Thursday, May 10, 2012

Chester County

This week we are pleased to feature Chester County, Pennsylvania as our TWIPA blog. Chester County is located in extreme southeastern Pennsylvania. It is surrounded by Lancaster, Montgomery and Delaware counties. The Brandywine drainage cross cuts this section of the Piedmont physiographic province. Other water systems border on the county’s north side and form part of the Schuylkill River Valley. As of January 1, 2012 there are 920 recorded archaeological sites in Chester County with the vast majority Archaic in age.

Broadly speaking, this was the homeland of the Lenni Lenape or Delaware Indians. According to “A Map of 18th Century Indian Towns in Pennsylvania” (Kent et al 1981: Table 1) six of their settlements were located in Chester County: Okehocking, Queonemysing and four others, whose Delaware names are not known. Colonial documents identify these settlements as being variously occupied from the 1690’s to the 1730’s when William Penn was beginning to establish a foothold in the land we call Pennsylvania. This peaceful relationship between the Natives and Europeans was short lived. It was not long before the Delaware began a long migration westward to a place now called Oklahoma, where their descendents live to this day. The principal route used in this relocation was through central Pennsylvania where the Delaware established temporary settlements along the Susquehanna’s West Branch and on into the Ohio country.

In terms of archaeological sites we are most fortunate to have a large database established for much of the county, especially for the central and western sections of the Brandywine and West Brandywine Creeks. An incredible number of Native American artifacts spanning the period from Paleo-Indian through the 18th century have been found along these drainages. One of these enormous collections is curated at The State Museum of Pennsylvania where it is maintained for research and exhibition purposes.

The Dutt Family Indian Artifact Collection

On October 5, 1982 the Dutt Family Indian Artifact Collection was donated to The State Museum of Pennsylvania by Fred C. Dutt and Louis W. Dutt, Jr. It included 26,000 bifacially flaked tools (13,728 whole projectile points), numerous large pecked and ground stone tools, and prehistoric ceramics. This private collection provides dramatic illustration of the ways in which Native American inhabitants of the Brandywine Creek drainage utilized readily available natural resources throughout time.

Notes taken by the Dutts proclaiming the 7,000th "dart" found

Artifact collection locations recorded by the Dutt family revealed information on 66 new archaeological sites in Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties which have since been added to the Pennsylvania Archaeological Site Survey (P.A.S.S.). All pieces were found by surface or field hunting over a period of nearly 85 years.

Never owning an automobile, the Dutt brothers would ride the West Chester trolley to the end of its several lines and return home on foot, collecting from farm fields along the way. They donated the entire collection to The State Museum of Pennsylvania so that it could be enjoyed by future generations and to insure that it would not be dispersed after their deaths.

Redware artifacts recovered from 36Ch687

Over the years numerous cultural resource management projects involving archaeological survey and data recovery have been conducted in Chester County. One of these, the data recovery of (36CH687) a little house located in a corner of the Havard Farm on Swedes Ford Road (Affleck et al. 2004). This site was a homestead occupied around the turn of the 19th century. Discovery of the partially preserved remains of a stone house foundation, the remnants of an outdoor oven and a trash strewn yard indicate a simple household. Perhaps built and used by a family of rural underclass people. They were not unique to the region nor the time. By 1820 the property was abandoned leaving behind the evidence of their lives. Dietary information, or “what the occupants ate” recovered from the site included the bones of animals, cereal grains and to a lesser extent, condiments and fruits. Pigs and sheep were the principal meat sources consumed throughout the year and the analysis found that young animals were preferred for their tenderness. Indeed, it is truly amazing what archaeologists can interpret from the lost and discarded artifacts/ecofacts of a site.

Handpainted Pearlware and a glass bottle recovered from 36CH687

We hope you have enjoyed this glimpse into Chester County archaeology and encourage you to visit us next time, on our journey to Save the Past for the Future.


Affleck, R.M., D. Eichinger, J. Moore, M. Scheerer, B. Springstead, B. Seidel, J. Harbison,G. Miller, K. Bieling,M. Janowitz, A. Eichinger, M. Pipes and L. Raymer

2004 Life on the Periphery: Data Recovery Investigations of the Wilson Tract Site (36CH687), Circa 1780-1820. URS Corporation. Report prepared for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation Engineering District 6-0 and Federal Highway Administration

Kent, B. C., J. Rice and K. Ota

1981 A Map of 18th Century Indian Towns in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania Archaeologist 51(4):1-18.

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

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