Native American Context

Regional Native American Cultural Chronology

In order to better understand the changes evident in Native American archaeology over the past 16,000 years, archaeologists have developed temporal frameworks, or chronologies, to divide Middle Atlantic prehistory into periods defined on the basis of diagnostic tools, ceramics, inferred cultural adaptations, associated radiocarbon dates, and settlement patterns. Over the past few decades, the basic Middle Atlantic chronological framework has evolved through an assortment of observed environmental, cultural, adaptive, and stylistic changes. Although, these divisions of time are imperfect, at this point in archaeological history they are necessary for explaining cultural change through time 1. The cultural chronological framework commonly used for the Middle Atlantic region is divided into three major periods; these are Paleoindian (14,000 B.C. – 8000 B.C), Archaic (8,000 B.C. – 1000 B.C.), and Woodland (1000 B.C. – A.D. 1600) 2. From this, further refinements are made dividing the periods into sub-periods of Early, Middle, and Late.

While the focus of this section is the Late Archaic and later culture periods (because most Native American sites identified within the I-95/Girard Avenue study area fall within this time frame), a brief discussion of the preceding Paleoindian thru earlier Archaic Periods helps to set a context within which to evaluate the findings presented here. The following is an overview of the adaptations and prominent features of the Paleoindian thru Middle Archaic Periods. An important point in the discussion of each time period is the types of settlement systems found in and around the study area. Following the discussion of the Paleoindian through Middle Archaic, a more in depth look into later Archaic and Woodland Period adaptations will set the context for evaluating settlement system constructed in this research.

Paleoindian

The Paleoindian Period (~14,000 B.C. – 8,000 B.C.) represents the earliest human inhabitants in this region. Until recently, the earliest date of occupation on the American continents was controversial. Although archaeological sites characterized by the presence of fluted spear points known as Clovis (11,500 B.P. – 10,900 B.P.) were once considered to represent the first immigrants, many archaeological sites have been advanced as indicating an earlier, or pre-Clovis, occupation of the New World. Regionally, Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Cactus Hill provided the first evidence of a pre-Clovis occupation in the Mid-Atlantic. Excavations at Meadowcroft Rockshelter in Washington County, Pennsylvania demonstrated the presence of humans in the region by ca. 15,950 years before present (B.P.) 3. Findings at Cactus Hill in Sussex County, Virginia provide additional support for a pre-Clovis occupation, as charcoal radiocarbon dated to 15,070±70 B.P. was recovered in association with stone tools found below a Clovis occupation 4. Recent investigations along the banks of the Chesapeake Bay on the Delmarva Peninsula continue to support a pre-Clovis occupation and to date, are ongoing. Most notably, excavations at Miles Point in Talbot County, Maryland documented a paleosol dating between 18,000-25,000 years ago in association with a pre-Clovis toolkit similar to that of Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Cactus Hill 5.

Evidence of occupation following 12,000 B.P. is more plentiful, represented by a number of large sites and surface finds of fluted spear points. Human adaptations in the harsh Pleistocene environment appear to be variable across space and specialized to focus on certain resources within the environmental mosaic. Hunting strategies of the Paleoindian in the Middle Atlantic region were based on a range of game opportunities, such as fox, white-tailed deer, mammoth, mastodon, moose, and caribou 6. The Paleoindian diet was also supplemented with non-game resources through the gathering of wild plant foods. Carbonized floral remains found at the Shawnee Minisink site on the Delaware River included blackberry, goosefoot, hawthorn, plum, hackberry, and grape 7.

In many regions, high-quality lithic material sources appear to be the hub of Paleoindian settlement patterns 8. This hypothesis is primarily based on the observation that many Paleoindian points are made from high-quality lithic materials, often not local to where the point was found. Paleoindian assemblages composed mainly of non-local lithic materials have been excavated in the Middle Atlantic region 9. The use of lithic material from distant source locations has been cited as evidence of wide-ranging mobility 10. However, contrary examples exist, such as the Shawnee-Minisink site where McNett 11. demonstrates the use of large quantities of low-quality, local lithic material within the Paleoindian toolkit. At the Wallis Site, on the Susquehanna River, Paleoindian occupants utilized high-quality, but locally available, chert 12.

Within the Piedmont of southeastern Pennsylvania, and also including the current study area, a cyclical procurement pattern of Paleoindian settlement is hypothesized 13. Within the cyclical pattern, quarries of high-quality lithic material were the main focus of scheduled movements and the probable location of base camps. Gardner 14, as cited in Carr and Adovasio 15, proposes a foraging radius of 40 to 150 km for this settlement system. Within the Middle Atlantic region, the jasper quarries within the Hardyston district in Pennsylvania 16, Flint Run in Virginia 17, and the Onondaga quarries in New York, served as focal points for Paleoindian movements. In contrast to this model, Tankersley 18 argues that hypotheses regarding the importance of lithic materials have been biased by a research focus on larger sites near high-quality lithic sources.

Early Archaic

The beginning of the Early Archaic Period (~8000 B.C. – 6500 B.C.) is marked by a gradual transition from Paleoindian adaptations in the face of a moderating Early Holocene climate. While the Early Archaic is one of the most poorly understood periods in Middle Atlantic prehistory, archaeological evidence for variations in settlement patterns, food procurements, lithic technologies, and population levels is apparent.

Stylistically, the Early Archaic is marked by the introduction of notched and stemmed bifaces such as the Palmer and Kirk types. It has been suggested by Gardner 19 that the change to notched bifacestechnology could signify changes in hunting technology and the advancement of the atlatl. Stewart 20 notes that the extinction of most of the Pleistocene megafauna and the retreat of the glacial ice sheets opened new ecosystems to smaller game animals such as white-tailed deer and elk. This, in turn, reinforced the continuing specialization of Early Archaic hunting adaptations.

Little evidence for plant food processing, or the tools to do so, exist in the Early Archaic record. Because of this, Gardner 21 has suggested that specialized gathering and processing had not yet become a large part of the natives’ food economy in the Early Archaic. The recovery of ground cherry, blackberry, cherry, grape, and pokeberry, as well as pioneer species such as amaranth, chenopodium, and smartweed from Shawnee-Minisink, however, demonstrates that plant foods were utilized to some degree 22. Another important finding was the presence of buckbean, a tuber that inhabits marshy ground. Tubers are believed to have been utilized prehistorically, particularly during the late winter and spring, when other food resources would have been in short supply.

