US Route 301 Archaeology Update

July 1st, 2013

Here is the location of the Polk Tenant Site on the 1868 Beers Atlas Map.

F. W. Beers, 1868 Atlas of the State of Delaware

F. W. Beers, 1868 Atlas of the State of Delaware

And a photograph of a partially excavated well at the Polk Tenant Site.

Partially-excavated well at the Polk Tenant Site.

Partially-excavated well at the Polk Tenant Site.

US Route 301 Archaeology Update

July 1st, 2013

Update on the Dale African American archaeological site:

Samuel Dale’s Strange “Manumission,” 1854

The Samuel Dale who owned the Dale Site lived as a free man for most of his life. Born in 1791, he first appeared in the census as a free man in 1810. He was counted as a free man every ten years thereafter, all the way to 1870, shortly before his death. We were therefore shocked to find in the New Castle County deed book for 1854 an entry reading,

Know all men by these presents that I Nicholas Patterson of the City of Wilmington New Castle County and State of Delaware (Minister of the Gospel) from motives of benevolence and humanity, have manumitted and do manumit and set free from slavery my negro man Samuel Dale of St. Georges Hundred in the County and State aforesaid aged about forty years, he the said Samuel Dale having been the slave of James Haughey late of St. Georges Hundred decd who by his will gave the said Samuel Dale (among other things) to his children and the survivor of them, the only survivor of whom is Mrs. Eliza Patterson, formerly Eliza Haughey and now wife of the said Nicholas Patterson.

At first we thought that this must be some other Samuel Dale. After all, this document says Dale was about forty, and the owner of the Dale Site would have been about 65. So far as we can tell, though, the only other Samuel Dale living in St. Georges Hundred was the son of our Samuel Dale, who was younger than forty in 1854 and just as free as his father.  We also know that our Samuel Dale was connected to the Haughey family, and that the land Dale bought once belonged to the Haugheys. Besides, until recently many older people had only a vague notion of their own ages.  So the manumission must have been for the owner of the Dale Site.

But why was a manumission enrolled in 1854 for a 65-year-old man who had been living free for at least 44 years? Probably because of the other major event in Dale’s life that year, his purchase of the 20 acres of land that became his farm. Either when he proposed to buy the land, or when he tried to have the deed enrolled at the court house, somebody must have demanded proof that Dale was in fact a free man. If there ever was a written record of Dale’s manumission 44 years before, it had been lost. So Dale had to track down the only surviving daughter of his former master and persuade her husband to free him again, this time with proper documentation. Just one small sign of the difficulties faced by African Americans in the nineteenth century.

Dale Manumission

Dale Manumission

US Route 301 Archaeology Update

June 27th, 2013

Versar, Inc. has begun the work of writing up the Polk Tenant Site (7NC-F-111) identified in 2009 and then carefully excavated by the archaeologists at Richard Grubb and Associates.  The site includes the archaeological remains of a tenant or farm worker’s house that may have been part of the nearby C. Polk Estate.  It is located along the present path of US Route 301 west of Middletown near the Delaware/Maryland state line.  We know from archival research that the site was part of a farm run by members of the Evertson, Cyrus Polk, and William Taylor families during the 19th and 20th centuries.  Important features found by archaeologists at the site include a cellar, brick foundations, and a brick-lined well. 

In addition to writing up the site archaeology, Versar will be conducting a special study on wells in Delaware. Several of the sites along the Route 301 corridor had very well preserved wells, and while wells have been excavated at many sites across the state, there is still a lot we don’t know about these important features. Creating a synthesis of this feature type from across the state will provide an opportunity to expand what we know about how wells were built and used.

To do this, over the course of the next year or so, Versar archaeologists and historians will gather information on previously excavated wells from all over Delaware.  Some of the information to be collected will include the shape of wells that have been found, the methods and materials used to construct them, and where the wells occur relative to houses, barns or other structures.  We will also examine the methods archaeologists use to excavate wells.  We will summarize what is known about wells in Delaware and create a research tool that other archaeologists will be able to use to see how wells they find compare to what has been found before.  Our work began this month with a review of archaeological reports written for DelDOT.  So far, we have found more than 50 wells that we will be including in our study.

Restrictions for lane closures on SR26 to be modified

June 13th, 2013

In an effort to balance impacts to the traveling public and local businesses with the need to facilitate ongoing overhead utility relocations, DelDOT has modified the hours during which lanes can be closed on SR26. For the rest of the month of June 2013, lane closures will be restricted to the following hours:

Monday – Thursday: 5am to dusk.
Friday: 5am to noon.

