Material Culture at Eckley 


This post is from Andi, a member of the 2015 field crew:

I decided to attend the archaeology field school at EckleyMiners’ Village sponsored by the University of Marylandbecause of my love of material culture. I am especially curious about the meaning of artifacts and how they can affect people’s lives – past and present.

The Back Street Girls and I started finding artifacts as soon as we began our survey work with shovel tests. We continued to find material culture when we started to excavate test units.  In some of these units we found pieces of a Lysol bottle as well as fragments of a blue painted shell edged dish. We also found a stove handle, and a portion of a porcelain crucifix, as well as the sole of a child’s shoeWhile some artifacts are pieces of a larger object, they still provide perspective into the lives of the families that lived in the double house.

Megan and Camille have both taught me a lot about artifacts. The artifacts must be thoroughly cleaned without being damaged. Most non-porous artifacts, like ceramics and glass, are washed with water and a toothbrush


Other artifacts need different cleaning technique. For examplebone must not be submerged into water, but rather brushed clean. After the artifacts have dried we label them. All similar artifacts are placed in individual bags. For instance, wire nails and cut nails each get their own individual bags. Glass and ceramics are easily labeled because they hava smooth and flat surface. A minimum of 20% of each bag must be labeled. Labelling begins by placing an archival paste called B72 on the artifact, then it is labeled with the site number and catalogue number. Lastly that number is coated with a top coat to protect the integrity of the catalog number. 


The final step is to catalogue the artifacts and place this information into a data base.  At this point the artifacts are described in more detail and this information can later be accessed for a more complete study of the site.

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Week Five at Eckley Miners Village

As our field season winds down for the summer, the days are literally growing shorter! Week five was a short week and, between our Monday recovery day after Patchtown Days and our Friday holiday in observance of the Fourth of July, we only spent 3 days out at Eckley! As it follows, then, this will be a short update – so read on!


The Sites

Both of our sites are now done being excavated! Despite only spending three days in the field this week, Dolly and Mikaela managed to finish our last two units (one in the basement of the structure and the other located just west of the structure) at House Lot #38/40 and a last minute push to finish shovel tests at House Lot #34/36 succeeded in finishing up the last of the digging for the year. While some additional mapping and measuring will be taking place this week (as well as back filling everything we’ve just finished excavating — don’t tell the students), we can finally finish our field paper work and focus almost exclusively on lab work for the last week of our adventure out here at Eckley! I couldn’t be more proud of the incredible work these girls (and Aaron) have achieved this summer and I hope they recognize how far they’ve come in these five short weeks!


Dolly and Mikeala celebrate finishing test units

The last day of excavations

This week we also had the pleasure of hosting Dr. Linebaugh and Claire Linebaugh. Dr. Linebaugh is a professor in the University of Maryland’s School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, and the area chair of it’s Historic Preservation Program. Dr. Linebaugh had an opportunity to view some of the items we’ve been finding as well as offer his interpretations of the standing stone foundation at House Lot #38/40. Dr. Linebaugh has given us some exciting avenues for exploration in the future and we hope to follow through on those ideas!

The Crew

Thursday was our last day with Stephanie B., our volunteer from the last three weeks. Stephanie (and Mitch) have been a fantastic addition to our crew and we will miss them sorely this last week of field school, but we sincerely look forward to the possibility of having them join us out at Eckley next summer!


We have also had a unique addition to our crew over the last few weeks, but as her presence has become more and more common, it might be time to introduce her. Maggie the Lab Cat has adopted the Eckley Field School and now regularly stops by at 9:00 sharp every morning to say hello, inspect the lab, and receive some love and, occasionally, kitty treats. While we would love to give Maggie a home back in College Park, we know her home is here in Eckley, where she keeps the residents and staff in line between naps in the sun. 


The Lab

Under the expert guidance of Megan S., the lab continues to move at a breakneck pace! While I will have more concrete numbers of our progress next week, we currently have about 33% of our artifacts catalogued, 50% labeled, and approximately 100% washed from the House Lot #38/40 site! Those are incredible numbers considering Megan has only been with us for two weeks! I look forward to reporting our exact progress for the summer at the end of next week.