Settlement models for the Early Archaic of the Middle Atlantic region are very similar to those of the Paleoindian Period. In general, sites are located on similar landforms, but the diversity of site types, intensity of utilization, and total population appear to have increased 23. In the Piedmont of the Middle Atlantic, topographic positions such as poorly drained floodplains and upland bogs are held in common by Paleoindian and Early Archaic components 24. The use of high-quality lithic sources is similarly shared in the Early Archaic, but probably not to the extent as in the Paleoindian Period 25. This is evident by the diversification of lithic assemblages with materials such as rhyolite, quartzite, andargillite. High group mobility in the Piedmont, fostered by moderated climate, hunting and gathering adaptation, and perhaps population increase, is evident in distinguishable site types in a greater variety of landscape settings 26.

Middle Archaic

The Middle Archaic (6500 B.C. – 3000 B.C.) is the least understood prehistoric period in the Middle Atlantic region 27. The poor resolution of our knowledge of the Middle Archaic Period stems from a lack of recorded excavations and a poorly defined typological sequence. The beginning of the Middle Archaic roughly coincides with the finding of distinctive bifurcate-base bifaces, such as the LeCroy and St. Albans types 28. These types are considered characteristic of the 6500 B.C. – 6000 B.C. time frame 29. This date range generally represents the high point in bifurcate bifaces use, though earlier examples exist 30.

The typological sequence following the bifurcate-base bifaces holds a great diversity of bifacesmorphologies that maintain similar forms well into the Woodland Period 31. Other points characteristic of the Middle Archaic include Otter Creek, a side-notched point associated with the proto-Laurentian tradition, and Abbott and Kittatinny points, first identified at the Shawnee-Minisink site 32. There is increasing evidence that triangular points, classified as Hunterbrook triangles, were in use as early as the Middle Archaic 33. Also, generalized stemmed and side-notched points are common in Middle Archaic contexts. The numerous type definitions attempt to characterize the diverse bifaces styles of the later Middle Archaic, but few, if any, are considered clearly diagnostic. For this reason, the identification of Middle Archaic components, in lieu of bifurcates, is exceedingly difficult. It is likely that many Middle Archaic sites are placed into the Late Archaic time period based on non-descript stemmed and notched points or into the Late Woodland based on triangular points 34.

Although our understanding of Middle Archaic adaptations is limited, it is apparent that the Middle Archaic represents a recognizable divergence from the preceding Early Archaic/ Paleoindian Periods 35. Middle Archaic artifact assemblages reveal the gradual development of specialized technology, including an increase in the variety in tool types and the evolution of a ground stone tool technology 36. The occurrence of adzes and axes indicates the importance of heavy woodworking 37. The addition of formal plant processing tools such as grinding stones, mullers, and mortars and pestles to the toolkit represents technological means of reducing the time and energy costs of food processing. The use of polished netsinkers and spearthrower weights also indicate the importance of tool technology in subsistence tasks.

Little direct evidence regarding the Middle Archaic diet is available. Stanly-like points were recovered near a cluster of features containing carbonized nutshell and surrounded by tools for processing nutmeats at the Rockelein Site 38. Charred nutshells were associated with features of the Middle Archaic at Area D of Abbott Farm 39. Both sites are on the Delaware River.

Changes in land-use practices, such as site reuse in previously unutilized areas, are evident in the beginning of the Middle Archaic. Base camps are no longer focused on high-quality lithic quarries 40. Instead, Middle Archaic base camps are found on floodplains, and associated special procurement sites are found on a variety of upland settings. Stewart and Cavallo 41 suggest that, based on an analysis of rhyolite artifact distribution, the foraging radius of Middle Archaic base camps was reduced in size compared to earlier times and focused increasingly on local resources.

Late Archaic

Adaptations that emerge at the beginning of the Late Archaic (3000 B.C. to 1000 B.C.) represent the most prominent changes in all of southeast Pennsylvania prehistory 42. Increased population densities and increasing sedentism, as well as alterations in settlement and subsistence patterns, are notable changes coinciding with the beginning of the Late Archaic. Similar changes in native adaptation are noted throughout the Middle Atlantic region 43.

Stylistically, the lithic artifact assemblage at the beginning of the Late Archaic does not differ dramatically from the late-Middle Archaic. A broad range of notched and stemmed bifaces represents the majority of the Late Archaic assemblages in the Middle Atlantic region. Although Late Archaic bifaces morphologies overlap, numerous stylistic types have been identified as representative of various time frames (e.g., Bare Island, Lackawaxen, Lamoka, Brewerton). The degree to which many of these types hold to their assigned age is debatable, but general trends in style and geography are evident. As a result, regional traditions were designated by archaeologists based on bifaces types and related traits. Traditions such as Maritime Archaic, Shield Archaic, and Laurentian Archaic were identified as adaptations covering broad geographic regions across the Northeastern United States 44. Narrow stemmed points, hand-sized “chopper” bifaces, numerous varieties of ground stone tools, and non-cryptocrystalline lithics, such as argillite, rhyolite, and quartzite are some of the hallmarks of the Late Archaic 45.

Lithic material use in the Late Archaic holds some similarity to the Middle Archaic and earlier times, but important differences exist. Similar to the Early and Middle Archaic, some Late Archaic components show a preference for “exotic” lithic raw materials. Differing from earlier times, these “exotic” materials often consist of non-cryptocrystalline lithics such as argillite, rhyolite, quartzite, and ironstone 46. As explained by Raber et al. 47, while the far-flung lithic sources of the Middle Archaic are a sign of high mobility, the same phenomena in the Late Archaic are a sign of trade and interaction. The use of trade and interaction to explain lithic distribution patterns of the Late Archaic is a key component of many settlement models in the Middle Atlantic 48.

