News Column

Meet an Archaeologist: The State Museum Archaeologists Exhibit Artifacts on City Island Over Labor Day Weekend

August 19, 2014



HARRISBURG, Pa., Aug. 19 -- The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission issued the following news release:

The public is invited to meet archaeologists from The State Museum of Pennsylvania from Aug. 30 through Sept. 1 as part of Harrisburg's annual Kipona celebration. Staff archaeologists will present an interactive display focusing on the excavations conducted on City Island by the City of Harrisburg and the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC).

Archaeologists will be on City Island daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Brochures on the archaeology of Pennsylvania will be available.

The excavations conducted between 1992 and 2004 reveal more than 9,600 years of Native American habitation.

Select artifacts will be on display as well as the popular dugout canoe replica. PHMC archaeologists made the canoe using the stone tool technology Native Americans used prior to contact with Europeans.

One of the more spectacular finds from the excavation was a collection of 4,500-year-old woodworking tools. These tools, along with those used to make the dugout canoe, provide a wonderful narrative on Native American transportation and technology.

Archaeologists discovered City Island's earliest remains more than 8 feet below the existing asphalt parking lot. The artifacts belong to a small family who likely hunted, fished and collected roots, seeds and berries on the island.

The archaeological record shows that City Island was home to a major occupation between 4,000 and 4,800 years ago involving large groups of possibly 50 men, women and children. Artifacts from this period include spear points, knives, scrapers, axes, adzes and cooking pots carved from soapstone.

Excavators found these vestiges scattered in and around cooking hearths, roasting pits and stone boiling pits about 2 feet to 3 feet below the surface. The number and variety of the tools point to these groups having spent several months on the island.

City Island is an unusual type of archaeological site thanks to soil washed in by floods and deposited in layers. This type of site allows archaeologists to trace the history of technological changes, the development of farming and the cultural response to climate change over thousands of years.

The State Museum of Pennsylvania, adjacent to the State Capitol in Harrisburg, is one of 25 historic sites and museums administered by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission as part of the Pennsylvania Trails of History. The State Museum offers expansive collections interpreting Pennsylvania's fascinating heritage. With exhibits examining the dawn of geologic time, the Native American experience, the colonial and revolutionary era, a pivotal Civil War battleground, and the Commonwealth's vast industrial age, The State Museum demonstrates that Pennsylvania's story is America's story.

Museum hours are Wed. through Sat., 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sun., noon to 5 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for children and senior citizens.

For more information about the museum, visit www.statemuseumpa.org.

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