Andi and Esther cleaning artifacts


The Artifacts

Incredible things continue to come out of the ground here at Eckley! While our excavations into the basement have not yielded much of the early material culture that we were originally hoping for, it is yielding a fascinating supply of other items, including fragments of porcelain doll faces, pieces of broken bottles made as close as Freeland, Pennsylvania, and as far away as Boston, Massachusetts, and other small insights into every day life in Northeastern Pennsylvania coal company patchtowns. I look forward to publishing the report on our work, complete with pictures, so that those who have not yet had the chance to see these incredible finds in person can still get to enjoy them.

Part of a porcelain doll face



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Patch Town’s Day, June 2015

This post is by team member Mikaela: 

This weekend Eckley Miners’ Village was home to Patch Town Days and the archaeology team discovered that the numerous artifacts in our lab and the well-excavated site on Back Street fascinated many visitors exploring the streets of Eckley. It was a weekend full of rain, music, pierogis, and a whole bunch of archaeology

On Saturday, the first day of Patch Town Days, it unfortunately poured rain all day long. But, nonetheless, that didn’t stop people from coming to see Eckely and to learn about life in a coal-mining town. We spent the day in the lab washing, labeling, and learning how to catalogue the plethora of artifacts we have found this summer. 


Dorothy labeling artifacts



We had visitors coming in to watch us process the artifacts and learn about what we have been finding at the siteFellow archaeology student, Esther was gracious enough to give the groups that came in a tour of the lab and explain some neat things about the drying artifacts. She was number one docent for Patch Town Days! We also had a wonderful reunion with Shannon and she seemed very excited about the things being found in the last unit she worked onDespite the weather, it was still a good day.


Esther providing a tour of the lab to a family during rainy Saturday



On Sunday, the rain let up quite a bit and I was able to go out and dig in my unit in the basement of house #38. I got a lot of work done and was also able to share my knowledge of the unit to the people who stopped by the site. Dr. Shackel gave the visitors an overview of the project and then led them over to the basement where I explained my work in the excavation unit. However, there was a point when Dr. Shackel left for lunch and numerous groups proceeded to show up while I was at the site by myself. I had to take matters into my own hands and do my best to explain everything that I’ve learned thus far about the project and archaeology in general. I felt like it was a really great experience for me and it reassured me that I have learned an immense amount since I got here.


Two street musicians at Patch Town Days festival


Overall, Patch Town Days was an amazing and wonderful experience. I enjoyed everything from the various vendors, to the delicious pierogis and halupkis, and the constant music playing throughout the town. But most of all, I enjoyed sharing archaeology with those people who stopped by.


Mikaela after a long day of shovel testing in the field.


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Week Four At Eckley Miner’s Village

More digging, more artifacts, more excitement, and a recap of Patchtown Days. Read on to hear about whats new in our fourth week at Eckley Miners’ Village! 

The Site(s)

The beginning of the week was spent focusing on House Lot #34/36 (the house lot next door to the house lot we have been excavating this summer). As part of our research plan, we dig shovel tests, small round holes about a foot in diameter, every ten feet on a grid across the site. Since we know we will be back excavating on Back Street next summer, we are getting a leg up on the work for next year by finishing this crucial first step now. We have found some promising and exciting artifacts in our shovel tests such as smoking pipe fragments, cut nails, and a jack game piece. I’m sure the excavations next year will yield artifacts that are just as exciting (or even more exciting!) than the excellent finds from this year!


Mikeala shovel testing lots 36 and 38



While we have been expanding our archaeological horizons, we have also continued to work on finishing up the test units we have open at House Lot #38/40. We closed one of the three remaining units we have open while Mikaela and Dolly work diligently on finishing up the last two. While it is always sad to close up our excavations for the year, it also means that we will have plenty of time to complete the lab portion of our excavations and introduce the field school students to the entire archaeological experience, from excavation to cataloging.