Base camps, interpreted as macro-social and micro-social, are found in areas of high resource variability and predictable water supplies 49. In the lower Susquehanna River valley, Late Archaic base camps can be found on large islands; in the fall line region of northern Delaware, large interior swamps are the focus of base camps; and similar wetlands systems such as those around the Abbott Farm are the focus of habitation in the fall line zone of the Delaware River Valley 50. These environmental settings emphasize the predictability of subsistence resources. Investigations at the Trenton Complex (Abbott Farm) revealed sites in uplands and on upland terraces that were interpreted as transient camps and stations whose specific functions and seasons of occupation varied according to the availability of food resources 51. Transient camps represent short-term habitation sites for small groups such as families or task groups and characterized the occupation of Area D of the Trenton Complex from the Late Archaic through the Late Woodland 52. Site activities include food processing, tool maintenance, and expedient tool manufacture.

Across the Middle Atlantic region, the identification of multiple site types across various ecotones, combined with increased sedentism, more localized foraging, and focus on predictable resources make Late Archaic settlement systems comparable with Binford’s 53 forager-collector model and logistic foraging system 54. The application of this model results in settlement systems of various sized base camps and foraging camps in optimal environmental settings. Custer 55 argues that the change towards the logistic settlement system, focused on environmental predictability, resulted from a climatic phenomena termed the mid-postglacial xerothermic. This climactic episode represents the height of the warm and dry climate that separates the earlier Sub-Boreal climate from the later and more contemporary Sub-Atlantic Climate. The continual drying of the environment during the xerothermic led to water stress in low water environments. Areas such as the Piedmont Uplands of southeastern Pennsylvania are thought to have become very dry with little predictability in water resource abundance. Factors such as this led to the scheduled use of specific resource locations and environmentally optimized base camps as according to the logistic foraging model 56. While Custer’s (1988) arguments and environmental data do correlate, other authors have contested this model and the environmental interpretation that underlies it 57.

Although some dietary data are available for the Late Archaic, a complete representation of the food items in the diet has not been recovered. Excavations at the Bachman Site 58 on the Delaware River revealed four pit features in which hickory shells were the predominant botanical remains. Charred hickory shell was also found in sediments across much of the site area. Charred walnut and hickory nut shell are the most common remains in feature contexts at other sites. Acorn is found after ca. 4300 B.P., but is more frequent during the Transitional Period. Beech and hazelnut occur more rarely. A variety of fruit and berry seeds have also been identified. There is evidence from sites in Illinois, Missouri, and Tennessee that plant husbandry began during this period 59 and eventually resulted in the domestication of species including sunflower (Helianthus annuus var. macrocarpus) and sumpweed (Iva annua var. macrocarpa). Recent data from Calver Island 60 in the lower Susquehanna Valley, indicates that chenopodium, a native seed-bearing plant, was utilized and possibly cultivated by 3900 B.P. 61. In addition, two pepo gourd rind fragments from the Memorial Park Site on the West Branch of the Susquehanna River were directly dated to 5404± 522 B.P. 62, indicating a very early, though certainly limited, use of Mesoamerican cultigens.

A Late Archaic component was identified at the Reeders Creek West Site 63 located along the Delaware River at the Coastal Plain/Piedmont interface 64. The component was radiocarbon-dated to ca. 3180 B.C. to 2580 B.C. argillite and quartzite were the primary lithic materials and were used for both bifacial and expedient tools. Four features were identified, including two hearths and twolithic reduction activity areas. Diagnostic points included two fishtails and two Lackawaxen types. Pignut hickory shell was identified in one of the features and residue analysis of an argillite bifaces identified black bear and deer antiserum. The site was interpreted as a short-term encampment.

Kingsley et al. 65 synthesized prehistoric archaeological survey data from the Lower Schuylkill Valley, including the results of the archaeological surveys for five transmission lines for the Limerick nuclear power generating station. The data indicated a heavier utilization of the area during the Late and Terminal (Transitional) Archaic periods as compared to the Woodland. Excavated sites included Frick’s Lock (36CH103) and Indian Point (36CH53). Fricks Lock, located on terraces of the Schuylkill River, produced stemmed points including Poplar Island, Bare Island, and one Genessee-like point. Because occupation extended into the Woodland periods, specific activities related to the Late Archaic occupation could not be determined. Indian Point is located on a bluff top overlooking the Schuylkill River and was contained primarily within the plow zone. In contrast to Frick’s Lock, side-notched points were present and outnumbered stemmed points.

Numerous Late Archaic components have been identified on the middle and upper Delaware River floodplain, including the Brodhead-Heller and Egypt Mills sites 66, the Faucett and Byram sites 67, Harry’s Farm 68, the Rocklein Site 69, the Lower Black’s Eddy Site 70, the Bachman Site 71 and Shawnee-Minisink 72. Bachman, Lower Black’s Eddy, and Harry’s Farm produced the most substantial data. Late Archaic features at the Lower Black’s Eddy site included fire-cracked rock pavements and clusters, as well as two small refuse pits with charred acorn and hickory nutshell. The site was a “major locus of argillite procurement and tool production” 73. The cobble tool assemblage was dominated bynetsinkers. The Archaic surface at the Bachman Site revealed several distinct activity areas, including a knapping station, a food preparation area, and two multi-purpose activity areas 74. The site was interpreted as a generalized logistical camp at which “net fishing, nut processing, and hunting occurred 75. The Late Archaic component at Harry’s Farm revealed five pit features and a large tool assemblage 76. Thirty-five Lackawaxen stemmed points were found, along with smaller numbers of Poplar Island, Macpherson, and Lamoka-like points. Tools included bifacial and flake knives, drills and perforators, chopper, celts, and abrading tools.

Transitional/Terminal Archaic

The Transitional Archaic Period, also known as the “Terminal Archaic,” represents a relatively narrow slice of time (2200 B.C. – 800 B.C.) and a series of rather distinctive technologies. Though the diagnostic portions of the Terminal Archaic tool kit are distinctive, the underlying settlement pattern is quite similar to that of the Late Archaic. As noted by Wall et al. 77, the Terminal Archaic settlement pattern appears as an intensification of base camp use and encompasses a greater variety of transient and station site locations. In essence, the adaptations of the Transitional Archaic are a continuation of Late Archaic settlement patterns with the addition of a highly specialized tool kit.

