Museums and Historic Sites presents news and information about the historic sites and museums of PHMC.

When you walk through the Hall of Anthropology in the William Penn Memorial Museum, you will almost be able to feel that you are an integral part of one or more of the many life ways portrayed there.

For some persons that feeling will be even more intensified – for they actually participated in finding materials that will be there on display.

The Anthropology Hall, scheduled to open shortly, will depict life as it was in Pennsylvania for the last 10,000 years as reconstructed by the archeologist. It will show two kinds of archeological sites, the techniques used to extract information from them, and the types of material cultural remains – artifacts – recovered. The life of a Delaware Indian, from birth to death, at the time of first European contact will be shown in the concluding sections.

The Hall of Anthropology is only one aspect of the culmination of years of archeological and historical research. Each summer the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission sends its professional staff archeologists into the field to investigate historic and prehistoric sites, many of which are threatened with destruction. In the last eight years alone, the archeologists have excavated more than twenty major sites and numerous lesser ones.

Many of the sites explored by Commission archeologists, Barry C. Kent and Ira F. Smith, III, were excavated under what they call the “Susquehannock Research Program.” That program is now terminated. Many of the artifacts are on display in the new Hall; all of what has been learned will become the subject of a book that is to be written by the two men and published in the Commission’s Anthropological Series.

What is this Susquehannock program that has resulted in so much – not only in collection of artifacts, material for lectures, articles, and books – but, perhaps, equally, if not more importantly, enthusiasm of many persons of all ages throughout Pennsylvania (and other states as well)?

The Susquehannock Indians are historically significant because they destroyed and assimilated the Shenks Ferry Indians, who were the indigenous people of the Susquehannock River Valley from 1100 A.D. to 1550 A.D. White men apparently never met these latter Indians, but research shows that they initially lived throughout the Valley, but by around 1450 A.D. had become confined to the lower Susquehanna Valley. Their origins remain a mystery.

About 1525 or 1550 A.D., the Susquehannocks began moving southward from their homeland in northern Pennsylvania-southern New York for a variety of reasons – socioeconomic pressures from the Iroquois. These Susquehannocks, who had been scattered, began to consolidate, and consequently, a conflict with the indigenous Shenks Ferry Indians ensued. The first Susquehannock village, occupied in the lower Susquehanna Valley approximately 1575 to 1600 A.D., was known as the Shultz site.

The Susquehannocks dominated the lower Susquehanna Valley until about 1675 A.D. when a combined force of Maryland colonists and Seneca Indians destroyed them as a significant political entity at a site. That site, not completely obliterated, is known as the Strickler site. Remnants of the once strong Susquehannock tribe moved for a short time to the Chesapeake Bay area and eventually returned to Pennsylvania, where they settled at Conestoga Town in Lancaster County. They lived there until they were massacred in 1763 by the “Paxton Boys” of Harrisburg.

The Susquehannock research program has helped place the pieces of the “puzzle” together. And because both Kent and Smith have been deeply concerned not only about collecting but about salvaging, both believe the project has been successful. (As state archeologists, of course, both Kent and Smith are intent upon saving, before historically valuable material is destroyed.)

Although the project has been underway for several years, this past summer’s experience resulted in various effects that almost seem to capture, at least for the writer, the entire long-term effort.

Funded by the Pennsylvania Power and Light Company, this summer’s experience that centered at two sites in Manor Township, Lancaster County, may not be unique, but certainly goes beyond many person’s dreams. (Pennsylvania Power and Light owns the land, and Smith noted, funded the project under the Commission’s direction from a sense of community spirit.)

Smith’s approach this past summer at one site, the Funk site, was one of a philosophy of “Public Sharing In Education.” This philosophy released itself in sharing the excitement of discovery with as many persons as possible in a controlled manner. The philosophy extended itself to two other basic areas as well: (1) to impress upon the general public the importance of preserving archeological materials and the care and techniques needed to accomplish this, and (2) to make the public aware that archeology is hard work and certainly not all glamour as so often portrayed.

