Piper Airport

Phase II archaeological investigations were conducted at two Stewart complex settlements in the West Branch Valley of the Susquehanna River. Sites 36CN210 and 36CN211 are located on the West Branch terrace near its confluence with Bald Eagle Creek. Excavations at 36CN210 revealed a stockade and four house patterns, along with numerous other features. A stockade and two prehistoric pit features were identified at 36CN211, but no house patterns were found.

Archaeological data from Site 36CN210 indicated three major periods of occupation, pre-fortification, fortification, and post-fortification. The fortification period included the stockade and two nearly identical house patterns (Houses 2 and 3). The occupation dates to ca. 420 ± BP. Both houses had a line of hearths along the central axis, but no interior partitions. The investigators estimated that each housed approximately 37 individuals.

The pre-fortification period (ca. 540-590 BP) included the largest of the four house patterns (House 4), as well as pit features and keyhole structures. House 4 had eight hearths along the center line, as well as evidence of an internal partition. It was estimated that House 4 may have served as a residence for as many as 50 people.

Two keyhole structures post-dated the fortification period; one returned a radiocarbon date of 270 ±50 BP and the other a date of 380 ± 50 BP. No dwelling could be definitely assigned to the period.

The placement of the smallest structure (House 1) was problematical. A radiocarbon date placed it in the fortification period, but it overlapped part of House 3, indicating that the two were not contemporaneous.

Stewart complex pottery was associated with all of the houses. Exterior surfaces were cord-impressed from the base to the bottom of the neck and malleated on the rim. Stewart complex design elements were created using a variety of incisions.

Faunal and botanical remains from features provided information on subsistence. Maize, beans, and squash were recovered, along with hickory and walnut shell. However, no native seeds species were identified. Faunal remains included fish, fowl, mammals, and shell fish.

The site represents the largest cluster of Stewart phase longhouses reported to date. It provided evidence that Stewart complex populations continued in the West Branch Valley into the 16th century and did not relocate to the Lower Susquehanna River Valley as previously proposed. Rather, Shenks Ferry and the Stewart Complex were two separate traditions. Ceramic technology at 36CN210, along with the presence of longhouses, are similar to Owasco-Iroquois rather than Shenks Ferry. The house pattern indicates socially interrelated families as opposed to independent extended family dwellings.

For more information

Payne, Ted M., Archaeological Investigations at Piper Airport Sites 1 (36CN210) and 2 (36CN211), Stewart Complex Settlement on the West Branch of the Susquehanna River, Lock Haven, Pennsylvania. Report prepared by MAAR Associates and submitted to the City of Lock Haven (2000).


Archaeological investigations were conducted by MAAR Associates, Inc. and sponsored by the City of Lock Haven.

Image: Section of Archaeology collections
36Cn210 Site Plan - click to enlarge