As defined by Witthoft 78, the characteristics of Transitional Archaic cultures are the use of bowls fashioned of steatite (soapstone), and a distinctive class of bifaces known as broadspears –for their low length/width ratios and high width/thickness ratios – and fishtail bifaces. Broadspears are classified as to types including Lehigh, Koens-Crispen, Snook Kill, Perkiomen, and Susquehanna. Custer 79 has concluded that broadspears are knives or generalized cutting and prying tools, supported by an analysis of use wear patterns on broadspears from the Hawthorn Site in Delaware 80. In contrast, data from sites along the Susquehanna River indicate that broadspear use did not differ significantly from that of other point types 81. Broadspears are almost always found on sites along with stemmed and notched point types, indicating that they were an addition to the tool kit, rather than a replacement for other points 82. Fishtail points such as Orient and Dry Brook are later in the Transitional period sequence than broadspears 83 and are sometimes considered part of the Early Woodland period. Orient components in the Delaware River basin date to approximately 800–1200 B.C.

Along with changes in diagnostic bifaces types, the Transitional Archaic Period also witnessed one of the most profound technological evolutions in prehistory – the development of non-organic container technology and the shift to earthen ceramics. Around 1700 B.C., the use of steatite bowls appeared within the region. In the Delaware River valley, steatite bowl fragments are frequently found on sites with Orient fishtail points whereas in the Susquehanna River valley, steatite is strongly associated with broadspears. While not an overnight revolution, the use of non-organic cooking containers certainly changed the native inhabitants’ production and cooking efficiency 84. Placed directly on the fire, as evident from carbonization and charcoal smudging, steatite bowls could be directly heated without damage 85. Known steatite quarry sites are found in northeastern Maryland and southeastern Pennsylvania 86. The material was apparently widely traded and occurs on Transitional Archaic sites throughout Pennsylvania. There is considerable stylistic variation among steatite vessels, but the relationship between style and function, age, or geographical distribution is as yet unknown.

The use of steatite bowls lasted until roughly 1200 B.C. when the first use of ceramic technology appeared in the Delaware Valley 87. Marcey Creek Plain is arguably the first ceramic type to appear in the Delaware Valley 88. Developed from southern influences, Marcey Creek pots are a clear adaptation in clay to a preexisting soapstone bowl technology 89. Formed in the same rectangular to ovoid shape with lugged handles and flat bottoms as soapstone bowls, the Marcy Creek Plain pots are constructed of molded clay tempered with crushed chunks of steatite. Marcy Creek ceramics sometimes co-occur with steatite bowls, indicating that the use of steatite bowls continued after the development of ceramics 90. Following the Marcey Creek ceramic is a series of flat and rounded bottom ceramic types that begin around 1000 B.C. and continue into the Orient Phase and the beginnings of the Early Woodland. These wares are tempered with soapstone and sometimes cord marked, such as Seldon Island, or tempered with crushed hornblende or gneiss, such as Dames Quarter 91.

Tools often associated with broadspears include hafted drills, scrapers, and gravers. Some of these tools appear to have been manufactured by resharpening broken broadspears. Three-quarter grooved axes and chipped adzes or celts suggest the use of dugouts for river transport 92. Most of these Transitional period tool types also occur on Archaic period sites. Other common ground stone tools include pestles and net weights.

Another change noted for the Transitional Archaic is the frequency of fire-cracked rock (FCR) hearths and large FCR platforms in increasingly large base camps 93. While similar large deposits of FCR are present in some Late Archaic sites, the degree to which they are utilized appears to be heightened in the Transitional Archaic 94. The exact function of these features is unknown, but a common interpretation is that they were utilized in large-scale fish processing 95. Experimental data suggests that many of the rocks were likely dumps of stone that had been shattered as part of the stone boiling technique of cooking 96. The experimenters concluded that some of these rock clusters could represent hearths, despite a lack of burned soil or abundant charcoal. Hearth features could be distinguished by having larger fragments, some unshattered stones, and fractured fragments in situ.

Transitional Archaic Period components with features have been identified at a number of sites along the Delaware River. Eight pit features and fourteen hearths were found in association with the Perkiomen and Orient occupations at the Miller Field Site 97. Concentrations of fire-cracked rock were also a frequent occurrence at the site. Nineteen postmolds were found originating in the Transitional Archaic Period levels; however, no clear pattern was discernible. The identification of pit features that may have functioned for storage and the presence of postmolds indicate that sedentism had increased. The Transitional Archaic Period component at Sandts Eddy produced Perkiomen bifaces and five Orient fishtails. Unlike the Early Archaic component, jasper was the predominant lithic material in both finished bifaces and debitage. The component was interpreted as a small encampment 98. Transitional Archaic components have also been identified at the Brodhead-Heller Site, Zimmerman, Peters-Albrecht, and Rocklein 99.

Early Woodland

The Early Woodland (1000 B.C. – A.D. 0) is a time period of continued modification to adaptations rooted thousands of years earlier in the Archaic Period, as well as significant developments in technology and population dynamics. An identifiable and often cited signal of the beginning of the Woodland Period is the introduction of ceramic technology 100. While this is not the defining characteristic of the Early Woodland, the development of ceramic technology along with changes in diagnostic bifaces are the most archeologically visible amongst a number of more subtle changes from the preceding periods. Broadly, the Early Woodland in the Delaware Valley may be defined by a decrease in regional population density, increased sedentism, cyclical seasonal reuse of sites, a hierarchy of site types, decline in trade/exchange networks, and increased regionalization 101. These characteristics, along with the roughly 500 years in which ceramic technology was introduced, experimented with, and gradually adopted, create a time-transgressive definition to the Early Woodland.

A somewhat contentious part of the Early Woodland definition presented above is the notion of a large reduction in regional populations at the end of the Transitional Archaic. This problem has been studied by a number of authors 102 who conclude that Early Woodland sites are more abundant than is often claimed. The apparent lack of sites is derived largely from the “masking” of Early Woodland components due to poor ceramic preservation, limited diagnostic bifaces types, and continued use of general notched and stemmed bifaces once thought to be distinctive of the Late Archaic.bifaces fitting the description of Late Archaic points have been found in numerous Early Woodland contexts. Sites such as the Williamson Site 103, Barbadoes Island I, and the Woodworker Site demonstrate this correlation and many other authors discuss similar findings 104. A contrasting view of Early Woodland population density is detailed by Fiedel 105, who believes that the available data on the Early Woodland show a major discontinuity in population levels after 850 B.C. Fiedel 106 expands on the volume of literature supporting a paucity of Early Woodland sites with a detailed view of changes in climate that may have negatively affected Early Woodland populations.

