Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Archaeological dig yields treasures in Columbia

A recent archaeological dig at Rotary Park has set Columbia Borough's historical clock back a few thousand years, revealing an American Indian community dating to a time when pharaohs ruled Egypt and Stonehenge was under construction.

"We've found spear points dating back to 3000 B.C. and pottery that goes back to the 1300s," said Meg Schaefer, curator with the Wright's Ferry Mansion in Columbia, said Aug. 10. "We've even found evidence of what Natives were eating, including carbonized nut hulls and fish scales, which we can carbon date."

Started in May with the help of a $25,000 grant from the Philadelphia-based Wright-Cook Foundation, the dig was run by the Columbia-based nonprofit The Von Hess Foundation. It was overseen by Stephen Warfel, an archaeologist who retired from the State Museum of Pennsylvania in 2007 and whose work includes archaeology excavations at the Ephrata Cloister.

"Whenever you're digging close to the Susquehanna River, you'd expect to find a concentration of native artifacts, but what we found in Rotary Park is exciting and unanticipated," Warfel said Aug. 10.

"We don't know if there was a settlement here. It could have been a seasonal encampment. But I think, clearly, more work needs to be done, since we now have evidence that there were people living in what is now Columbia all the way back to around 3500 B.C.," he said.

The reason for the dig, Schaefer said, has to do with an excavation on the former 1728 home of Samuel Blunston, an early settler in the area when Columbia was still part of Chester County and known as Shawanah Town.

"Samuel Blunston was instrumental in the area's history because he issued land patents for what is now York County. He also helped to establish Lancaster County, and he served in the Provincial Assembly," she said. "William Wright was also raised in that house, a man who is best remembered for helping establish the Underground Railroad."

Though the home was one of Columbia's most historic, Warfel said, it was demolished in 1929 in order to make way for the Wrightsville-Columbia Bridge across the Susquehanna River. This summer's archaeology excavation, he said, aimed to recover and learn as much as possible about the site of the former homestead, which now serves as the borough's Rotary Park.

Some of the artifacts discovered in the dig include tin-glazed earthenware, English salt-glazed wares, English slipware (a kind of clay pottery), cufflinks, buttons, fragments of smoking pipes, thimbles and straight pins.

Also discovered, Warfel said, were the remains of a five-foot cellar wall that retained its original whitewash.

Warfel said the objects found from the house are being identified, cleaned and catalogued while American Indian relics are being carbon-dated to determine their age.

Eventually, Schaefer said, the finds will be put on public display at Wright's Ferry Mansion, Second and Cherry streets.

Mansion hours are from 10 to 3 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.

For more information, call 684-4325.

Source from Great Site : http://articles.lancasteronline.com/local/4/280924

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