The Crew

We were also lucky to have three new additions to our work this week! Last Sunday we were delighted to meet Aaron D., who joined us for a week from Edinboro University. Aaron spent his week excavating, washing artifacts, and learning the basics of sorting and identifying artifacts, as well as getting to experience Eckley’s coal mining heritage first hand. Thanks again for coming out, Aaron!

Esther working in the field


In addition, we had Megan from the University of Maryland come out to join us in the lab! Under Megan’s excellent guidance, the lab process – which includes washing, labeling, sorting, bagging, and entering all of the data into a computer – has been streamlined and is moving along at a rapid pace. Many thanks to all of Megan’s (and the field school students’) hard work on getting our lab up and running!


We also had the good fortune of meeting Mitch S.! Mitch is also a local volunteer who helped us out in the field and in the lab for Patchtown Days. We are extremely grateful for the time Mitch took out of his week to spend with us and we hope to see him again before the end of the summer!


Volunteers – Mitch, Stephanie, and Aaron helping out in the lab.

We were also fortunate enough to be invited to the opening of the Company Story exhibit in the Eckley Company Store building on Friday afternoon. The students got a chance to peruse the building and see the complete makeover of the interpretation. We were also joined by three University of Maryland faculty – Dr. Lafrenz-Samuels, Dr. Getrich, and Dr. Little, and their guests – who were able to tour Eckley and enjoy some of the activities of Patchtown Days on Saturday and Sunday.


The Lab

As we focus more on the lab portion of the field school, new and exciting revelations are being made almost on a daily basis! The students are learning about different manufacturing processes for nails, ceramics, and glass, and how each of these manufacturing processes left different physical marks on the artifacts that we can use to identify and establish the age of the item. The Back Street Girls (plus Aaron) did a superb job of explaining these differences as well as describing the entire lab process from start to finish to our visitors during Patchtown Days. While Saturday was rainy, Sunday was non-stop visitors from 9am to 4pm! We had an excellent showing and all of the students had an opportunity to explain the process to groups of visitors. In addition to the lab, we also opened the excavations so people could see where all of our artifacts were coming from! All in all, it was a positive learning experience and an opportunity to illustrate to students the importance of public archaeology.


The Artifacts

Some previously unidentified artifacts are becoming recognizable in the lab as they are washed and sorted. Exciting new finds include pieces of carnival glass, a ceramic doll foot, and perhaps even a celluloid billiards ball! While they are neat objects in and of themselves, they can also tell us something about the lives of the people who lived in these houses – poor lighting inside the house was combatted through the use of the iridescent carnival glass, children were kept entertained through tiny ceramic dolls, and someone snagged a billiards ball from one of the local establishments – possibly three miles away in Freeland, the closest town in the area where it was legal to purchase alcohol. All of these stories can help us understand what life might have been like in the earliest decades of Eckley’s existence. 



Coming Up

The end is coming! Our final day at Eckley will be July 10th, although we will be gone July 3rd through the 6th in observance of the Fourth of July. We invite those in the area who are interested to come out and join us for a day!

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Week Three at Eckley Miners’ Village


It’s hard to believe we’re already wrapping up our third week out here at Eckley! Time flies when you’re having fun. We said goodbye to some old friends but made some new ones as well. Read on!

The Site

On Monday we hosted visitors from Kutztown University’s Archaeological Field School! Dr. Khori Newlander is leading the group in their excavation of the former mill- and lumber-town of Stoddardsville, PA, located about 30 minutes from Eckley. Our fieldschool students had a chance to meet the Kutztown students and interpret what we’ve been finding to a small audience. The Kutztown students also got to see a bit of Eckley and understand what coal company town life was like before we said our goodbyes. On Wednesday, Dr. Newlander and the Kutztown students were kind enough to exchange the favor, and we drove over to Blakeslee, PA, to see and learn about their site. Our students were extremely envious of the Kutztown students’ view (right above the Lehigh River in the shadow of a early 19th century grain mill – pictured below) and we learned a thing or two about making our excavation unit walls straight! We were extremely grateful to be able to spend some time with Dr. Newlander’s group and we hope to continue the relationship between the two field schools in future years.