Standards have not yet been developed to distinguish Early Woodland stemmed points from those of the Late Archaic, but archeologists are becoming increasingly skeptical of Late Archaic Period assignments based on stemmed points alone. bifaces types that are generally considered diagnostic of the Early Woodland include Meadowood, Rossville, Lagoon, Hellgrammite, Williamson, and Ovates, along with Orient fishtails continuing from the Transitional Archaic. Whereas the Meadowood and Lagoon types are more common to the upper Delaware Valley 107, other types such as the Williamson and Hellgrammite are more common to the lower Delaware 108. Many of these types show a lithic preference that tends towards the use of local material sources.

Additional diagnostic artifacts of the Early Woodland include a number of ceramic types. Early dates for Dames Quarter and Marcey Creek vessels begin around 1200 B.C. 109. These types have been found with both broadspears and Orient fishtail bifaces. According to Stewart 110, the adoption of ceramic technology was not sudden or revolutionary. Stewart argues that ceramic technology was adopted differentially across place and time. Perishable container technologies using baskets or hide bags were in place long before the development of either ceramic or soapstone bowls. Roughly between 1000 B.C. and 700 B.C., ceramic experimentation is evident across the Middle Atlantic region. Flat bottom wares and round based wares of various forms and with different tempers were created. Following this, a number of ceramic types, showing greater consistency, appear on Early Woodland sites. Different from the prior flat-bottomed bowls, these pots are always formed with a rounded base (conchoidal shape) out of continuous stacked coils of clay 111. Types such as Vinette I, Wolfe Neck, Bare Island, and other untyped wares exhibit common traits of crushed-rock temper and cord-marked surfaces 112. These types generally have relatively thick walls and were fired at low temperatures. Between 500 B.C. and 200 B.C. vessel temper and surface treatments expand with the inclusion of grit-tempered wares with surface treatments including corded, plain, and net-marked 113. Vessels of this period are thinner walled and more refined than previously. Types such as Wolfe Neck 114, Accokeek 115, Brodhead Net Marked 116, and the Susquehanna series are found during this time period and into the beginning of the Middle Woodland.

Cultural adaptations posited from the Early Woodland generally reflect a continuation of increasing sedentism and increased environmental efficiency. Although there is no evidence for fully sedentary villages or hamlets during this time, sites such as Williamson 117, Abbott Farm Complex 118, Three Mile Island, and the Indian Point 119 site show signs of semi-sedentary lifestyles. The presence of such sites anchors a settlement model that describes cyclic reuse of environments for selected resources on a seasonal basis. Similar to the cyclic settlement patterns inferred during the Transitional Archaic, those in the Early Woodland appear to take advantage of a wide range of topographic locations 120.

Both Gardner 121 and Miller discuss an Early Woodland settlement model based on short special-purpose forays from semi-sedentary seasonally established base camps. Gardner 122 suggests that base camps were located at ecotones, areas at the convergence of multiple resource zones. Miller says that for the Williamson Complex 123 of the middle Delaware valley and the Black Rock Phase 124 of the lower Delaware Valley, semi-sedentary base camps are found in highly productive riverine zones where special purpose sites are located in the interior. Finally Stewart 125 feels that this pattern reflects scheduled subsistence pursuits executed within a well-defined foraging territory.

It is arguable whether the advent and growing use of ceramic technology led to this type of settlement pattern or whether this type of settlement affords the widespread use of pottery 126. As noted earlier, Stewart 127 argues that the adoption of ceramic technology was not a sweeping change, but more of a slow integration. Based on this, the above settlement model can be interpreted as growing hand in hand with the emergence of ceramic containers. As described by Gardner 128, through the scheduling of seasonal cycles within defined territories, the Early Woodland populations were more efficient at obtaining energy from their environment. Efficiency is enhanced by stability and predictability of the modern local environments 129. Through this efficiency, Gardner believes that social structures were established that fostered and compelled the creation of resource surpluses. Elaborating on Gardner 130, given new storage technology made possible by ceramic containers, resource surpluses could be cached and stored to supplement less productive or predictable times of the year. The cycle of efficiency, surplus, and storage all contribute to an increase in sedentary lifeways and establishment of semi-sedentary base camps.

There are relatively few excavations at Early Woodland sites in the lower Delaware River valley. Kingsley et al. 131 defined a Black Rock Phase based on Early/Middle Woodland findings at the Indian Point Site in Chester County. The site is multi-component, but eight of nine radiocarbon dates fell within the Early and Middle Woodland periods (490 B.C to A.D. 250). The ceramic assemblage consisted primarily of interior/exterior cordmarked sherds tempered with quartz or grit, but with a great deal of variation in coloration, paste, texture, and cordmarking technique. The authors conclude that the assemblage represents a late persistence of Vinette I pottery. Points were predominantly stemmed types, classifiable as Rossville and Bare Island. The ceramics were similar to both Vinette I and Wolfe Neck pottery. Eighteen features were identified. They occurred in three spatial clusters, two of which included house pit/living floor depressions. Post molds and basin-shaped pit features were also found. The features produced carbonized nutshell and seeds of edible species indicating a summer to early fall occupation.

The Early Woodland component at 28ME1-B, in the Trenton Complex, dates to ca 1300-1100 B.C, and was interpreted a special-purpose camp for fishing and fish-oil processing 132. Diagnostic artifacts included fishtail and Meadowood points, steatite bowl fragments, and thick-walled cordmarked ceramics. The component appears to represent short-term use by a small group, based on the low artifact and feature density. The Early Woodland transient camps at 28ME1-D produced a relatively large number of projectile points, along with scrapers and unifaces likely used for butchering and hide-working.

The Reeders Creek West Site 133 revealed a component radiocarbon-dated to ca. 1880 B.C. to 1120 B.C. 134. The authors designated the component Late Archaic I, but diagnostics included two Levanna points, Fishtail point, a Rossville point, six Lackwaxen points and two Meadowood points. Ceramics (n=92) were also recovered, but most were associated with the overlying Early/Middle Woodland component. Features included five hearths and a large platform hearth. The component was interpreted as a seasonal, short-term camp.

