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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