Friday, September 21, 2012

Fort Hunter Update: Bagpipes and Blimps

interested visitors to Fort Hunter Day view the site

By all accounts, Fort Hunter Day this past Sunday was a resounding success. Over 5000 visitors were in attendance enjoying arts and crafts, and of course delicious offerings of food throughout the park. The excavation block too was a flurry of activity with the full complement of the State Museum of PA, Section of Archaeology staff on hand and a dozen eager volunteers excited about exploring history hands-on.  For the most part the day was an even mix of continuing to remove prehistoric levels surrounding the well feature and pausing to answer the questions of a near constant stream of inquisitive folks of all ages about what we were finding and how we go about finding it.

young volunteers learning to screen under Jim's watchful supervision

The well feature itself was also cleaned up and some progress made. On Sunday, intermixed with coal ash, cinders and slag, a large section of a glass hurricane lamp was recovered. Given the context of its discovery it is comfortably 19th century in origin.  Oyster shells and dietary bone fragments also continued to be unearthed from the well. The extent of the excavation in this feature now stands at over 10 feet below our datum or about 8 feet from the ground surface.

glass hurricane lamp fragment fresh from the well shaft

One personal highlight of the day was the rare combination of a mid-morning serenade from a set of bagpipes while troweling through stratum 3, level 1 of the N85 W5 unit. Now, many people have heard bagpipes, and an ever growing number of people have participated in archaeological excavations, but both at the same time? I would wager the number of people that have had the pleasure of that unique experience is relatively small. Other oddities witnessed at the site include this Navy airship. The MZ-3A, the only one of its kind, was spotted floating overhead on a crystal blue afternoon.

Navy airship overhead

The fruits of our labors continued to pay off on Monday, as a Koens-Crispin projectile point fashioned from metarhyolite was recovered from the FCR feature (north of the well) that had also been producing chert, quartz and jasper debitage as well as the occasional very small fragment of prehistoric pottery. The Koens-Crispin projectile point type has been dated elsewhere to the Transitional Archaic Period, or roughly in the neighborhood of 4000 years ago. This particular specimen’s slightly asymmetrical shape suggests it may have been hafted to a short handle and functioned more like a knife as opposed to the business end of a long spear.
metarhyolite Koen-Crispin projectile point

As the saying goes, ‘all good things must come to an end’ and unfortunately such was the case with the fantastic stretch of weather we had for the first week and a half of the 2012 excavation season at Fort Hunter. Like most activities taking place outside this past Tuesday, our field work was a complete wash.

a soggy Tuesday morning

However, undaunted by the precipitation, the crew rebounded Wednesday and Thursday removing several more discrete levels of stratum 3 down to level 10 in the units south of the well feature. Level 10 is likely early Holocene (8000 to 9000 years old) in age and we are anxious for geomorphologist, Dr. Frank Vento, Clarion University of Pennsylvania to visit the site this Friday. Pebbles and cobbles are increasing in frequency in the lower levels of these units. The high energy floods that may have deposited this material may have also eroded any cultural materials and we are interested in Dr. Vento’s assessment of these layers.
Finally, four new units have extended the block to the north where it now meets the steep bank that drops off some 35 feet below to the trickling waters of Fishing Creek. If there was a stockade along the north edge of the fort (which we feel is unlikely considering the steep cliff), it should be evident in these units. 

the work continues - remains of FCR feature looking North

Stay tuned for more updates as next week we mark the half-way point in the 2012 excavation season at Fort Hunter Mansion and Park!

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

No comments:

Post a Comment