A Meadowood component was identified at the stratified Faucett site, located on the lowest terrace of the Delaware River floodplain 135. The component contained a large hearth and artifacts including Meadowood points, over 400 sherds of Exterior Corded/Interior Smoothed pottery, and a broad flat gorget. A radiocarbon sample associated with the component produced a date of 750 BC ± 100 years 136. The Early Woodland component at the Williamson site revealed 45 features including food processing features, a cache of jasper cores, a lithic workshop, and fire-cracked rock clusters 137. Nutshell was the predominant botanical material recovered from the features; no cultigens were found. The site was interpreted as a multi-purpose residential base camp occupied on a multi-season basis 138.

Site 28Bu273, located immediately adjacent to the South Branch Pennsauken River, was a predominantly Early Woodland site with Marcey Creek, Williamson, Ware Plain and Vinette I ceramics 139. Two large fragments of steatite bowls plus one small steatite fragment were also found. Eleven features were identified, all of which were rock scatters, Activities identified at the site included seed/nut processing as evidenced by manos, metates, and nutting stones, hunting and processing meat and hides, and fishing. However, no netsinkers were found. The site was interpreted residential base camp of seasonal duration, likely occupied in the fall.

Middle Woodland

The Middle Woodland Period (A.D. 0 – A.D. 800/1000) in the Middle Atlantic Region continues many of the same traditions and adaptations developed in the Early Woodland and even Transitional Archaic. Within the context of the Middle Woodland cultural/historical period, two sub-periods, A.D. 0 – A.D. 200 and A.D. 200 – A.D. 800/1000 can be defined for the purpose of discussion and analysis. The earlier period, considered here the early-Middle Woodland, is one of continued Early Woodland adaptations, most notably the culmination of exotic trade and burial ceremonialism patterns. Within the Middle Atlantic, the Delmarva Adena Complex is the most prolific in burial and mound practices 140. Much like the Early Woodland Period, there is very little information pertaining to this period making detailed observations difficult. Throughout the Middle Atlantic, the late-Middle Woodland Period (A.D. 200 – A.D. 800/1000) continues many of the adaptations present in the early-Middle Woodland, but also has many elements that eventually lead some populations to Late Woodland cultures based on hamlets and agricultural villages. Regional syntheses by Stewart 141, McLearen 142, and Gardner 143 support this division of the Middle Woodland.

Throughout much of eastern Pennsylvania and the Delaware Valley the 500 B.C. to A.D. 200 time period is poorly represented and very little is known of settlement dynamics 144. In contrast, this time period in other areas of the Middle Atlantic region represents the height of social complexity. Related in part to the Adena and Hopewell chiefdoms in the Ohio Valley, areas such as the Delmarva Peninsula, Potomac Valley, western Maryland, and western Pennsylvania fluoresce with cultural complexity in the form of mound building, social hierarchy, far-flung trade networks, and highly stylized artifacts 145. It is believed that the regional occurrences of Adena-like complexity are in situ developments influenced by those in the Ohio Valley as opposed to enclaves of Ohio Valley immigrants 146. The sites in the Middle Atlantic region demonstrate a variety of high prestige artifacts corresponding to those on Ohio Valley sites, but do not match the great size, variability, or density of the Ohio assemblages 147. Examples of prestige artifacts include large bifaces, exotic material tubular pipes, slate gorgets, and copper artifacts 148. The occurrences of Adena/Hopewell like complexes in the Middle Atlantic were not smaller scale replicas of the Ohio Valley nor were they part of a core-periphery relationship 149.

Within the Delaware Valley few examples of such behavior exist. The Middlesex Phase 150, more commonly recognized in New York State, is found in the upper and middle Delaware Valley. Sites such as Rosenkrans and Abbott Farm demonstrate the more subdued Adena-like traits of the Middlesex Phase 151. Within the study area, there are no known examples of components demonstrating Adena/Hopewell influence. In areas of the lower Delaware Valley, adaptations in the early Middle Woodland look much like the Late Archaic and Early Woodland 152. Continued sedentism, regionalized lithic preference, and an estuarine/wetland focus are the norm, but very few sites are known and deciphering settlement systems is nearly impossible.

Around A.D. 200, the beginning of the later Middle Woodland Period, the developing sedentism of the Late Archaic becomes more firmly rooted and archeologically visible. Across the region, this visibility is demonstrated through a greater reliance on ceramic vessels, the range ceramic size, storage features, and possible house features. Base camps, hamlets, fusion/fission settlement patterns, and the intense utilization of coastal zones are hallmarks of the late Middle Woodland 153. The social experimentation, elaborate burial practices, and far–flung, broad-based trade networks of the late Early Woodland and the earlier part of the Middle Woodland fall apart to reveal the more mundane aspects of the Middle Woodland adaptation. It is also during this transition that the trade of goods originating from within the Middle Atlantic region gains in intensity 154. Exemplifying this system is the trade of Fox Creekbifaces, Mockley ceramics, argillite, and rhyolite throughout the Middle Atlantic region.

Found in large quantities on some heavily utilized coastal base camps, argillite and rhyolite show a flow oflithic material from the interior to the coast. From this point, there is evidence that trade networks move north/south along the coast 155. This evidence includes the distribution of distinctive Abbott Zoned ceramics and sites containing high percentages of argillite and rhyolite at great distances from their source 156. This is the opposite of the typical “fall off” pattern in which lithic usage decreases at a steady rate as the distance from the source increases. Stewart 157 suggests that the lower Delaware Valleyargillite outcrops are out of the territorial range of most coastal groups and therefore, being controlled by other groups. Given this, the reverse fall off pattern is indicative of resource trading and/or extraction that may facilitate large group interactions and regional social ties. Regional “connectedness” is apparent through the dispersal of argillite and Mockley ceramics, the pattern of heavily utilized coastal sites, and the appearance of related artifacts such as Fox Creek bifaces on sites from the Ridge and Valley to the Coastal Plain base camps. Further, this evidence implies a cyclic fusion/fission settlement model based on the low-density assemblages of the interior mirroring the diversity of the high-density assemblages along the coast 158. Observed by Stewart 159, the pattern noted above is likely symbolic of the expansion of Coastal Plain and Piedmont groups as part of a seasonal cycle. Stewart 160 further suggests that trade forays to and from the interior may be part this cycle, and perhaps the formation of nested coastal-to-Piedmont territories that show a generally high degree of interaction and connection to neighboring areas.

