DURYEA — At the end of a winding dirt road that runs along the Susquehanna River sits a gigantic white canopy. Inside, groups of people carefully dig away at square holes in the ground. Outside, children and their parents shuffle dirt and rock in a giant hanging sifter, hoping to find buried treasures of the past.
The Frances Dorrance Chapter of the Society for Pennsylvania Archaeology held a free public dig at the Coxton Yard in Duryea on Sunday, Aug. 7.
Site coordinator Al Pesotine said the day is meant to bring out the public and teach them about the aspects of archaeology, as well as to provide information on the area’s history through artifacts.
The group is currently working on the Conrail Site — a 28-square-meter site next to the river that goes about seven feet deep and once housed a railroad yard. Pesotine said in all, excavation of the site should take about three years to complete.
“It’s a multi-component site,” he said, adding that artifacts from the site have been carbon-dated as far back as 8020 B.C.
From handmade stone tools to coins and Indian spearheads, Pesotine’s seen it all. However, there’s one thing he’s been hoping to locate — Clovis.
The earliest evidence of man in America, remains of Clovis have been found in the area, although the pieces that have been discovered are either too small or come from disturbed areas, so they can’t be formally registered.
“We haven’t found Clovis here yet, but we’ve found things that say they were here,” he said. “It was found across the road, but it was disturbed.”
Aside from digging for artifacts, the society also measures and tests soil.
Association members said tests show that the area’s soil is extremely acidic, presumably from coal mining, which makes it more difficult to find bone remains.
When asked about his most valuable find, Pesotine said he couldn’t choose just one.
“Just to find an area that’s in tact. Just to preserve the history — that’s the most important thing,” he said. “Just to save a little bit of history.”
As Pesotine takes a break to examine a piece of Indian pottery that was discovered, society Treasurer Ted Baird, of Moscow, walks over to another part of the site.
Baird says the current dig is an extension of the excavation of a square stone foundation that has pieces pieces dating back to the 1700s.
“We’ve found everything there, from during the Revolution to Budweiser bottles,” he said with a chuckle.
Baird loves how archaeology tells a story, with each artifact adding more information to the plot.
“When you first start out, it’s kind of mysterious — you don’t really know what’s going on. Then, as you carefully uncover more, the pieces begin to come together.”
Pesotine said the group would teach and train those who have an interest in digging, or those wanting to learn about the area’s geology.
“Anyone that has a general interest in archaeology,” he said.
Membership for the Society costs $10 per year, with digs happening every Sunday in the spring and summer months.
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