'Enormous' Native American Longhouse, Upcoming Archaeology Dig Topic of NCC8 Meeting

This circa-1964 photograph shows the excavators and guests at the Montoursville Boro site. Wooden stake markers are placed in many of the postmolds to outline the footprint of the Proto-Iroquoian longhouse. Photo courtesy of the Hutchinson Family.
 Local avocational archaeologists are gearing up for a new season in the field, returning to and exploring significant Indian village sites near the Loyalsock Creek and the West Branch of the Susquehanna River.


Northcentral Chapter No. 8 of the Society for Pennsylvania Archaeology will host its March meeting at 6 p.m. Monday, March 2 at the Taber Museum, 858 W. Fourth St. 

At the meeting, President Tank Baird will present a slideshow tracing the chapter’s recent work at the Glunk Site (36LY0345), a Woodlands-period Native American site, and explore the Montoursville Boro Site (36LY0034), an enormous Native American longhouse excavated in 1963-64 by local amateur archaeologists Bill Hutchinson, Bob Higgins and Clark Kahler.

The public is encouraged to attend and learn more about the society's endeavors, and there will be artifacts from the current archaeology dig on display.


Proto-Iroquoian Longhouse
A 15th-Century Iroquoian Village was reconstructed on its original site in Ontario, Canada. It is similar in size to the Montoursville Boro Site longhouse excavated in the 1960s.   Photo courtesy of Laslovarga, Wikimedia Commons.
Hutchinson’s crew spent several years excavating the longhouse, built by people of the Clemson Island culture. The structure was approximately 35-by-90-feet in size and placed at the nexus of the Loyalsock Creek and the West Branch of the Susquehanna. Estimated date of occupation is 1050-1100 A.D.

“The recent rediscovery of this Proto-Iroquoian building may support the case for a much larger population of Native Americans here in the West Branch Valley at that time period than previously thought,” Baird said.

Collaborating with Hutchinson's family and the Gen. John Burrows Historical Society in Montoursville, Baird compiled slides of the 1960s-era excavation along with historic and current maps. 

These will be presented at the meeting, along with photos from the current NCC8 dig at the Glunk Site.

Archaeologists believe that the Clemson Island people bought pottery making, use of the bow and arrow and mound building to the Susquehanna Valley. They also introduced the proto-longhouse, but structures as large as the Montoursville Boro site are rare in the region. According to Baird, the closest similar longhouse is in upstate New York.

In all, the excavators uncovered 457 post molds, which they used to estimate the size of the structure. If it were 35-feet by 90-feet, it is estimated it could have towered to a height of 25 feet, Baird said. Clemson Island-type artifacts were found in relation to the longhouse site, as well as the flexed and bundled burials.


The Glunk Site
The Glunk Site, named for landowner Paul Glunk, is located about 720 yards west of the longhouse, and is believed to be part of a larger, long-lasting occupation, which includes the famous Ault Site. Within a one-mile radius, there are several significant, registered Native American sites, including Otstonwakin, the Ault Site, Canfield Island, Bull Run and the Snyder Site, all researched and registered with the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission by NCC8.

“We wish to convey to Paul (Glunk) the appreciation of the members of NCC8 for the past four years of support and land use at the site,” Baird said about the landowner’s generosity and continued support for the excavation. In addition to allowing guests visit and work at the site, Glunk provides assistance with land clearing and back filling.

Glunk, who operates a nursery along the West Branch of the Susquehanna, is restoring a portion of his land to its historic parklike setting, as designed and developed by lumber baron and sawmill owner Ezra Canfield. The Canfield family had a summer residence and Victorian garden  there in the late 1800s.


Canfield Island
Canfield Island, named for Ezra Canfield and the former site of his sprawling and successful sawmill, is the most renowned Native American site within the complex. It was first explored by archaeologists in 1958, led by the late-James Bressler and other members of the Society for Pennsylvania Archaeology. The newly formed NCC8 team conducted a series of excavations yielded artifacts that date to the Archaic Period (approximately 3,000 years Before Present).

In 1982, Canfield Island was listed on the National Register of Historic Places "in recognition of the amount of information it had yielded and because of its potential to yield even more information," according to Wikipedia reports. The site is today part of Riverfront Park, a Loyalsock Township park that includes an archaeology-themed Heritage Trail on the island.


NCC8 Public Archaeology
NCC8 is a Public Archaeology group, which means it encourages the public to attend meetings and join the members at their excavations where they offer simple lessons in archaeological research.
The chapter is currently working on a report of recent work at the Glunk Site, and a synthesis of information that unifies all of the sites.

More information about Northcentral Chapter 8, and an application to join and become a member of the archaeology team, is available on the web at www.PennArchaeology.com.