Along with the development in settlement patterns and trade/exchange, the A.D. 200 – A.D. 800/1000 period throughout the Middle Atlantic region included the increasing use of wild plant sources and possibly the inception of horticulture. Knowledge of domestication is apparent during this time in neighboring regions. Middle Woodland dates on squash and primitive corn (Zea mays) are present at Meadowcroft Rockshelter 161 and in the Mississippi Valley. Wild plant resources include hickory nut, butternut, and acorn, as well as, seeds from amaranth, chenopodium, and zizania (wild rice) 162. It is possible that there may be selective horticulture, particularly in the late-Middle Woodland, of chenopodium or other wild plant resources in the interior of the Middle Atlantic region, as has been demonstrated by Smith for the Southeast and Midwest United States. However, archaeological remains of both floral and faunal resources are rare. The introduction around A.D. 700 – A.D. 900 of tropical domesticates such as corn from the southeast seems to have not greatly affected the subsistence practices of the people in the Coastal Plain or Piedmont 163. Similarly, interior portions of the Middle Atlantic show very little evidence of horticulture during the Middle Woodland times. It is not until A.D. 900 that farming becomes a noticeable practice by some of the prehistoric cultures of Middle Atlantic, such as Clemson Island in central Pennsylvania and Montgomery in Maryland and Virginia 164.

Few Middle Woodland sites have been excavated in the Delaware Valley, although a number of large Middle Woodland components were identified at the Trenton (Abbott Farm) Complex. Site 28ME1-B produced Abbott Zoned and net-impressed ceramics and Fox Creek points along with Late Woodland ceramics and triangular points suggesting a transitional late Middle/early Late Woodland context 165. Major activities at the site continued to be the procurement and processing of anadromous fish. Residential sites occupied during the cold-weather period were located at the headwaters of Watsons Creek and on the Delaware River floodplain, where subsistence focused on hunting and gathering mast for storage.

Late Woodland

Late Woodland Period (A.D. 800/1000 – A.D. 1550) archaeology across the Middle Atlantic region is highly variable in the degree of sedentism, reliance on agricultural practices, and settlement patterns from place to place. The variability expressed in the archeological record makes it clear that some groups accepted agriculture as a form or mainstay of subsistence, while other groups either rejected or slowly phased in domestic plants while remaining predominantly hunter/gatherers or horticulturalists. Given the variability and the amount of change that occurred in the relatively brief Late Woodland Period, it is difficult to provide a thumbnail sketch. Native communities that are classified in the Late Woodland show change in the core structures of technology, subsistence, settlement systems, social interaction, and trade and exchange.

A noted technological change in the Late Woodland is the near absence of staged bifacial reduction 166. During the Middle Woodland, the Fox Creek bifaces exemplified staged bifacial reduction. This technique was used not only for bifaces, but also for drills, scrapers, and a host of other tools. In the Late Woodland the triangular point, the most common bifaces type of the period, is the only tool that is commonly reduced bifacially. Bipolar reduction and freehand flake retouch are also commonly used techniques to produce triangular bifaces. However, it is core and flake technology that is used most prominently throughout the Late Woodland tool kit. It appears that tool production expediency outweighs formality in the Late Woodland assemblage. Stewart 167 speculates that this shift may signal a lack of lithic tool specialists and a move towards individualized, family-scale, tool production.

In the Late Woodland, ceramics change in size, style, temper, and design motifs. However, the amount of variation and variability across space remains as high as in the Middle Woodland 168. Surface decoration and design within the region show a trend towards incised line work, punctates, and fabric impression. Net impressions and the intricately stamped and incised zoned motifs of Middle Woodland Abbott Zoned ceramics fall out of favor 169. Ceramic styles of the late-Late Woodland become very ornate and complex. Examples of this are human face effigy motifs on Washington Boro ceramics from the Susquehanna Valley and Munsee ceramics from the upper Delaware Valley. The post A.D. 1300 expansion of Iroquoian influences from New York is considered the root of these ceramics’ similarity 170.

Two Late Woodland complexes have been defined for lower Delaware–Minguannan and Overpeck 171. The Minguannan complex was centered in the Piedmont Uplands and the Upper Delmarva Peninsula. The complex is on the basis of distinctive ceramic traits, including broadline-incised geometric designs 172. Minguannan settlement systems do not include sedentary villages, or farmsteads; nor have base camps with evidence of long term occupation, such as house patterns or storage features, been identified. Short-term base camps tend to be in the same locations as in earlier periods.

The Overpeck complex encompasses the central Delaware River Valley eastward into the Piedmont/Coastal Plain transition in New Jersey Custer 173. Several major Late Woodland sites have been investigated along the Delaware River, including the Overpeck and Byram sites. These sites included a variety of features and some evidence for maize agriculture. However, the use of wild plant foods continued 174.

A change in the mode of subsistence, namely the degree of agricultural adoption, is a defining characteristic of the Late Woodland. As previously noted, the variability in the Late Woodland across the Middle Atlantic region shows that the introduction of tropical cultigens (maize, beans, squash) was not accepted equally across the landscape and therefore was not the basis of most diets. In a broad perspective, the subsistence base of the Late Woodland is very much like the Middle Woodland 175. Large game such as deer, bear, and elk, small game such as beaver, turkey, raccoon, wolf, and turtle, shellfish and many species of fish make up the broad faunal base of the Late Woodland diet 176.

The use of domesticated plants and tropical cultigens did not cause a revolution in subsistence practices within the Middle Atlantic. In many areas traditional subsistence practices continued well into, if not through, the Late Woodland and perhaps only incorporated domesticated plants to a small degree 177. For those groups who did incorporate domesticated plants, it is around A.D. 900 that evidence becomes archeologically visible on a small number of sites. Stewart 178 notes that the use of domesticates is more prevalent in the upper Delaware Valley and south as far as Philadelphia, but very rare in the Lower Delaware Valley and Delmarva Peninsula. Custer 179 echoes this observation when stating that eastern Pennsylvania and the Delmarva Peninsula are “dead ends” for the diffusion of maize, beans, and squash from the Mesoamerican heartland. While domesticates gained greater acceptance to the west, north, and south, the Lower Delaware Valley and Delmarva Peninsula did not participate until late in the Late Woodland or Contact Period 180. The nature of diffusion, as well as the need to accept agricultural adaptations, is a function of local resource abundance and population densities 181. The existing resource base and population density of the lower Delaware Valley may have not created the need, desire, or substantiated the “cost” of merging agricultural practices with traditional lifeways.

