Temple University

Jennifer A. Rankin – A ‘Day of Archaeology’, 2015: Snyder Site Complex, Phillipsburg, New Jersey (USA)

PhD Student at Temple University (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA)
Archaeologist at AECOM (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA):
Snyder Site Complex webpage (www.snydersitecomplex.com)

This summer we began Temple University’s first season for geology/archaeology at the Snyder Site Complex in Phillipsburg, New Jersey. For the last few decades, over 30 fluted Paleoindian projectile points or bifaces have been reported from plowed/surface and buried contexts. While there are many Paleoindian sites in the area, most are exposed on the surface or plow zone. The Snyder Complex, along with two other localities (Shawnee-Minisink and Nesquehoning Creek Site), represent the only Paleoindian localities within buried/stratified contexts in the Delaware Valley.

While we are along halfway through the season, the excavations to-date have been very successful. At the end of June, we hit a stratified Late Paleoindian occupation with one fluted spearhead point, many scrapers and tools, and numerous pieces of flaked stone debitage. Even more, we identified a detailed environmental chronology before and after the Younger Dryas that will help us reconstruct the landscape from 13,000 years ago to present day. And much more remains for the rest of the summer and fall.

This week has been very busy and could not have been successful without the help of many volunteers, which include students from Temple/West Chester/Mercyhurst to retirees. At the beginning of the week, we entertained many visitors coming in to the Phillipsburg area for Thomas the Train Weekend. The Delaware River Railroad Excursions has a train stop right to the Snyder Farm. Not only did we reach out to folks from the NYC and Philly metro areas, we had many visitors from afar – most notably were families California, the South, Hong Kong and Germany.

During the middle of the week, geomorphologist Dr. Frank Vento of Mercyhurst University stopped by to confirm our thoughts on the formation of the Snyder Site Complex. Last spring, Dr. R. Michael Stewart and myself placed a series of soil auger borings to characterize a generally broad, level-lying landform that is now a terrace of the Delaware River. What we have identified is that we were sitting on a now-buried landscape full of natural features often associated with floodplains and peri-glacial landforms, including evidence of overbanking, a migrating relict levee, backchannels/swales, flood chutes, and backswamp depressions (flood pooling). We also brought in ground penetrating radar (GPR) to see if we could further characterize these features and landforms. Check out the results of one of our transects in the figure to see an example of a paleo-channel or swale. I don’t want to give too much away as we will be presenting our results at this year’s Geological Society of America in Baltimore.

This weekend, we are hosting a day for the Delaware Water Gap Native Youth Camp to visit the Snyder Site Complex. The Mohnican-Munsee-Delaware tribes will be sending their youth to help excavations and view/investigate some of the many landform features at the site complex, including a chert/flint geological formation. This visit is to expose the youth to career paths in environmental fields (such as archaeology, geology, and biology), while gaining a sense of identity and cultural knowledge.
If you are interested in learning more about the Snyder Site Complex or volunteering, please visit http://www.snydersitecomplex.com/

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

A Day of Archaeology from the City of Brotherly Love (And Beyond)

It’s been a typically diverse summer day for me. One of my ongoing projects deals with understanding the initial adoption of pottery technology by the Indian peoples of the Delaware Valley (between roughly 1600 BC and 1000 BC) and subsequent trends in the manufacture and use of pots. Today I reviewed a number of recently published articles on the subject and made arrangements to see collections of pottery from archaeological sites in New Jersey (Gloucester County) and Pennsylvania (Philadelphia). I also continued my review and organization of data from an ongoing excavation project I direct, along with graduate student Jeremy Koch, in the Lehigh River Gorge of Pennsylvania. This location is a fantastic layer cake of deposits left by Indian groups beginning around 11,300 years ago and ending in colonial times. The site was brought to our attention by amateur archaeologist, Del Beck, who was concerned about the site being looted. Del remains an important member of our research team along with my old friend and amateur archaeologist, Tommy Davies, and colleagues from the State Museum of Pennsylvania, Clarion and Baylor universities. We are currently into our 5th year of investigations at the site and are collecting evidence of native cultures that is rarely seen in buried and undisturbed contexts in Pennsylvania. I’m looking forward to my next trip to the site later this week.

Michael Stewart, archaeologist in the Department of Anthropology at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA


For the record, I’m not an archaeologist. I manage the regional historic preservation program for the Mid-Atlantic region of the U.S. General Services Administration. The regional headquarters is in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania although the region covers six states from New Jersey to Virginia. We undertake a number of projects for the federal government that involve ground disturbing activities and I manage the regional regulatory compliance, including archaeological investigations. On June 25, 26, and 27 I reported to a customer agency about the ongoing investigation of two historic archaeological sites at their project site in southern Virginia, sent copies of correspondence and archaeological resource identification reports to a couple of Native American tribes who expressed interest in being consulting parties to a Section 106 consultation, prepared a scope of work to direct an archaeological contractor to undertake a survey to identify whether or not there are archaeological resources present in a planned project area, and worked on slides describing how to incorporate archaeology into project planning for a training presentation I’ll be giving in a few months.