No lane closures will be allowed from noon, Friday through Monday morning.

These hours will remain in effect through June 30, 2013. From July 1, 2013 to September 30, 2013 lane closures will be restricted to the hours between 7 p.m. and 6 a.m., Monday through Friday morning. Lane closures will not be allowed on Holidays and Weekends during this period. DelDOT will monitor the impacts of lane closures both with local forces, and stationary and mobile cameras. DelDOT maintains the rights to modify the time restrictions based off of delays.

Restrictions for lane closures on SR26 to be modified

June 6th, 2013

In an effort to facilitate ongoing overhead utility relocations, DelDOT has modified the restrictions on lane closures during the peak season for SR26. The peak season began May 15 and ends September 30. Lane closures during the peak season would normally be restricted to the hours between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., Monday through Friday.

DelDOT has modified the hours during which lanes can be closed on SR26. For the rest of the month of June 2013, lane closures will be restricted to the following hours:

  • Monday – Thursday: 5am to dusk.
  • Friday – Sunday: 5am to noon.

These hours will remain in effect through June 30, 2013. From July 1, 2013 to September 30, 2013 lane closures will be restricted to the hours between 7 p.m. and 6 a.m., Monday through Friday morning. Lane closures will not be allowed on Holidays and Weekends during this period. DelDOT will monitor the impacts of lane closures both with local forces, and stationary and mobile cameras. DelDOT maintains the rights to modify the time restrictions based off of delays.


Video – US Route 301 Warwick Site Archaeology Update 3

May 29th, 2013

Watch as Michael Carmody, Archaeologist, from Dovetail Cultural Resource Group gives a final update on the excavations at the Warwick Native American Archaeology site.

US Route 301 Archaeology Update

May 21st, 2013
Dovetail archaeologists continuing the excavation while Michael Carmody discusses the Warwick Site with Maryland Historic Trust, Delaware Department of Transportation, and Federal Highway Administration representatives.

Dovetail archaeologists continuing the excavation while Michael Carmody discusses the Warwick Site with Maryland Historic Trust, Delaware Department of Transportation, and Federal Highway Administration representatives.

On May 3, representatives from the Maryland Historic Trust (MHT), the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) visited the Warwick Site.  Planned improvements to Route 301 led to the excavation of the site, and, in turn, to coordination with various state and federal agencies.  Near the Warwick Site, Route 301 narrows from a two-lane road in Maryland to one lane in Delaware; therefore, DelDOT’s road widening will extend a short distance into Maryland to avoid creating a bottleneck near the state line.  Coordination with both states was required to ensure the work meets the requirements of both state agencies, as well as the FHWA.  Since excavation destroys the archaeological record at the same time information is collected, meeting with representatives on site allowed the participants to examine the ongoing work directly rather than filtered through Dovetail’s documentation and interpretation.

At the meeting, DelDOT, thanked everyone for coming and turned the meeting over to Dovetail Cultural Resource Group (Dovetail) for an overview of the site.   Mike Carmody of Dovetail presented an overview of the excavation strategy, and discussed public outreach.  Mike Klein, Dovetail archaeologist, then described the specific results of the excavation, including an overview of the vertical and horizontal distribution of artifacts, the type of artifacts recovered, and the approach to excavation.   Conversation with the agency representatives clarified aspects of the excavation and the ongoing research and analysis.  The meeting concluded with FHWA and MHT staff engaging the Dovetail field crew, who continued the fieldwork throughout the meeting.

Representatives from the Maryland Historic Trust talk with fieldworkers during the meeting.

Representatives from the Maryland Historic Trust talk with fieldworkers during the meeting.

US Route 301 Archaeology Update

May 14th, 2013
The Warwick Site after excavation, showing backfilled test units.

The Warwick Site after excavation, showing backfilled test units.

Phase III fieldwork at the Warwick Site ended on May 9th, with the completion of 33 test units.  Fifty-nine square meters, or roughly 635 square feet, were excavated during the Phase I through III fieldwork.  All artifacts have been returned to the lab for cleaning and detailed analysis.  The artifacts will be measured, weighed, and classified by type of stone, reduction stage, and shape.  Reduction stage refers to extent to which tools have been shaped and thinned, and to the point in tool manufacturing when flakes were removed.  For example, during the initial stage, as the tool is roughly shaped, flakes tend to be large and the weathered exterior of the stone, termed the cortex, is often present.  In contrast, sharpening a finished tool tends to produce small flakes that lack cortex on the flake.  In addition, points will be classified by reference to standard sources, like William Ritchie’s A Typology and Nomenclature for New York Projectile Points and Noel Justice’s Stone Age Spear and Arrow Points of the Midcontinental and Eastern United States; on-line information posted by Delaware’s Historic Preservation Office (http://history.delaware.gov/archaeology/points/start.shtml) and Maryland’s Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum will also be consulted (http://www.jefpat.org/diagnostic/Maryland_Projectile_Points/index-projectilepoints.html).  The information will then be typed into a data base for analysis.

