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US Route 301 Archaeology Update

Written on: November 21st, 2013 in Archaeology Updates US301

As we noted in one of our earlier blog entries, the Polk Tenant Site (7NC-F-111) was excavated by archaeologists from Richard Grubb and Associates in 2011.  As a result of their evaluation study, the Grubb researchers determined the site to be eligible for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places.  One of the features found at the site was a brick-lined well.  In lieu of traditional data recovery at the site, DelDOT and the Delaware State Historic Preservation Office agreed on an alternative mitigation involving preparation of a technical report of the evaluation investigation and a study synthesizing current data on historical wells across the state.

Versar has completed a draft of the archaeological evaluation report.  The archaeologists from Grubb and Associates discovered that the site consisted of two main areas: a plowed field, and a house and well.  The first part of the site—the plowed field—contained a widespread scatter of highly fragmented artifacts.  The second area contained structural remains located along an abandoned farm road.  Evidence for the structure included a large hole in the ground that the archaeologists determined to have been the cellar of a house that once stood on the spot, along with several walls associated with the cellar, and a round, brick-lined well shaft near one corner of the house.

Looking carefully at the artifacts from the two areas, Versar was able to work out some of the historic development of the site.  Pieces of ceramic from the field included imported English wares like pearlware, which dates to a period beginning early in the 19th century.  Most of the artifacts were quite small, which usually indicates that they were incidental, not directly associated with a house or other structure.  In contrast, there were many more artifacts found in the area around the house by the farm road.  The artifacts were generally larger than the ones from the field and many were architectural in nature, including things like nails, pieces of sheet metal or wire.  This suggested that much of the material was debris left from the demolition of the house and that it had been pushed into the cellar hole and well to fill them in.  Historical maps show a structure in this general location beginning in the late 19th century and that it was gone by the 1930s.  The datable artifacts found in this part of the site confirmed the map evidence.

Polk Archaeology Site

Polk Archaeology Site

The site thus appeared to have been a tenant’s house occupied in the late-19th and early-20th century and associated with the larger C. Polk Estate (CRS N05221), a National Register-eligible property located to the southeast.