As for Eckley, we continue to be digging at breakneck speed! We’ve completed more in the first three weeks than we thought we’d be able to in the course of the entire summer. With this rapid pace, we’ve begun looking to new areas and house lots to dig. We plan on moving next door and beginning to shovel test the adjoining lot on Monday. Hopefully that house has as great materials and intact context as we’ve found at House Lot #38/40!

The Crew

The Back Street Girls lost one of their own this week. The girls said goodbye to Shannon, who, after three weeks of living, working, and experiencing Northeastern Pennsylvania alongside the crew, had to head back home. We are delighted to have met Shannon and hope to see her around these parts in the future. Goodbye, sweet Shannon!


When one door closes, however, another opens. This upcoming week we will be joined by Aaron from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania and Megan Springate from the University of Maryland. Aaron will only be joining us through Patch Town Days, while Megan will be with us until the bitter end! I am excited to welcome these two new faces to the project and I can’t wait to report back on their experiences in Northeastern Pennsylvania!

We are also happy to introduce Stephanie B.! Stephanie is a local who has decided to volunteer with us on her days off. Stephanie’s first day was Thursday and we look forward to seeing her Thursdays and Fridays for the rest of the project!

The Excavations

Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday were a wash (literally) with rain on and off all day. Despite the inclement weather, however, the crew was able to pull through and open 4 new units this week: three just outside of the foundation on the sides of the house and one in the basement of the structure. We continue to find material culture from the mid-19th century through to the early 20th century. Our excavations are also helping us to understand how individuals shaped their physical surroundings through their modifications to the original house construction. While the artifacts can provide us with great information on the types of things people would have interacted with and used on a daily basis, architectural information can provide us with a different view into the minds and intentions of the first residents of Eckley.

The Artifacts


This week has seen a plethora of new and exciting artifacts! Glass bottle fragments with applied and tooled finishes have provided the students with an opportunity to try their hand at identifying and analyzing archaeological materials. While we aren’t finding as many of the handsome sponge and shell-edged decorated wares as we were finding in our earlier excavations, we continue to find cut nails dating to the 19th century, kaolin pipe fragments, and clay marbles!

Coming Up

In two short days we will be meeting our high school volunteers! Last year we had an incredible group and I’m looking forward to having an equally-talented and motivated group this summer. Hopefully some of the students will be interested in writing blogposts about their first experiences in archaeology! If they do, you’ll be able to find those posts (and many more) at .

Next weekend will be Eckley’s Patch Town Days Festival! For the first time, we will have active, open excavations at Patch Town Days and an opportunity for our field school students to really demonstrate what they’ve learned to the public! The full program for the weekend includes dance performances by the Ukranian Folk Ensemble and the Emerald Isles Step Dancers, music performances by The Troubles, the Irish Lads, Dave Matsinko, Henry Taminini, the Juggernaut String Band, and Paul Riffon, an art exhibition by Nicholas Bervinchak, a fashion show by Queen Victoria’s Court, and a tea party at the Sharpe House. We hope you’ll come out to support Eckley and these wonderful groups!

And as always, we welcome interested volunteers any time! We are in the field Monday through Friday, 8am to 4pm.


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The Arts on Fire!: A fieldtrip to the Keystone Iron Works


This post is written by Esther, a member of the 2015 field crew:

Before our trip with Dr. Shackel to Scranton, I really had no idea what “iron pour” meant. I got into the car expecting an educational experience involving the history of mining industries in the region. At the other end of the drive, we piled out of the car and saw the Keystone Iron Works towering beside a merry festival. In the warm sun, many people were milling in and out of artisan vendor tents, buying refreshments, and listening to the live music.


