Marking Time highlights one of the more than 2,500 markers that have been installed throughout the state since 1914 as part of the Pennsylvania Historical Marker Program, operated by PHMC's State Historic Preservation Office.

The Shawnee-Minisink site in Monroe County contains some of the earliest evidence of human occupation in eastern North America, carbon-14 dated to around 11,000 BCE. While other sites from the Paleoindian period have been found, very few have been undisturbed. Buried beneath nearly 8 feet of sediment, the archaeological deposits of Shawnee-Minisink remained protected for ages. Archaeologists have been conducting investigations in the area for more than 40 years and have uncovered tens of thousands of artifacts.

The site was discovered in 1972 by Donald Kline, a Monroe County native and amateur archaeologist. Kline undertook the first excavations, and after he reported his preliminary findings he was joined by American University’s Department of Anthropology, under the direction of Dr. Charles McNett, in a collaborative effort to uncover the virtual treasure trove of Native American artifacts. Over a period of several years, this first effort revealed 55,000 specimens. Twenty-five years later in 2003 additional excavations, supported by grants from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, were launched, yielding an additional 10,000 specimens.

Excavation of Shawnee-Minisink in the 1970s. American University

Excavation of Shawnee-Minisink in the 1970s. American University

There were several important discoveries made at the site. Paleoindians in this part of Pennsylvania were thought to have been big game hunters. Evidence found at Shawnee-Minisink revealed that these early people had a much more varied diet that included seeds and fruit. Fish bones also indicated that they caught and ate fish.

Another significant finding was that there is an undisturbed Paleoindian living floor (and possibly another one) buried at this site. It is one of the best examples of a Paleoindian living floor in the eastern United States and includes cooking hearths and stone-tool production areas. Also discovered were two Clovis spearpoints. Clovis is the earliest-known style with fluting, or a groove, presumably made to attach the point more securely to the spearshaft. The points and tools were fabricated from both local stone and lithic material from farther afield, demonstrating that contrary to some models for the Paleoindian period, these people may not have been traveling long distances during their regular seasonal movements in search of food.

In addition to Paleoindian deposits found at the site, Shawnee-Minisink provides an almost complete record of prehistoric cultures in Pennsylvania spanning more than 10,000 years into the Late Woodland period. This affords researchers the opportunity to study changes to human populations over a very long period of time at a single location. Analysis of the artifacts continues and will contribute further to our understanding of past cultural behavior.

The Shawnee-Minisink Archaeological Site marker was erected at River’s Edge Park in Monroe County in July 2010. The exact location of the site has been kept confidential to maintain its integrity.

 

More than 200 endscrapers, probably used for cleaning hides, were found at Shawnee-Minisink. Photo by Joe Gingerich

More than 200 endscrapers, probably used for cleaning hides, were found at Shawnee-Minisink. Photo by Joe Gingerich

A Clovis spearpoint uncovered at the site in 1973. Photo by Michael Franks

A Clovis spearpoint uncovered at the site in 1973. Photo by Michael Franks

 

 

Karen Galle is on the staff of PHMC’s State Historic Preservation Office and has been the coordinator of the Pennsylvania Historical Marker Program since 2005.