Thursday, October 29, 2009

Long Island New York Grist Mill

Hello Everyone!

I just got back from a trip to Long Island, New York to visit relatives who live in Port Jefferson. Port Jefferson is located on the northern shores of Long Island, and is primarily used as a ferry port to Connecticut via the Long Island Sound.

Long Island has a long history of industrialization including canning for its once thriving fishing industry. However, some of the best early examples of industrialization on the island are represented by the many water powered grist mills located in the small hamlets nestled around the various inlets along the coast.

This particular mill I visited was in a small village called Stony Brook. Built in 1751, the grist mill sits against its mill dam (that was widened and reinforced for car traffic) forming an extensive mill pond. The links I have posted here will give additional information on the mill, it was closed the day I arrived there.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Current Side Quest

Hi All!

I just wanted to share with all of you a little side project I'm delving into. In my home town, Brownsville, PA, we have had many firsts. We had the first toll road in the United States, the National Road (Route 40), we had the first cast iron bridge, the Dunlap Creek Bridge, we have the oldest market district west of the Appalachia Mountains, we had the first house built with wooden shingles west of those mountains. We also had another first, one that stands in the back of the minds when we think of the golden age of transportation, especially river transportation. I'm thinking of the steamboat. No we didn't build the first steamboat. Instead we made it better.

Henry Shreve (for which Shreveport Louisiana is named) lived in Brownsville and a man by the name of Daniel French. They made the steamboat better, by tailoring the vessel to the inland water ways and foregoing the sea going designs of the 18th century. So where lies the first? We built the first steamboat that traveled from the Monongahela Valley, up to Pittsburgh (Monongahela River flows north) and down the Ohio River to the Mississippi River to New Orleans and return under its own power in 1814. The boat was named Enterprise, and this new technology revolutionized the way people and goods were transported.

The side quest of mine just happened to have taken me to the front door of the house where these men first created the Monongahela Steamboat Company along with Elisha D. Hunt, Robert Rodgers, and Elijah Clark. I have found the birth place of this enterprise, called the Bridgeport Manufacturing Company's Cotton Factory. And it is scheduled for demolition.

More on this to come...
The building is the white structure between the fork in the roads with the three trees in the front.

(From 1883 Birds Eye View map of Brownsville- Library of Congress)

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Monday, October 19, 2009

Angel Sit Part 3: Site Stratigraphy.

Hi Everyone,

This is the third part of my continuing series on excavations at the Father Angel Site in Greene County, Pennsylvania. This part examines a concept borrowed from geology called STRATIGRAPHY. Basically, stratigraphy is layers built upon layers. Much like a wedding cake if you slice into it, you'll see a layer of cake, a layer of icing, maybe a layer of chocolate, and then another layer of cake and so on. The Earth's crust is formed in a similar way, with layer upon layer of rock built one on top of the other. So what does this have to do with archaeology? Well, archaeological sites are created in the same way. Depending on where the site is located, it may have many layers like if it were on a floodplain, or just a few layers like out in a farmer's field.

So why is stratigraphy important? To start off, let's imagine a trashcan. I throw a piece of crumpled up paper into it, and over the next few weeks, I fill it up. Then I realize that a piece of paper I threw in that first week was an important bill! Where in the trashcan would I look? Not at the top of the pile, those papers are very recent. Not in the middle either, while they're old my bill was from a week before those papers were thrown in. I would dig to the very bottom of the can because that's where the oldest pieces of paper are located. So the stratigraphy of the papers in the trashcan led me to my bill, because I knew that the oldest pieces of paper were on the bottom. This is the LAW OF SUPERPOSITION. Layers are deposited in a sequence of youngest to oldest be they sedimentary rock layers or cultural layers containing artifacts.

In this video, I'm talking about the stratigraphy of the Father Angel Site. Please turn up the volume on you speakers! For some reason, the audio is very soft!

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Sunday, October 18, 2009

I'm Back!

Hi All!

It's been a while since I've posted on here but I now have a new update! I was busy on a Phase I survey in Greene County, Pennsylvania on some game lands for the building of a new wetland area. When a state agency such as Penndot, Game Commission, or other state funded agency has to destroy a wetland, another one has to be constructed. So as an archaeologist, my crew and I were contracted to see what types of cultural resources (artifacts) might be hidden beneath the floodplain soils.

In order to accomplish this, we used a series of interesting people and gadgets to get the job done. One of these specialists, a GEOMORPHOLOGIST, or PEDOLOGIST, came out to our site to have a look at the many layers of soil that were deposited during the past several thousand years of flooding. These scientists study the the composition, age, and origin of soils. Plus they can tell us if a soil layer is young enough to have artifacts or too old before humans were on the North American continent.
The second type of specialist we used was a ZOOARCHAEOLOGIST. A zooarchaeologist study the remains from animals that are found on archaeological sites. While completing our Phase I survey, we came across teeth from a bovid type animal (cow, bison, ox) buried at 90cm. These teeth needed to be identified, so we sent them to a zooarchaeological specialist who came back with the disappointing conclusion that they were in fact from a cow! The cow must have died on the banks of the nearby creek and its body silted in during subsequent flood events.