Much of the documented settlement pattern shifts in the Late Woodland are tied to the adoption of agriculture. In many areas where agriculture was adopted, such as sites along the lower Susquehanna River, settlement shifted to broad floodplain or high order streams, particularly after A.D. 1300 182. In areas where agriculture was not fully adopted, such as the Piedmont Uplands, settlement patterns remained similar to Middle Woodland. Base camps in these areas continued to focus on marsh, swamp, and other well-watered resource rich ecotones 183. Further, settlement systems focusing on floodplains tend to lack a range of upland and lowland sites incorporating many aspects of food production. Coastal Plain Late Woodland sites tend to retain a variety of upland and lowland site types. The latter pattern is reminiscent of the fusion/fission pattern, but not nearly as pronounced as in the Middle Woodland. Large communal group aggregations on the site of selected resources, such as fish, are no longer evident. The main habitation sites of early agriculturalists start as hamlets and progress to full-fledged stockaded villages, such as in the Susquehanna Valley. However, in many areas of the Delaware Valley, particularly the middle to lower valley, small hamlets are the extent to which base camps progress 184.

The trade in prestige goods, at least nonperishable goods, and many lithic materials breaks down in the Late Woodland 185. In the Delaware Valley, local lithic materials are used on the most sites, whilerhyolite and argillite, which were common in the Middle Woodland, are used. Stewart 186 notes that in the Delaware Valley, delineating the areas that continue to utilize argillite compared to those that do not, closely match documented Late Woodland territory boundaries. Based on these boundaries, constructed from contact and colonial era documents by Marshall Becker 187, Stewart 188 speculates that subtle territory changes may restrict certain groups’ access to the argillite quarries. Another possibility posited by Stewart 189 is that the shift away from bifacial reduction technology left argillite out of favor.

At the River Road site 190, located along the Delaware River near the Coastal Plain/Piedmont boundary, at least three vertically separated Late Woodland occupations were identified 191. The later two occupations, dating to A.D. 1330-1440 and A.D. 1440-1660, were similar, both represented by fire-cracked rock scatters and clusters along with net sinkers and a variety of faunal and floral remains. The occupations were interpreted as possible fishing stations. Three features were associated, a cluster of Overpeck/Bowmans Brook ceramics, a tool cache/chipping station, and a storage pit, were associated with the earliest occupation, dating to between A.D. 1160 and 1270, Maize starch and phytolithswere found on a ceramic sherd. The occupation was interpreted as a late summer or fall camp.

Across the Delaware River from the River Road site, a Late Woodland component was investigated at the Reeders Creek West Site 192. The component produced Levanna points, Overpeck/Bowmans Brook pottery sherds, and two radiocarbon dates (A.D. 1040-1220 and A.D. 1390-1430). Features included a post mold, a hearth remnant, and food processing activity areas. Notably, evidence of fishing was absent. The multi-component site was interpreted as a series of short-term procurement and processing stations during the Late Archaic through Late Woodland periods.

Contact and Early Historic Periods

The Contact and Early Historic periods cover the years from A.D. 1550 through A.D. 1740. At the time of European contact, the region was occupied by the Lenape, also known as the Delaware. Much of what we know is from early historic accounts, which indicate that the Lenape continued the Late Woodland foraging lifestyle into the eighteenth century 193. However, as Custer 194 notes, the spread of European diseases, often ahead of actual face-to-face contact, disrupted, and perhaps profoundly changed, Native American culture.

It appears that unlike other groups in the Middle Atlantic region, who lived in semi-permanent villages and grew corn and other crops, the Lenape retained a mobile lifestyle with little reliance on domesticated crops. Ethnohistoric data suggests that they were organized in extended-family bands associated with specific drainages 195. Lenape villages have not been found, although smaller hamlets are suggested by the evidence of structures 196.

There is some evidence that the Lenape grew corn at summer camps, although it appears to have contributed little to the diet 197. Historic documents indicate that the Lenape sold some of their corn production to Swedish settlers, who focused on growing tobacco 198. Becker 199 argues that Lenape subsistence was based largely on the exploitation of anadromous fish. Before A.D. 1660 fishing stations were established along both banks of the Delaware River and shifted every five to six years as resources in the surrounding area were depleted 200. As Dutch power declined and instability in the region increased, the Lenape moved their fishing stations a few kilometers up tributary streams to be less visible.

Archaeological evidence indicates that participation by the Lenape in the European fur trade was limited, since very few European trade goods have been found in the Delaware Valley 201. From historical records Becker 202 argues that Lenape participation in the pelt trade was marginal prior to A.D. 1660 because of their focus on fishing as opposed to hunting. After that period, the Lenape became middle men, trading for pelts form western Native Americans and then selling them to Europeans 203.

The dearth of European goods in the archaeological record may result from the fact that woolen fabrics and other perishable goods were traded to the Lenape. The Lenape also gained income in the form of trade goods from the sale of plots of land, production of wooden tools, the provision of services such as scouting and mail service, and trade in foodstuffs such as fish, beans, hops, and venison.

After A.D. 1660 some Lenape bands moved west to what is now central Pennsylvania to improve their access to the trade 204. The last of the traditionalist bands left their homeland around A.D. 1736-1737.

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  96. Cavallo and Kondrup (1986). Experimentally-Derived Interpretations of Prehistoric Stone Features in the Middle Delaware River Valley
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  112. Stewart (1998). Thoughts on the Origins of Ceramic Use and Variation
  113. Stewart (1998). Thoughts on the Origins of Ceramic Use and Variation
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  115. Egloff and Potter (2001). Indian Ceramics from Coastal Plain Virginia
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  124. Kingsley, Robertson and Roberts (1990). The Archaeology of the Lower Schuylkill River Valley in Southeastern Pennsylvania
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  167. Stewart (1989). Trade and Exchange in Middle Atlantic Region Prehistory
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  173. Stewart and Hummer (1986). Late Woodland Cultures of the Middle and Lower Delaware River Valley and the Upper Delmarva Peninsula
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  197. Becker (1993). Lenape Shelters: Possible Examples from the Contact Period
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