We proceeded to a guide in historical garb, who regaled us with a lively history of the ups and downs of the “Scranton Boys” as they schemed and dreamed their way to the top of the iron industry. Even after their production company cheaply produced nails with an 80% fail rate, they tactically renamed their business and carried on. I could see that the local people were proud of the ingenuity. This was definitely a festival that celebrated the heritage of the locale, and they felt enthusiastic.

At one point, the furnace was the largest stone structure of their kind in the nation. The iron ore from the immediate surrounding area was not high quality. However, Scranton, Grant, and Co. contributed to the success of railroad construction. They sold rails made by mixing their ore with better quality material. Eventually iron smelting developed into the steel industry.


We were able to say a quick hello to Dr. Bode Morin, who was managing the event and explaining background information to various bystanders. We stepped up to the makeshift fence surrounding the iron heating apparatus. On the other side, there were a number of amazing works of art on the grass, very close to us. They were like bas-reliefs, sculptures designed with molds into which iron had been poured and then left to cool. More impressively, these were created by high school students.


At 2800 degrees the molten iron was finally poured into a bucket on a pole held by two men. It looked like magma flowing out of the earth, bright and viscous. They took the bucket and carefully tilted it to pour into each mold.


The music wafted in the background as we explored the tents, a woman singing, and then the band started up some excellent music with a jazz or swing feel.


After a few hours of conversation and exploration, we headed back to the car. The whole atmosphere of the Arts on Fire Festival had been far from a dry reading of history. The stone furnaces and history of Scranton had been a backdrop for our own interactions with everyone there.


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Eckley Miners’ Village hosting Maryland Archaeological Group

From the Standard Speaker Article of the  16 July, 2015:


Through July 10, an archaeological field school sponsored by the University of Maryland will be conducting archeological excavations at Eckley Miners’ Village.


Eckley Miners’ Village, a PHMC historic site in Luzerne County preserving the buildings and interpreting the lives

 of anthracite miners, has been an active site for more than 160 years.


Bode Morin, site administrator said, “archaeology is a perfect tool to better understand the lifeways of some of the earliest immigrants and miners at Eckley. Many of them did not leave a written record and only through the systematic excavation, cataloging, and interpreting of artifacts will we get a good picture of the how they lived.”


This is the fourth year that the archaeology team, led by Paul Shackel, a professor at the University of Maryland, will be working in northeastern Pennsylvania.


“Exploring the history of working class life is important for this region’s heritage,” he said, and “Eckley Miners’ Village is a great place to study the roots of the coal industry and the impact it had on workers and their families.”


The archeology is focusing on Back Street, where the new immigrants tended to settle and live as they pursued economic stability. Camille Westmont, a PhD student at the University of Maryland, will be using the results of these excavations for her dissertation research.

“Women in these working class families are often ignored in the broader discussions of the area’s history. These excavations are telling us what women and children did — and did without — in order to maintain their everyday lives while their husbands, sons, and brothers were under ground.”

Students participating in the excavations come from the region and as far as Arizona.


Excavations are open to the public and also will be accessible during Patchtown Days on June 27 and 28.


The dig is near the slate picker’s house. The public is welcome to visit the excavation site and see what the crew is finding.


Eckley is located in Foster Township, Luzerne County, 10 miles east of downtown Hazleton and three miles south of Freeland.

For more information, call the village at 570-636-2070, visit or Facebook.

Eckley Miners’ Village is administered by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission with active support from the Eckley Miners’ Village Associates.


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Weeks One and Two at Eckley Miners’ Village

Crew member Esther excavating at the Back Street site, Eckley Miners’ Village

The Department of Anthropology at the University of Maryland is delighted to report the completion of our first two weeks of excavations at Eckley Miners’ Village! After much consternation about whether the project would move forward, our first few days in the field confirmed that all the effort on behalf of so many was completely worth it. Read on!