One cool piece of equipment that we played with out there was a ground penetrating radar or GRP for short. This machine looks like a push lawn mower that is pushed or pulled over the ground in strait tight rows. The radar moved through the soil layers and dependent on what those layers are made from, or if they have been disturbed by human activity, the waves from the radio take more or less time to be reflected back to the machine. This produces a wavy pattern on the readout display that for someone that is trained, can see the outline of a grave or ditch as compared to just regular undisturbed soil.

Well I hope you had an informative read, I promise to update more regularly now that I'm out of the field so check back for more!

(In this photo: Dave Kroskie starting a 1X2 and Susan Balint [my girlfriend] screening for artifacts)
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Sunday, July 5, 2009

July 4th Dunlap Creek Bridge Celebration!

Hi All!

Here is a video of the speech I gave at the commemoration of the first cast iron bridge in the United States built in Brownsville, Pennsylvania. I want to correct right from the start two mistakes I made while speaking up there. Call it nerves or adrenaline, but I miss spoke when I said that the date of the first cast iron bridge in the world at Coalbrookdale England was 1791-- in fact it is 1779. The second oversight was when I said that no other cast iron bridges were built until the Dunlap Creek Bridge in 1836-39! Of course there were! Many cast iron bridges were built after Coalbrookdale throughout Europe, just none in the United States. I even say in the talk that the bridge over the river Seine, Pont du Carrousel, was built in 1834. Anyhow, watch the video, feel free to comment.

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Friday, June 19, 2009

170th Anniversary of the First Cast Iron Bridge in the United States.

Hi everyone,

Here is a newspaper article about the first cast iron bridge in the United States. Located in Brownsville PA, the Dunlap Creek Bridge is a marvel of early 19th century architecture. I was interviewed by the Observer Reporter newspaper out of Washington, PA. Read about its history, and examine the photograph attached to this posting! I will be a guest expert speaker at the celebration occurring July 4th, 2009 so if you're in the Brownsville/Pittsburgh area, stop by and enjoy the celebration!

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Angel Site Part 2 Excavation

Hi everyone, welcome back to the Father Angel Site in Greene County, southwestern Pennsylvania! This blog post is about some of the methods employed by archaeologists

The first thing everyone needs to know is that there are several phases or steps in conducting archaeological excavations. I'm going to explain each phase to make it easy to understand the work involved in doing field work.

Phase Ia- Background research, property research, deeds, death certificates, etc.

Phase I Survey- digging small .50m X .50m square or round shovel test pits (STPs) and screening the soil for artifacts. These holes are placed on an imaginary grid, with a datum point (beginning point) and aligned either to true north, grid north, or magnetic north.

Phase II- At this phase, there were artifacts were found in the shovel test pits, and these pits were expanded to 1m X 1m shovel test units (STUs). These are 1 meter square and can be a meter or more in depth depending on the soil conditions. Let's say, a floodplain of a stream or river compared to a farmer's field.

Phase III Site Mitigation- At this point, a substantial site has been discovered and a large excavation must occur. These projects are big, expensive, and can be long term, from weeks to months to several years! This is the point at which the most of a site is excavated. I say most, because archaeologists generally do not dig 100% of a site. We like to leave a portion for future archaeologists with better tools, equipment, and technology to excavate to get better information.

On today's video, I'm visiting the Father Angel Site once again. Here we see two students taking the field school excavating a 1m X 2m unit with a 1m X 1m unit attached to it. Archaeologists love squares, their are like a small window into the past. The larger the square, the larger the window!

In this video are Shari Bechtel from California University of Pennsylvania, Marissa Miller also from Cal U, and Jamie Waldrop from West Virginia University. You will see them troweling and gathering the soil into a bucket. From there a person takes it to the "screener" where she will sift it through a mesh screen revealing the artifacts. The Father Angel Site is at a Phase II level of excavation depending on what they found there, it will probably go to a Phase III next year! Watch on and see the archaeologists at work! throughout the nation to conduct their field surveys.

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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Angel Site

Hi everyone! Our adventure is just starting into the realm of archaeology. For those of you following me on Twitter, I've already said that 90% of all archaeology takes place not excavating, but doing research in libraries, archives, and historical societies. However, in the late spring, that ground has thawed from a long winter, and the smell of fieldwork is in the air!