Washing, cataloging, and data entry in Dovetail’s archaeology lab.

Washing, cataloging, and data entry in Dovetail’s archaeology lab.


US Route 301 Archaeology Update

May 14th, 2013
Completing excavation with soil-sample column retained

Completing excavation with soil-sample column retained

The previous post characterized the Warwick Site as a way station where small groups monitored game trails, sharpened tools, and consumed packed snacks, locally available foods, or both; ongoing excavation of the Warwick Site has reinforced this assessment.  Nevertheless, the more robust view of the spatial distribution of artifacts across the site revealed by newly excavated test units highlights variation in the density and location of different types of artifacts and, perhaps, different activities, and has implications for the length and type of past occupations.  Within the core of the site, for example, artifact density reached 30 to 65 artifacts per test unit, well above the amount recovered from most test units.  In contrast, very few artifacts occurred in the southeastern test units, though several tools were unearthed in that area and a small basin-shaped pit was identified during the earlier work.  The pit contained only charcoal and very small fragments of chipping debris that would have fallen through the screens used to standardize artifact collection. Microdebitage, the archaeological term for the very small chips recovered by passing the sediments from the feature through screens similar to mosquito mesh, may be one key to evaluating the way-station hypothesis.

Two ethnographic observations illustrate the value of microdebitage: 1) people maintain sleeping and common areas by relocating large debris to the unused portions of the landform; and 2) the extent of maintenance and the organization of space tend to correlate with length of stay at a location.  While cleaning, people often overlook extremely small fragments of chipping debris.  If, therefore, flintknappers sharpening tools created the artifact-rich core of the site, microdebitage should be present.  The absence of very small debris implies that larger material was tossed or swept from the actual location where tools were manufactured.  Similarly, if a dearth of microdebitage does not accompany the dearth of refuse in the southeastern corner of the excavation block, the proposed interpretation flounders.  The presence of significant amounts of microdebitage in an artifact-poor area implies extensive cleaning around the pit feature.  The level of maintenance and spatial organization implied by extensive cleaning of a living area suggests a longer-term occupation that required more extensive organization of the use of space than predicted by the way-station hypothesis.  Consequently, samples collected from the test units will be screened through fine mesh and examined under low magnification to assess the presence and frequency of microdebitage in different portions of the site.

Collecting Soil Samples

Collecting Soil Samples

US Route 301 Archaeology Update

May 6th, 2013
Magnetometer Study at the Dale Site

Magnetometer Study at the Dale Site

The next task in the ongoing study of the Dale Site is to make write a detailed report on the archaeological findings. Looking back over the work that we did, one of the most interesting items was the geophysical study we made of the site. Archaeologists are always looking for new ways to find out what is under the ground. Hand excavation is slow and expensive, and excavation with a machine is destructive. The problem is especially vexing at the testing level, what we call Phase II. Before we commit money and time to excavating a site, we would like to know if our efforts will be repaid by significant finds below ground, things like building foundations and pits full of artifacts. But how to learn that without either putting weeks into hand digging through plowed soils, or stripping that plowed soil away with a backhoe?

Science comes to the rescue here. Physicists and engineers have developed several methods of peering into the ground to find out what is there, of which the most basic is the old-fashioned metal detector. Surface-penetrating radar is one exciting new method, which has been especially useful for finding cemeteries and graves.  At the Dale Site we used another method, high-resolution magnetometry. By measuring minute variations in the earth’s magnetic field, this machine can find many kinds of buried objects, including stone or brick foundations and concentrations of metal like the nails from a wooden  building. The raw data that came from our magnetometer study is shown at the top. Below is an interpreted map of the same data. The red regions are places where buildings probably stood, and green dot No. 3 turned out to be a well. Using this data, we were able to zero in on the places where the most interesting discoveries could be made below the surface, saving a lot of time and money.

Interpreted Magnetometer Map of the Dale Site

Interpreted Magnetometer Map of the Dale Site