Monday, August 31, 2009

A Thousand Years Later...

A short walk down to Penn Treaty Park with my dog Betsy brought me by a curious scene adjacent to Interstate 95. There I saw an archaeological dig set up where construction was due to begin on the much needed entrance ramp for our Fishtown neighborhood of Philadelphia.

I inquired with a woman in charge who informed that the activity was routine - archaeological surveys are required prior to all federal construction projects, a protocol on the US law books since 1970 enacted to protect potential undiscovered landmarks. It also serves a public safety function, like in Washington, DC, where unused, discarded mustard gas containers from World War I were recently dug up near a playground (see related news link below).

Thankfully, no wmd's were found at our excavation. Nonetheless, an interesting glimpse of history was uncovered, captured in my photos. In the foreground of the pics one can see the cobblestone foundation of old Richmond Street, circa 1800; beyond that a network of sewer and gas lines nearly 100 years old; to the right, a gas station foundation from the 1950's. But the intriguing discovery is further in the background, where a stream leading to the nearby Delaware river once existed. Along that stream is evidence of an American Indian tool-making site dating back 1000 years.

None of this was deemed significant enough to halt construction, which is understood. Anything of importance was properly documented or removed for preservation, and the tractors have now re-leveled the ground. It was fascinating, though, to peer through such a scope of time - my special secret, too, since I was told to remain quiet on this until now, due to the possibility of nighttime trespassers who might climb the fence to raid the work they were doing.

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