Archeologists digging in advance of the Scudder Falls Bridge replacement project in Ewing, New Jersey, have found evidence of a Native American presence dating back to 500 B.C., reports nj.com.
Physical remains of a large number of hearths have been uncovered, used for cooking daily meals as well as food storage. The discovery was made by AECOM, a Trenton-based engineering firm hired by the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission to conduct the dig before the bridge replacement portion of the project would begin in earnest. AECOM is doing the work necessary, in accordance with the Pennsylvania and New Jersey historic preservation offices, to specify whether any ancient artifacts would be affected by the proposed bridge project.
Archaeologists are often the first wave of large-scale public projects like highways or bridges, and the news as of late has been filled with stories of Native American remains being found ahead of construction. Last week construction on the La Plaza y Cultura de Artes, a cultural center in Los Angeles, was halted when an entire cemetery was unearthed. In that instance, the remains were first found by a construction crew. When archaeologists are involved from the outset, they will do a survey, studying documents and maps and, if they feel it's warranted, go to the site to do some superficial testing to determine whether there might be artifacts or remains present. If they feel there might be, they will see if the site is eligible for a National Register of Historic Places listing. After this phase, if the site is deemed archaeologically significant, the digging begins.
This criteria was met on both sites of the Scudder Falls bridge replacement site, so the digging in New Jersey has been taking place on I-95 along the Route 29 interchange on a quarter-acre site in Ewing since October, and will soon begin on River Road in Yardley, Pennsylvania, where a new bridge pier is being planned. At the Ewing site, along with the hearths archaeologists have found the charred remains of nut shells, stone chips that may have been Native American tools,projectile points, pottery, markers for drawings, ceramics, hammer stones, and kemp materials as well.