Lost and Found features brief profiles of historic landmarks and structures, one lost and one saved.


Sheep Rock Shelter in Juniata Township, Huntingdon County — one of the most significant archaeological sites in eastern North America — was discovered in 1957 by a boater on the Raystown Branch of the Juniata River. Excavations at the shelter yielded evidence of nine thousand years of human habitation, more or less continuously from 7000 BC to about AD 1500. The shelter’s rock overhang provided natural protection, resulting in the extraordinary preservation of perishable objects, such as textiles and basketry.

The Sheep Rock Shelter was formed by water that cut away at a rock outcropping as the river rounded a tight bend in its course. The rock shelter was especially attractive to early inhabitants because the nearby water contained a bountiful supply of fish, shellfish, and various aquatic animals. The overhang of nearly thirty feet — protecting a living area measuring three thousand square feet — would have afforded occupants protection from rain and biting winds. The shelter’s name originated with the flocks of sheep that grazed on the nearby hills after the virgin timber had been lumbered in the 1860s, and many found refuge beneath the rock overhang.

Sheep Rock Shelter had been accessible by land until 1920, when construction of a small hydroelectric dam flooded the valley floor and it became reachable only by watercraft. A number of archaeologists and their students investigated the site, intensifying their efforts after the Army Corps of Engineers announced plans, in the early 1960s, to construct a huge dam for flood control, whose waters would inundate the site. Raystown Lake, built between 1968 and 1978, covers 8,300 acres, claims 118 miles of shoreline, and is a popular recreational destination. Beneath the lake’s crystalline waters lies Sheep Rock Shelter, lost to further archeological investigation and study.



During the summers of 2002 and 2003, an archaeological team from The State Museum of Pennsylvania, led by Stephen G. Warfel, senior curator of archaeology, discovered the location of the Mount Zion Prayer House, built in 1739 at Ephrata Cloister in Lancaster County. The large postholes found by the archaeologists indicate the building was post-built, utilizing an expedient construction technology common to early colonial settlements. Primary documents reveal the house was built for the Cloister’s celibate men, known as the Zionitic Brotherhood. In the winter of 1777–1778, the Continental Army confiscated the Mount Zion Prayer House to use as a hospital.

Knowledge of the location of the Mount Zion Prayer House on the modern landscape was lost — a fate shared by many of Ephrata Cloister’s buildings — after its abandonment and demolition nearly two hundred years ago. Since 1993, The State Museum’s archaeology teams, made up of college students and volunteers, successfully located and explored the sites of the Cloister’s first communal dormitory, built in 1735, the Mount Zion dormitory, built in 1738, and numerous outbuildings. Findings will be used to further interpret the National Historic Landmark.

Ephrata Cloister, founded by Conrad Beissel (1691–1768) in 1732, was one of the country’s earliest religious communities. At its zenith in the 1740s and 1750s, the Cloister counted three hundred members who worked and worshipped in the compound of unusual European-style buildings in a quest for spiritual enrichment rather than earthly rewards. The historic site is administered by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC) as a popular attraction along the Pennsylvania Trails of History. The PHMC adopted the appreciation of archaeology as its annual theme for 2007.