Relics at museum provide clues into area's past

March 13, 2006|by JENNIFER FITCH

GREENCASTLE, Pa. - Artifacts from a three-year archaeological dig in Greencastle are on display at a local museum, where experts have been explaining how the relics provide insight into the region's past.

Cumberland Valley Chapter 27 of the Society of Pennsylvania Archaeology Inc. on Sunday showcased tools, pottery and animal bones found while digging at a spring site on U.S. 11 two miles south of Greencastle.

The exhibit will again be featured Thursday from noon to 3 p.m. at Allison-Antrim Museum on South Ridge Avenue.

The artifacts span "occupation at this site for 12 1/2 thousand years," according to Doug Stine, president of Chapter 27.

He noted the occupation continues to present day, as a member of the society allowed the excavation work to be done on his private property.

One of the more interesting finds was a clovis "fluted" point, and that actually was found in the resident's front yard, according to Pandy Yeakle, secretary of Chapter 27.


The point was likely used as a projectile circa 9000 B.C., and it might have been a spear point, Yeakle said.

"This one has been worked down, so it's smaller than they usually are," she said.

Stine didn't have an exact count on the number of artifacts found, but the items filled several showcases at the museum.

Many of the primitive tools and pottery were made of materials found in the area, while others were fashioned from substances like jasper and quartz that aren't common in Franklin County, Pa. That leads society members to believe they were acquired "through a trade network or (other people) just passing through," said Yeakle.

Some of the items have European roots stemming from the fur trade.

Chapter 27 divided the spring site, which Stine believes was the first one studied in either Pennsylvania or Maryland, into 5-by-5 squares. About 20 people spent Sundays at the site.

"We excavated three inches at a time," Stine said.

The 12 to 15 inches closest to the grass level hold relics from the historic period (1550 A.D. to present) to the archaic period (8000 to 1000 B.C.). Beneath that is red clay with clues into the paleo-Indian period (8000 B.C. to 10000 B.C.).

Stine said the crews are able to pinpoint the locations of teepees by studying holes preserved in the clay. They also can identify areas used for fires.

"You'll find pieces of broken pottery (and) burnt bones," he said.

The animal bones found at the spring site included those from elk, deer, bobcats, turtles, fish and small animals.

The spring site served as "home" to a number of different groups of people over time, according to Stine.

The inhabitants relied on the water from the spring as well as the meat from animals that drank there.

"Just like today, the water was important," Stine said. "The spring was a magnet."

The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission has called the spring area a "super site" because of the number of artifacts found spanning a long period of time. There are several sites around it, totaling approximately 12 acres.

"Pennsylvania had nine registered sites in about a half a mile around the spring," Stine said.

Allison-Antrim Museum can be contacted at 717-597-9010 or

If you go

What: An exhibit featuring artifacts from a three-year archaeological dig near Greencastle, Pa.

Where: Allison-Antrim Museum, South Ridge Avenue, Greencastle

When: Noon to 3 p.m. Thursday

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