The Site


This is our fourth University of Maryland archaeological field school to be held in Northeastern Pennsylvania and we couldn’t be happier to return to the Greater Hazleton area. After many wonderful years in Lattimer and Pardeesville (Lattimer 2), we were sad to say goodbye but excited to expand our horizons to Eckley Miners’ Village, a Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission historic site that preserves anthracite miningheritage. Eckley is just a 15 minute drive from Hazleton, and we strongly recommend anyone in the area to check it out! Their website is and you can find out about all of their upcoming events (including Patchtown Days!) through their facebook page at


Eckley is a planned coal company town and so different areas of the village correspond to different economic classes of workers. This summer, we chose to excavate on Back Street – the location of the poorest workers in an area often referred to as “slate pickers’ houses”. These residences were double houses, with each side consisting of a one-and-a-half story balloon frame dwelling that measured 14-by-20 feet with an unattached summer kitchen located direct behind the house that measured about 13-by-10 feet. As many as 8 to 10 people could live in a house this size. (There is an excellent example of a standing slate picker’s house at Eckley that will be open duringPatchtown Days!)


The majority of the slate pickers’ houses were torn down in 1950s and the foundations removed through strip mining, but a handful of foundations remain. This summer’s work is focusing on house lot 38/40, although we hope to expand to other slate picker’s double houses on Eckley’s Back Street in the future.


The Crew


I would be remiss to not mention the students joining us on this field school! For these first few weeks we are joined by five undergraduate and one post-baccalaureate students from across the U.S. When we aren’t excavating, we are introducing them to just some of the local flavor, including Jimmy’s Quick Lunch, Carmen’s Bakery, haluptkihalushkiperogies, and Valley Hi, as well as some of the local sights. It’s been a cultural experience, to say the least! They have collectively decided that, as an all-female crew, it is only appropriate that they be called the Back Street Girls.


The crew gets a tour of Eckley Miners’ Village from site administrator Bode Morin

A visit to the Molly Maguire’s monument in Mahanoy City

Iron pour at Keystone iron Works, Scranton

The Excavations


Andi excavating a test unit

As is standard with field school, we started week one with a rain day. Once we got into the field, however, the dig really started moving! Our students dug 59 shovel tests in two and a half days and had started on test units by the end of week one. We are particularly interested in the area between the house and the summer kitchen, so we started with one unit immediately behind House 38 and one behind House 40.  By the end of week two, we have expanded that number to include one unit behind House 38, one unit inside House 38, and one unit in the summer kitchen of House 38, along with two units behind House 40, one unit inside House 40, and one unit in the summer kitchen of House 40. Seven units in 6 days – I wasn’t kidding when I said this crew is moving some serious dirt!


In just two week’s we’ve become local celebrities! WNEP Channel 16, Scranton’s largest new station, came to the site on Wednesday to shoot a segment for the nightly news. That piece can be viewed at Locals who saw the news story have been contacting us about volunteering at the site and we couldn’t be happier! Many thanks to WNEP and Matt and Mike for coming out!

Camille being interviewed for WNEP News

The Artifacts


The most exciting part of this year’s field school (for me, at least), are the incredible artifacts coming out of the ground! For the first time since we began digging in Northeastern Pennsylvania, we are finding sealed stratigraphic contexts that go back as early as the 1850s! We know these houses were built in 1853, so our work is literally looking back to the people who first lived in Eckley. Annular banded, sponge decorated, cut sponge decorated, shell edged, hand painted, and transfer-printed wares are just a few of the awesome ceramics we’re recovering from these units. In addition to ceramics, a variety of other fascinating items are popping up, including a 1920s Lysol bottle, clay marbles, pieces of toy dolls, a thimble, and religious iconography, including a gilded porcelain wall crucifix and a (possible) crucifix pendant. All of these items help us to understand the lives of the people who lived in this section of Eckley – a history we hope to make more publicly accessible in the future.

Shoe sole recovered from the site.


Coming Up


Beginning June 22nd, we will be having local high school students from Hazleton Area High School, the Hazleton Area Academy of Sciences, and the Hazleton Career Center joining us! We piloted this program last summer and had a wonderful response from the students. We are even more excited to be running it again this summer. Many thanks to Mrs. Billet, Mr. Anthony Conston, Ms. Marie Ernst, and Mr. Mike Pozzessere for their hard work in recruiting and encouraging these students to join us! This year we also received invaluable assistance from the University of Maryland’s College of Behavioral and Social Sciences to help us host these students. Special thanks to everyone involved in making this happen!


