I-95 archaeology project

Archaeology for the I-95 Project

Kristin Swanton, MA RPA Archaeologist at URS Corporation Burlington, New Jersey USA

Archaeology for the I-95 Project

Fieldwork for the I-95 highway expansion project in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (USA), has been going on for several years now and in various phases of research. Thus, this project requires our crew (from the cultural resources division of URS Corporation, Burlington, New Jersey, USA) to work year-round and in all types of environmental conditions. Work for the I-95 project starts bright and early at 7AM when our crew gathers on site. For the past several days I have been working with 2-3 other crew members excavating an unusually large 5’ x 7’ test unit. This unit straddles a historical period rock wall foundation that is likely associated with a 20th century domestic structure. Adjacent units have revealed both historical and prehistoric artifacts from fill as well as intact soil layers. Today we were hoping to learn more about the interior of the historical era building as well as understand the relationship between our prehistoric artifacts and ones found in surrounding excavation units. While I was digging, the remaining crew members were screening for artifacts. The soil was very compact and required time and patience completing both activities. Screened artifacts were placed in plastic bags that were labeled with their corresponding location information. Thus far, no unique artifacts were found today, but there is still more work to be done tomorrow and research questions to be addressed!


Not a bad day of work

Louis Magazzu, URS Corporation Burlington, New Jersey USA

Normally my weekdays consist of digging features or test units underneath I-95 in Philadelphia (Pennsylvania, USA).  In the two years I’ve been working there I have seen such a wide variety of materials that you never really know what to expect.  This week however I’m seeing how the other half lives; I’m working in the lab getting a little taste of everything.  It’s Tuesday.  Jen Rankin, one of the field supervisors, asks me to set up a display featuring some of the I-95 project’s finest prehistoric finds.  We walk to her cubicle where she gives me a goodie box that would excite any prehistorian.  Some of the highlights include unifacial tools, bifacial blades, a broken atlatl weight, a handful of pot sherds, some clay pipe fragments, two tiny beads, dozens of projectile points of diverse types and materials, and finally taking center stage is a beautiful gorget of burnished slate with incised decoration broken rather neatly into two pieces.  I go upstairs to my case, clean it, and lay a black table cloth inside. At lunch I get a phone call from Kevin Donaghy, a Temple University graduate student whom I have been helping out on Saturdays on his site at the Revolutionary War battlefield of Brandywine (Pennsylvania, USA).  He excitedly tells me he thinks he’s found something important.  We are going back this weekend to check it out.  After lunch I place groups of artifacts on slabs of timber, place labels with each artifact type, and put a few sketches in the case showing some objects as they would have originally looked.  The case is complete but there is still a bit of space on the surrounding desk.  I take a bag of some experimental stone working fragments and set up a display showing successive stages in lithic reduction from chert cobble to several different blanks that might become projectile points or bifaces.  Not a bad day of work.

I have just returned to my office…

philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA  (Posted by the Philadelphia Archaeological Forum webmaster)

I have just returned to my office in Burlington, NJ (USA) after spending most of the month of July on an archaeological survey in the Pocono Mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania (USA).  During the survey, we identified several historical period farmsteads and one significant Native American Woodland-period occupation along the Lehigh River. Today, I reviewed the data and the results of a geomorphological study completed by Dr. Frank Vento of Clarion University, his students (Ethan Mott and Devin Kuberry), and myself. I also assisted Lou Magazzu on developing a display case for the public that is part of the I-95/GIR Improvement Corridor Project (roadwork that will upgrade a major highway within the city of Philadelphia.) The display will draw upon new findings produced by URS Corporation, which is the company I work for. The cultural resources division of URS (a civil engineering company) is conducting this archaeological resource study for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation in advance of the road construction developments. The display will highlight Native American settlements that once existed within what is now the city of Philadelphia. URS recently recovered a bifurcated projectile point dating (broadly) between 6500 and 5000 years ago that represents the earliest stone tool recovered from the Philadelphia region. We hope to soon recover a radiocarbon sample that will provide a more absolute date.

After my day at the office, my evening was spent at Temple University in Philadelphia, PA, where I am a graduate student in the Department of Anthropology earning a Ph.D. degree. I worked on the artifact collection from my dissertation site which is a Native American site located outside of Hamburg, PA (USA). The site dates from the Late Paleoindian period (10,000 years ago) through to the Late Archaic period (1200 years ago). My specific research interest is the earlier periods of prehistory (10,000 to 8000 years ago).  Today’s work focused on a particular aspect of the assemblage that involved lithic (stone) raw material procurement and thermal (heat applied) alterations to those materials, which allowed for more controlled flaking in the production of stone tools. I will be conducting an experiment that tests thermal alterations of a very specific chert source from New York State that commonly does not exhibit alterations in the archaeological record.  The exception to this is my dissertation site and several nearby sites dating to the same time period.

By Jennifer C. Rankin: Archaeologist at URS Corporation/Graduate Student at Temple University