis Of Crooked Creek Watershed Sites And The Johnston Site.  A Thesis Submitted to the Department of AnthropologyIn Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Honors Degree Bachelor of Arts.

Guilday, John E.
1956       Animal Remains from an Indian Village Site, Indiana County, Pennsylvania.Pennsylvania Archaeologist 69(1): 1-96.

Indiana University of Pennsylvania Libraries
Coal Culture Timeline. Electronic document,, Accessed November 29, 2012.

Johnson, William C.
2001    The Protohistoric Monongahela and the Case for an Iroquois Connection. Societies in Eclipse, Archaeology of the Eastern Woodlands Indians, A.D. 1400-1700. Smithsonian Institution Press.
 Johnson, William C.  and Bernard Means
2007       The Monongahela Tradition of the Late Prehistoric and Protohistoric Periods, A.D. 1150-1635 in the Upper Ohio River Valley

Means, Bernard
2007       Circular Villages of the Monongahela Tradition.  University of Alabama Press:  Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

Mitchell, Seth
2011       Understanding the Occupational History of the Monongahela Johnston Village Site Through Total Artifact Design.  MA thesis submitted to the School of Graduate Studies and Research. Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

Neusius, Sarah W.  and Beverly A. Chiarulli
2012       Dating the Late Pre-Contact Period in Central Western Pennsylvania. Society for American Archaeology Annual Meeting

2009       More New Perspectives on the Johnston Site : The 2008 Excavations   Paper presented at the 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for Pennsylvania Archaeology, Harrisburg, PA, April 5.

Neusius, Sarah W. and Beverly A. Chiarulli
2007a    New Dates from the IUP Late Prehistoric Project.  Poster presented in the poster session “What Happened After AD 1000? Recent Research in the Upper Ohio Watershed” Society for American Archaeology, Austin, Texas, April, 2007

Neusius, Sarah W. and Beverly A. Chiarulli  
2007b    Burying the Past: Observations on Unintentional Site Reburial at the Johnston Site, Indiana Cty, PA. Workshop on Intentional Burial of Archaeological Sites,  Pennsylvania Archaeological Council Workshop, Allentown, PA.

Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR)
2000       Landforms of Pennsylvania: From Map 13, Physiographic Provinces of Pennsylvania. Electronic document,, Accessed November 29, 2012.

Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR)
1990       Geology of Pennsylvania: From Map 7, Geologic Map of Pennsylvania. Electronic document,, Accessed November 29, 2012.

Sagi, Matt
2009       Measuring Human Activity Levels at the Johnston Site.  B.A. Honor’s Thesis.  Department of Anthropology Indiana University of Pennsylvania

United States Census Bureau
2012       Indiana County of Pennsylvania, State and County Quickfacts. Electronic Document,, Accessed November 29, 2012.

Williams, D. R.; McElroy, T. A.
1997       Water resources of Indiana County, Pennsylvania. U.S. Geologic Survey Water-Resources Investigations Report 95-4164.

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