Eckley’s annual Patchtown Days Festival is taking place Saturday and Sunday, June 27th and 28th. There will be live music, traditional Irish dances, crafts for sale, and the best haluptkis around! We will have the excavations open and an opportunity for visitors to see what we’ve been recovering from the site. It promises to be a fun couple days, all while supporting a good cause. On behalf of myself, Dr. Shackel, and the Back Street Girls, we hope to see you there!

some of the Back Street Girls on a visit to abandoned Centralia, PA – the town that has continued to burn for about 40 years because of an underground, uncontrolled mine fire.

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A Story from the Field: a buried A-horizon

This post is from field crew student Dorothy, reporting on her exciting first two weeks of fieldwork:

On the first day of field school I was reassured that we could stop digging once subsoil was reached–unless there was a “buried A-horizon.” Subsoil does not contain artifacts and it dates to before human occupation.


Buried A-horizons are not common. It can occur when soils are removed from another place– like a cellar, and thedeposited on a former living surface. On the third day of excavations we discovered a buried A-horizon.


When we reached what we though was subsoil we excavated a bit further.  Then we noticed a thin black layer underneath the subsoil which extended through the entire unit.  We took off the layer of subsoil to reveal the ashy black layer that covered the unit and were able to determine that the subsoil had been redeposited when they constructed the cellar for a double house at around the mid-1850s.


Photo showing stratigraphy characteristic of a buried A-horizon. The yellowish layer soil is redeposited from the historic excavation of a nearby cellar. Below is a dark occupational layer visible throughout the unit.

The builders of the house dug into the subsoil to create the cellar and placed it on top of the humus-like living surface in the back of the structure. On top of this redeposited soil we found materials related to the early occupation of the dwelling – where they tossed their trash – like bones, smoking pipe stems, and broken dishes. Finding a buried A-horizon in my first test unit was an amazing experience.

Ceramic smoking pipe fragments found in the buried living surface

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First Week at Eckley: A Story from Ceramics

We started our first week at Eckley Miners’ Village. The staff has been fantastic and very welcoming of our archaeology project.  Many thanks to Dr. Bode Morin and his staff at Eckley for working so hard to make this summer happen.

The first day in the field we began shovel testing on town lot 38/40, which is located on Back Street.  Shovel testing consists of small holes that are about 1.0ft wide and are excavated to subsoil – where no human activities occurred.  We covered the site with a 10 ft. grid and excavated the shovel tests. We were not certain what we would find, however, the hard work by the crew was worthwhile.

Field crew digging shovel tests at Eckley

The results of the shovel tests indicate that much of the soil close to the property boundaries was removed at some point, either through erosion or by some mechanical process.  There is only a thin humus layer on top of the subsoil. However, the shovel tests closest to the house had material culture related to the occupation of the former residents.  This information gave us a clue about where we should place subsequent excavation unit.

Beginning the 5′ x 5′ test unit excavations

Each excavation unit is 5.0. ft by 5.0 ft. and on Thursday we began our excavations. The results were amazing! Toward the back of the house and close to the summer kitchen we found cow and pig bone, and much of the ceramics the field school students recovered dated to the 1860s, from the time when the town was first settled.  It looks like we have material from the earliest occupation of Eckley, which will help us understand, work, labor, and the new immigrants’ transition to Northeastern, Pennsylvania.

Blue shell-edged plate rims recovered from test unit excavations

Take a look at these ceramics. They tell a great story about the lives of the residents.  They are all –what we call – shelled edged plates, and they all look alike, as though they came from the same set of dishes.  However, when you look at these ceramics closely, they are all slightly different.  Some have some embossing in the shell edged design, and some are painted slightly differently.  Apparently, the residents were buying individual dishes as they could afford them as they tried to keep a matched set in their household.

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