Donna Andrews, Regional Historic Preservation Officer, GSA Mid-Atlantic Region, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania USA


In the evening of June 25, 2012, I edited a draft of a publication being prepared regarding a multi-component prehistoric site (28GL228) located in New Jersey immediately east of Philadelphia (Pennsylvania, USA). The article will be published in the journal entitled Archaeology of Eastern North America and presented at the 2012 Eastern States Archaeological Federation meeting in Ohio (USA). The data from 28GL228 provides insight into Native American culture in the Philadelphia region. This project is being conducted on a volunteer basis.

Jesse Walker, MA, RPA


I, Poul Erik Graversen, MA (Masters), RPA (Registered Professional Archaeologist), spent most of my Monday, June 25, 2012, doing research for my PhD/Doctorate Degree.  I am currently living and working in New Jersey (USA), not far from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where I grew up; however I attend the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom.  Literature on free African Americans in the antebellum northeastern United States is sparse.  The literature that can be found on this very important topic has had little focus on the placement, layout, settlement patterns, and the archaeological record of these people.  My PhD dissertation aims to fill in the gaps of current scholarship focused on African American archaeology in the northeastern United States by means of an in depth analysis of both enslaved and free African American settlements in not only the northeastern United States, but in the southern United States and West Africa as well.  By analyzing the settlement patterns and socio-economic reasons behind the settlement patterns in other parts of the United States and the world, a clearer and more concise picture of the reasons behind the settlement patterns of free and enslaved African Americans in the northeastern United States will emerge.  Most of the information amassed in this regard up to this point stems from a historical perspective, with archaeological contributions and content lacking.  The new information gathered in this dissertation will shed light on the life-ways of these people via the archaeological record of both enslaved and free African American Diaspora in the northeastern United States of America and the ramifications of their extended exposure to European influence in North America. 

Poul Erik Graversen, MA, RPA PhD/Doctoral Candidate University of Leicester
Principle Investigator/Instructor Monmouth University New Jersey USA


Worked in the morning on several writing projects including my material culture based memoir: “Some Things of Value: A Childhood Through Objects”, my essay with my colleague Julie Steele on Valley Forge and Petersburg National Park Service sites, and some new stuff on American Mortuary practices inspired by my attendance and paper presentation at last week’s national meeting of the Association for Gravestone Studies held in Monmouth, New Jersey (USA). At about 10:30 am left Temple University (in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) and went to Elfreth’s Alley [the oldest street in the USA) and discussed the excavations now underway, directed by my graduate student Deirdre Kelleher, ably assisted by two energetic volunteers and fellow student Matt Kalos. Three foundations have appeared (not the expected two) and need to be sorted out. Lots of stuff to think about there: the growth of 18th century Philadelphia, perhaps the first settlements there, the 19th century immigration and its impacts, all to be read through material culture; especially the remarkable surviving architecture. Greatly relieved not to get a speeding ticket as I journeyed back to Delaware City (Delaware, USA) where I answered some queries and agreed to some talks; including one on the Fourth of July!! My local historical society is busy trying to save a magnificent mid-18th century farmhouse on an imposing knoll surrounded by lowland farm ground and wetlands. Approved a draft to hopefully speed the preservation process along. Also reviewed the National Register nomination crafted by a group of us working at the Plank Log House in Marcus Hook, Pa., another early structure in the Delaware Valley. Regretfully decided that I could not attend the Fields of Conflict 7th Annual Meeting in Hungary this October. The day ended with a group response, led by my next door neighbor, to save an injured Great Blue Heron which found itself in front of our house. By 8:00 pm the heron was revived and taken care of at a friend’s animal hospital!

David G. Orr, Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


I spent the day doing fieldwork at Elfreth’s Alley in Old City Philadelphia (Pennsylvania, USA) as part of my doctoral research.  Elfreth’s Alley, designated as a National Historical Landmark, is credited with being one of the oldest residential streets in the nation.  My research seeks to illuminate the lives of the inhabitants on the Alley, especially the many European immigrants who resided on the small street during the nineteenth century.  This summer, I am working behind 124 and 126 Elfreth’s Alley which house a small museum and gift shop.  During the day I worked with volunteers from the local community who came out to learn about and participate in the excavation.  I also spent time discussing my project with the many visitors who came to the Museum of Elfreth’s Alley.

