Murray Garden Site featured in magazine article

SRAC’s David Moyer assist Ed Stein with GPR study at the Murray Garden site.

WAVERLY — The Susquehanna River Archaeological Center (SRAC) located in Waverly recently announced the recent publication of the 16th Century Susquehannocks on the North Branch: New data from the Murray Garden Site, Athens, Pennsylvania in the Fall 2020 issue of the Pennsylvania Archaeologist.

The Pennsylvania Archaeologist is the premier archaeology journal for the state and is one of the most respected regional archaeology journals in the United States.

The article, authored by SRAC board members DeeAnne Wymer, David Moyer, and SRAC co-founder Deb Twigg, highlights recent research conducted by the Center at the well-known Murray Garden site in the town of Athens, PA — part of SRAC’s ongoing program to re-examine with 21st Century technology and modern techniques renowned local archaeological sites originally reported in the 1800s and early 1900s.

The Murray Garden site was particularly featured as an important archaeological discovery by Athens’ noteworthy historian and author Louise Murray, founder of the Tioga Point Museum, in a number of her famous publications in the early 1900s.

The site, unearthed in the autumn of 1882 during trench excavation for a drainage line from the Millard and Louise Murrays’ stately home to the adjacent Susquehanna River bank, appeared to be a cemetery area for what was assumed to be early Susquehannock Native American burials. Then site yielded a series of impressive pottery specimens and other artifacts now displayed at the present-day Tioga Point Museum in Athens.

The Pennsylvania Archaeology article summarizes both SRAC laboratory and field studies at the Murray Garden site, highlighting new techniques which allows for examination of such spiritually and ritually significant sites without disturbing the ground or area. Ancient wood charcoal from the site stored at the Tioga Point Museum was examined by Wymer and found to be eastern white pine and a small specimen was submitted to a special laboratory in Florida for radiocarbon dating.

The wood charcoal indicates the site dates to circa 1530 -1550 A.D. — the first definite scientific date for this site or site of this type in the region. Tioga Point Museum personnel, Director Todd Babcock, Linda Doane and Maddie Oplenik particularly assisted in this phase of the research.

In addition, SRAC board members Wymer, Moyer, Tom Vallilee and Dan Caister assisted soil scientist Ed Stein in conducting ground-penetrating radar (GPR) to assess the level of prior ground disturbance from the late 1800s excavations and to gauge the potential for intact archaeological deposits to help future land owners best manage this sensitive property.

Ground-penetrating radar, as the name suggests, utilizes a device that transmits radar below the ground’s surface and any ground disturbances will be reflected back to an attached computer illustrating potential archaeological features. The GPR study did prove successful, revealing potential areas of what may have been traces from the early excavations and possible undisturbed archaeology still in existence at the site.

The article, summarizing the past excavations at the site, integrated with the utilization of new technology as well as our increased knowledge base about Native American archaeology in the region, reveals that even sites first excavated over 130 years ago can still generate an impressive amount of valuable data for understanding the complicated and impressive lives of the region’s original peoples.

“This type of work on many of the prior reported sites is planned as future work by SRAC in order to add more information and understanding to our region’s prehistoric past,” Deb Twigg added.

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