By Alison Haller, M.S., Director of Marketing and Communications at Commonwealth Heritage Group, Inc.
For the past two years, Commonwealth Heritage Group, Inc. (Commonwealth) has partnered with West Chester University’s Department of Anthropology and Sociology to provide an internship program that gives students the opportunity to learn about the field of archaeology through practical professional experience. The students are getting hands-on training and experience processing artifacts recovered from sites discovered in the path of Interstate 476 (known popularly as the Blue Route), a highway built on the outskirts of Philadelphia in the late 1980s. Prior to its construction, Phase I archaeological surveys identified 27 sites along the proposed route, and subsequent documentary research and Phase II archaeological investigations resulted in the identification of 10 sites eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. These include:
Lewis Paper Mill Complex (36 DE 70) Isaac Free site (36 DE 71)
Bailey Tenant site (36 DE 72) Charles Brown site (36 DE 73)
Speakeasy Dump (36 DE 74) Sloan Springhouse (36 DE 75)
Rhoads Whetstone Factory (36 DE 76) Steel Farmstead Complex (36 DE 77)
Hays Farmhouse (36 DE 79) Taylor House Outbuildings (36 DE 81)
The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission’s (PHMC) Bureau of Historic Preservation concluded that these sites were eligible because they contain information important to local history and regional development. As a result, the adverse effects of PennDOT’s construction were mitigated through Phase III data recovery investigations in compliance with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act and its implementing regulations (36 CFR 800). Over 250,000 artifacts were recovered from these excavations. The artifact inventories are being updated and transcribed into a Microsoft Excel database in the PHMC format, and the artifacts are being labeled with catalog numbers and rehoused in archival packaging to current curation guidelines. With the help of West Chester University’s anthropology students, Commonwealth has thus far processed over 60,000 artifacts from five of the sites. While the project continues to unveil interesting findings, it is also providing valuable background experience for the next generation of archaeologists.