Today I visited the Father Angel Site where a very good friend of mine is conducting a field school to teach budding anthropology and criminal justice majors the art of archaeological excavation. The field school is a joint collaboration between California University of Pennsylvania and West Virginia University where students from both schools get the opportunity to get some "hands" on training.
The first video in this series is an interview with Dr. John Nass from California University of Pennsylvania who is one of the lead instructors on the Father Angel Site. As he explains, the Father Angel Site may be one of a variety (or combination) of site types. In Pennsylvania, archaeological sites are submitted by people (land owners, amateur archaeologists, contract firms) to the state on a very specific form known as a PASS Form (Pennsylvania Site Survey Form). On this form Dr. Nass tells us, the site has been described as possibly Late Prehistoric earthwork.

Paleo-Indian Period (10,000 to c. 8,000 BC)
Early, Middle, and Late Archaic Periods (8,000 to 1,000 BC)
Terminal Archaic Period (2,000-1,000 BC)
Early, Middle and Late Woodland Periods (1,000 BC- AD 1,000/1050)
Late Prehistoric Period (A.D. 1000-1580)-possibly the Father Angel Site!

There is also a rumor of speculation the site maybe a French and Indian War encampment or a settler's fort from the 1770's. The great thing about archaeology is that every site is a mystery waiting to be unraveled.
Why is the Late Prehistoric important? There are several reasons, the first one being that the Monongahela Indians that occupied the Monongahela River Valley never directly made contact with white European settlers. As one can see from the dates, the Late Prehistoric extends well into the contact period after 1492 AD (when Columbus sailed the ocean blue...). It is possible to find European trade goods such as beads, copper, wampum, glass, and ceramics that point to a complex trade network where European goods passed from one native group to another. The second important feature of the Late Prehistoric is the migrations and incursions of native groups into areas where they traditionally had not moved before. During this time period, Monongahela people's villages become larger, and heavily fortified with the addition of palisade walls, perhaps to protect them and their lands from pressures exerted by other Native American peoples moving into their territory.

I urge everyone to watch the video, it is the first in a series that highlights archaeological survey and the equipment that archaeologists use in the field. The Father Angel Site is important in piecing together the prehistory of southwestern Pennsylvania, and helping to give voice to those Native Americans that time has muted.

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Sunday, June 7, 2009


Hi everyone! Welcome to Archaeology Dude's blog! Let me tell you a little about myself, and why I created this blog in the first place. My name is Marc Henshaw, I've been an archaeologist for little over 12 years in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland, Virginia, North and South Dakota, and Michigan. Throughout my travels, I've meet many great people who share a passion for learning about the past, whether it's their own, or someone else's. Many people have approached me in awe and wonderment of what an archaeologist actually does in his or her day-to-day work. The painstaking detail, the patience to carefully brush away the soil of time from around a delicate 1,000 year old piece of pottery, and the ability to research at length the history of an area to recount its vibrant past. I created this blog for those of you who haven't been able to live their dream of being an archaeologist, and for those who want to understand an appreciate the feats that go into saving our past from the bulldozer, the highway, or the housing development. Many of us come from towns whose cores have been gutted by de-industrialization and loss of industry. Archaeology can help unravel the twisted path that our towns have taken, and may offer a glimpse of the future to preserve our heritage through tourism and heritage management.

My background is in prehistoric and historic archaeology. I completed my undergraduate degree in 1998 from California University of Pennsylvania, and worked as a field archaeologist for the Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission before heading into the field as a contract archaeologist. I received my Master's degree in 2004 from Western Michigan University where I researched the steamboat industry in Brownsville, Pennsylvania. (I'll save that for a future blog post). I worked in the archaeology in Williamsburg, Virginia for a year before teaching high school Earth and Space Science to 9th graders in Newport News for two years. I currently completed my coursework for my PhD in Industrial Archaeology at Michigan Tech. University, and have my own cultural resource management firm, Nemacolin Archaeological Services, located in my hometown of Brownsville, PA.

The first video I have posted is a welcome video and an introduction to a beautiful state park of southwestern Pennsylvania called Ohiopyle. Located between the Chestnut and Laural Ridges of the Appalachian Mountains, Ohiopyle gets its name from the American Indian word "ohioehhla" or "white frothy water". An appropriate term for the many rapids of the Youghiogheny River. Archaeologically, the Ohiopyle region offers a history that extends thousands of years into the past, and a historic period extending from the 1750's to industrial era with paper mills and logging camps lining the river.

If you read this far, I hope you've enjoyed it. Watch the video, its the first of many to come. If you are a teacher, many episodes to come will focus on field methodology archaeologists employ, local southwestern Pennsylvania history as I explore the many towns and sites in the area. I hope to post a blog once a week, maybe more often and video as well. Take care everyone!

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