This summer I worked for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) as one of their archaeology interns in Harrisburg, PA. With my internship, I worked on projects for both PennDOT and the Pennsylvania Historic Museum Commission (PHMC).
For PHMC I mostly worked with their CRGIS platform. CRGIS is an interactive map of Pennsylvania’s cultural resources. In CRGIS you can look up a town, county, and other locational markers to view resources nearby to that location and if you know the ID numbers (used internally by PHMC) you can even look up the resource itself!
My coworker, Anna Shoemaker, an undergrad at Millersville University, and I worked on mapping Indian paths into CRGIS. The Indian Paths came from the book Indian Paths of Pennsylvania by Paul A. W. Wallace. These paths are contact period and historic paths that Wallace had described and mapped in his book. Wallace gathered this information through oral traditions, primary resources, and secondary resources. There are about 140 paths in Wallace’s book and luckily, an earlier project by URS in 2013 had already digitized most of these paths. However, over the years, a lot of these digitized trails were corrupted and inaccurate after being converted from different programs, so Anna and I had to review and revise the digitized paths to better fit the trails Wallace originally described. You can read a better explanation of the methodology in a blogpost on the Pennsylvania SHPO’s blog that Anna and I wrote here.
Along with mapping the resource, we also created information sheets for each path that provided more information on each trail. This project was fun because I got to learn a lot about these trails and how some trails had different uses. For example, there were trails used seasonally explicitly for pigeon hunting. There were also trails called “Warrior’s Paths” that were used for warrior’s raids and paths that were “forbidden” for white settlers to travel on. Overall, it felt like a fun little adventure to read the descriptions and try to find their location on the map!
While I mainly worked in the office during my internship, I did have a few adventures outside the office. In June, I volunteered at, and attended the Preservation Pennsylvania conference in Chambersburg. This conference focused on preservation efforts in the state of Pennsylvania and highlighted the work preservationist’s had done at archaeology sites and historic buildings. That conference was fun and I learned a lot about barns.
I also went on a site view with the other environmental review interns. Here, we got to see three sites where the bridges were going to be expanded or replaced as a part of Section 106 compliance. For each site we did some research to predict the probability of finding an archaeology site or if the presence of a historical building to allow PennDOT a better understanding of any mitigation that might need to be done. At each site, a PennDOT archaeologist used an auger to test the soils so he could have a better idea of the likelihood of a site. We also discussed geomorphology of the area and if it was likely that the artifacts were in a wash or if the artifacts were disturbed in any way. To do this we looked at the natural features to see if there were any hills or rivers nearby. We also looked to see if the site could have been altered by people, this could be as simple as noticing fill from construction or the presence of a building or parking lot near the site. When analyzing a site for mitigation recommendations, we also need to consider the impacts a project may have on the site. Even for a simple site, heavy machinery can cause damage. So, we also looked around for possible locations where supplies and machinery can be placed to complete the project.
Anna Shoemaker and I also got to participate in a dig with the PHAST crew (Pennsylvania Highway Archaeological Survey Team).The PHAST crew are interns working with IUP (Indiana University of Pennsylvania) and PennDOT to survey small projects around Pennsylvania. We were able to get out of the office for a few days to help them dig STPs at a site near Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. This site had a lot of historic artifacts and a brick road was found in one of the STPs. Despite it being hot, it was a great day and I loved being out in the field again!