Persons of all ages participated in Smith’s project. Particularly significant was the experience of a selected group of sixteen high school students, members of the Pennsylvania Federation of Junior Historians. The students chosen by Smith and Carl Oblinger, executive secretary of the Federation, through extensive personal interviews, were divided into two groups; they attended classes, worked in the field, in laboratories and attended evening lectures. Headquarters were at Millersville State College.

Smith’s total program of educational sharing had three levels of public involvement. (One already noted included the high school students.) Six qualified college students formed the teaching and working nucleus of the project. Jeffrey R. Graybill of Willow Street, Pa., doctoral candidate at the University of Washington, was appointed field director.

The third level of public involvement under Smith’s direction was that of public visitation and participation. During two days of each week, morning and afternoon sessions were held. Sessions included a slide show, artifact exhibits, visitations to a nearby seventeenth century excavation and supervised excavations.

A major and thrilling surprise found by Smith and his crew was the discovery of two completely unknown Shenks Ferry villages. A Shenks Ferry village (the Funk site) had, of course, been known previously, but to find two more villages was very significant.

That was not the only surprise Smith and his crew encountered. An additional major surprise was the discovery of two previously unknown Susquehannock Indian cemeteries, dated approximately 1550-1575 A.D. These two Indian cemeteries accompanied the first village site occupied by the Susquehannocks when they moved into the lower Susquehanna Valley, the Shultz site.

Kent’s project last summer was located at the Strickler site, a Susquehannock town dated 1640-1675 A.D. The area of the village is approximately ten acres, consisting of a palisaded town and a series of cemeteries. The site was so huge that bulldozers were used to strip the top surface. Afterwards, field crews planed the subsoil surface with flat shovels and trowels to enable the archeologist to read features.

Kent’s excavations in 1974 were confined to one of the Strickler cemeteries. One of the most thrilling finds was the discovery of a medal, either of Charles I (1625-1641) or Charles II (1660-1681). The importance of this discovery, naturally, is that it helps to date the site more precisely.

The same overall methodological guidelines were applicable to the projects of both Kent and Smith. The actual site where Smith and his crew worked was one-fourth mile from Kent’s Susquehannock site. Smith’s site was technically not a Susquehannock site, but a Shenks Ferry Indian site, dated 1450-1550 A.D.

Kent and Smith both emphasize that they are available for consultation if you should find what could possibly be a scientifically important artifact or site in your own back yard. As state archeologists (and because they are intensely interested as well), they are always available for such advice.

The files of Kent and Smith are filled with names of persons who want to participate in projects such as the one held last summer. Both men try to employ persons with either previous experience or anthropology majors in their crews. Kent had five last summer: Charles Douts of Washington Boro, a student at York Campus of the Pennsylvania State University; Stephen Warfel of Somerdale, N.J., Franklin and Marshall College graduate, John Perlis, Penn State University graduate student; Daniel Crouch of Springfield, Va., Penn State graduate and master of art’s degree recipient from the University of North Carolina, and Russell Hartman of Lebanon, also a Penn State graduate.

Smith’s staff, in addition to Graybill, consisted of David McVey of Orangeville R.D. 1, Gettysburg College graduate; Leon P. Andrews of York, Franklin and Marshall College graduate; Mary L. Hediger of Philadelphia, doctoral candidate at the University of Pennsylvania; Andrew A. Jarvis of Lancaster, master’s candidate at the University of Pennsylvania; and Michael K. McInerney of Millersville, undergraduate at Millersville State College.

High school students participating were John S. Baldwin, Lancaster; Joseph G. Haldeman, Lancaster; Gregory Bertolini, Warren; Cris Konezo, Pottsville; Marty Neikirk, Lancaster; Annette Ragowski, Pottsville; Sandra Yost, Ambler; Margaret Wolfe, Camp Hill; Harry Barbour, Stoneboro; David Smith, Gloversville, N.Y.; Robert McDonald, New Philadelphia; Michele Siuren, Warren; Susan Martin, DingĀ­man’s Ferry; Cathy Dugas, Slovan; and Jo Ellen Saylor, East Petersburg.