Deirdre Kelleher, Doctoral Student, Temple University, Department of Anthropology, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


I am a Rutgers University (New Jersey, USA) lecturer who teaches in three programs (Anthropology, Art History, Cultural Heritage); I also am a sole proprietor archaeological consultant with 25 years of archaeological experience – every day is always busy, diverse in the tasks and projects I work on, and linked with archaeology and anthropology. Today I: 1. Finished and submitted a review for a textbook on on Native American history and culture to a major publisher of archaeology and anthropology texts 2. Submitted an application to be listed as an independent archaeological consultant for the state of Pennsylvania 3. Gathered material for, and started writing a draft of, a syllabus for one of three courses I will be teaching next fall (“Cemeteries, Monuments, and Memorials: Cultural Heritage and Remembering the Dead”) 4. Wrote a short draft of an invited book contribution on the topic of an Alaskan archaeological site I helped to excavate in 1987 and 1994.

Katharine Woodhouse-Beyer


I just returned from a visit to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, where I viewed the traveling Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit at the Franklin Institute in which the accompanying artifacts of everyday life illuminate the scrolls themselves. I also was privileged to enjoy a preview of reconstructed transfer-printed creamware pitchers that will be included in an exhibit commemorating the War of 1812.  Curiosity about the images of naval engagements on these Philadelphia artifacts led me to explore similar prints offered on the websites of antique print dealers as well as on the Library of Congress Guide to the War of 1812. Researching Melungeons in aid of a relative’s family history quest, I examined Kenneth B. Tankersley’s work about the Red Bird River Shelter petroglyphs in Clay County, KY.

K. L. Brauer, Maryland, USA


June 26, 2012

Today, at Drexel University (in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA), I met with two Digital Media undergraduates developing digital assets representing the James Oronoco Dexter House, the site of which was excavated in Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia.  The 3D model will eventually serve as a virtual environment in which users interact with avatars and take part in “possible” conversations that led to the formation of the African Church, later known as, The African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas, which are known to have occurred in this home. Jason Kirk, a junior who received a Steinbright Career Development Center Research Co-op Award to work on the project, is completing the latest digital model.  Jason and I met with freshman Joseph Tomasso who received a Pennoni Honor’s College STAR (Students Tracking Advanced Research) Fellowship to work on the project. Today is Joe’s first day on the summer term Fellowship. He will develop digital 3D models of appropriate furniture and furnishings that will be used to populate the house.  Virtual artifacts will include ceramics recovered from the archaeological site that are believed to be associated with Dexter’s occupation.  The purpose of the meeting was to prepare for a session with Independence National Historical Park representatives on Wednesday, June 27th.  At that Park meeting we will review the house model and will discuss appropriate virtual furnishings with Park experts.  The model has been prepared with advice from archaeologists Jed Levin and Doug Mooney (who excavated and interpreted the Dexter House site) and guidance from Public Archaeologist, Patrice Jeppson and Karie Diethorn, Chief Curator Independence National Historical Park.

Glen Muschio, Associate Professor, Digital Media, Westphal College, Drexel University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


Doing archaeology today has entailed a wide range of activities, some not always associated in the public’s mind with archaeology.  I work for a cultural resource management firm. Today’s work has included such mundane activities as reviewing contracts to perform archaeology in Bucks County and the city of Philadelphia in Pennsylvania, USA; firming up logistical efforts to meet with a geomorphologist tomorrow in Delaware County (Pennsylvania); and checking time statements. Fortunately, the day also included putting the finishing touches on an archaeological monitoring report for work in Bucks County. This required nailing down dates for two artifacts found in association with a house foundation. I learned that Pennsylvania in the 1920s and 1930s stamped out automobile license plates with the year that they were issued. I also learned, through a historical marker database on the internet, that the Trenton Brewing company was incorporated in 1891 as a side line business of an ice company and stopped using the name by 1899. These two objects helped to bracket the date of the foundation that had been encountered.  In comparison to the mundane business aspect of doing archaeology, the historical information about the two artifacts, brightened my day.

Kenneth J. Basalik, Ph.D. Pennsylvania USA



I work for an engineering company in Pennsylvania (USA) and serve as the Vice President of the Philadelphia Archaeological Forum (in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania). In the course of the day I went over plans for field and laboratory work for a Phase II bridge replacement project that will be starting shortly outside of Philadelphia. I spent time researching the status of industrial archaeological sites in the city for an encyclopedia article. Indications are that in some neighborhoods in the city, between 1990 and 2007, as many of 50% of the documented and listed industrial archaeological sites were completely or partially demolished, or were abandoned or fell into disrepair. In other neighborhoods with higher property values, more sites were preserved by adaptive reuse. In addition, I spent a portion of the day reviewing and proofreading comments on a visit to a laboratory for a major urban archaeological project in Philadelphia.  In the evening, I attended the monthly meeting of the Philadelphia Archaeological Forum (PAF), an organization that works to promote archaeology in the City of Brotherly Love (Philadelphia).  After the meeting, I began reviewing the report summary for Phase IB/II testing and the data recovery plan for a major highway project in the city. The goal will be to prepare comments on the documents for submission to the agency that is sponsoring the project, on behalf of the Philadelphia Archaeological Forum.

Lauren Cook, Registered Professional Archaeologist, Philadelphia, PA