The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission website facilitates research, educates, and informs everyone about Pennsylvania archaeology. Students, teachers, and avocational archaeologists can find popular summaries, curricula, a list of resources, distance learning, and a video tour of the Hall of Anthropology and Archaeology at The State Museum of Pennsylvania. Professional archaeologists can view report abstracts, watershed syntheses, and Commission guidelines, policies, and forms as well as summaries of reports and new research being conducted around the state. The site also lists staff that can respond to your specific interests.
Exhibits: Walk through thousands of years of history and prehistory
The Hall of Anthropology and Archaeology at The State Museum of Pennsylvania provides a comprehensive tour of Pennsylvania archaeology and cultural history from the Paleoindian period through the 19th century. You’ll see exhibits on archaeological laboratory and field methods, prehistoric technology, historic archaeology, excavations conducted by the Commission, dioramas depicting prehistoric lifeways in Pennsylvania, and a reconstructed Delaware Indian village.
Educating everyone about Pennsylvania archaeology is a high priority of the Commission. The State Museum has a long history of field research. Its work in the Lower Susquehanna River Valley with Susquehannock sites and the stratified islands represents substantial contributions to Pennsylvania archaeology. Additionally, field research is done on Commission properties to enhance their interpretation and recover information prior to construction projects.
Archaeology Month educational programs take place every October around the state with assistance from the Commission and its partners: the Society for Pennsylvania Archaeology, Inc., the Pennsylvania Archaeological Council, and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. Excavation demonstrations and experiments in the replication of artifacts are held for the public during Archaeology Month. These activities draw public attention to the importance of archaeological resources and the need to protect them.
The annual Pennsylvania Farm Show in Harrisburg offers another opportunity to learn about Pennsylvania archaeology. Each January, the Commission and its partners staff an informative exhibit on new topics in Pennsylvania archaeology. Stop by, talk to us, and see archaeology “on the road.”
Internships in archaeology are available for students with a wide range of academic interests. Opportunities for fieldwork, data analysis, mapping, and collections management exist with many of the Commission’s archaeology programs.
Collections: Unlock archaeology's wealth of information
The Commission's archaeological collections contain a wealth of valuable information. Since 1906, The State Museum has collected nearly 3.5 million artifacts that it manages on behalf of the citizens of the Commonwealth. These collections are the result of excavations conducted by Commission staff as well as private donations by individuals and universities. Other collections have been acquired as a result of archaeological investigations required by historic preservation laws. The collections continue to grow annually, and donations of mapped and documented artifacts are welcome.
Documentation includes photographs, excavation records, maps, and over 1,400 unpublished manuscripts. These resources are only available at the Commission. Access to these collections requires a written proposal submitted to the Section of Archaeology at The State Museum.
The Commission also manages a loan program for exhibit and research purposes. A general list of collections and a bibliography of unpublished manuscripts are available in the Resources section.
Funding for archaeology
Grant assistance is available to support activities that promote or enhance the understanding of Pennsylvania's prehistoric and historic archaeological resources for public benefit. Projects that are eligible for funding include: public education programs, surveys, artifact analyses, development of regional site sensitivity models, preparation of syntheses, field schools, and, excavation projects. Activities may not be associated with state or federal compliance projects.
State and Federal Project Review: Managing impacts and safeguarding cultural resources
Review of federal and state projects, authorized by the National Historic Preservation Act and the State History Code, is the primary archaeology program managed by the Bureau for Historic Preservation. These laws require that archaeological resources be considered by state and federal agencies during the planning process. They also ensure that mitigation is conducted for sites destroyed by state and/or federal actions.
The State Museum of Pennsylvania's Section of Archaeology assists with investigations needed for archaeological resources threatened by private development and other projects that involve state permits. For summaries of recent field efforts, visit the PHMC Archaeology section of our website.
Recording and protecting sites
Recording archeological sites helps to protect them. The Commission encourages the recording of archaeological site information on Pennsylvania Archaeological Site Survey forms (PASS). Thousands of avocational and professional archaeologists have already shared site locations with the Commission resulting in 20,000+ archaeological sites being recorded in the PASS files.
The Cultural Resource Geographic Information System (CRGIS) is a map-based inventory of over 125,000 historic properties, 5000 archaeological surveys, and the PASS files combined into one electronic system. These resources are constantly updated and can help communities and local governments develop plans and streamline project review.
The Commission promotes the listing of significant archeological sites on the National Register of Historic Places. Guidelines for listing sites on the National Register of Historic Places can be found on the PHMC's website.
Learn more about archaeology
ShopPAHeritage.com contains numerous popular and technical publications about Pennsylvania archaeology. These include titles on Native American prehistory and Native American cultures, and historical archaeology in the Commonwealth. Visit our bookstore online, Archaeology and Native American Collection at ShopPAHeritage.com for publications that bring archaeology to your fingertips.