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Delaware Department of Transportation

Archaeology/Historic Preservation

Thomas Dawson


Historic Context Development

Archival Sources Used to
Develop Historic Content

Tax Records
Orphan's Court
probate Inventories
business accounts
genealogies
community reconstruction
secondary literature

While there was an existing management plan for Delaware's historical archaeological resources, only three eighteenth-century farm sites had been excavated and reported when that document was published in 1990. In the last 10 years, nine more 18th-century sites have been excavated, most sponsored by DelDOT. DelDOT's highway program had therefore financed an enormous increase in the archaeological information pertaining to rural 18th-century sites.

As part of the treatment program for the Dawson Site, a comprehensive review of this information was undertaken and presented in the form of an historic context. With this new information, the archaeology of 18th-century Delaware has moved from an exploratory stage and onto the threshold of an exciting new era.

It is becoming clear that the lower Delaware Valley had a distinct culture in this period, and that many features of this culture are expressed in the archaeological record. Much is now known about the kinds of houses, outbuildings, farm layouts, ceramic assemblages, and faunal collections associated with these sites. Future studies can therefore begin to focus on deeper questions about this culture. These research areas include the origins of the Delaware Valley culture, its development in the 18thcentury, the location and nature of its boundaries, and the variations within it.

With a growing base of comparative data, it is now possible to examine how the unique features of each new site might be related to factors as ethnicity, locality, or household life-cycle. Some of these questions may be addressed during surveys, while others must be addressed at the site evaluation and data recovery levels of investigation.

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