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Delaware Department of Transportation

Archaeology/Historic Preservation

Hickory Bluff Project

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Issue 1: The Hickory Bluff Prehistoric Site

The Hickory Bluff Site is the location of the future Puncheon Run Connector, which will connect State Route 1 and US 13, relieving congestion on local roads. The site is located on the east bank of the St. Jones River, in Dover, Delaware. The Federal Highway Administration and the Delaware Department of Transportation recognize the importance of preserving rare and important cultural resources, and have hired archaeologists from Parsons Engineering Science to excavate the Hickory Bluff site, and share the findings with the public.

Between 5,000 and 1,000 years ago, Hickory Bluff was occupied for varying lengths of time by Native American inhabitants. A number of aboriginal peoples camped at Hickory Bluff, which had an ideal environmental setting because of the St. Jones River, and the animal and plant life it supported.

Archaeologists have uncovered a number of features that are thought to be residential structures. This is based on the oval shape of the features and other signs, such as postmolds. The houses would have been made of wood and bark which deteriorated some time ago, thus signs of these residences mainly come from outlines left in the ground. Fire cracked rock clusters, or hearths, have been found, which are excellent signs of residential activity. The hearths were likely used for heat, light, and to cook foodstuffs. Round and basin-like pits have also been uncovered. Since the pits that have been found are usually empty, they may have been used to temporarily store food.

Projectile points made of stone are commonly found on site. Projectile points likely functioned as spears and arrowheads. Among the types of projectile points found on site are the Adena type (500 BC to 0 AD) and the Fox Creek (0 AD to AD 500) type. The native groups made the stone tools out of mainly local materials, from cobbles and pebbles which could be found nearby. Among the materials used were jasper, quartz, and quartzite. More exotic stone materials may have been collected or acquired by trade with other Native American groups living in other parts of the Middle Atlantic, and possibly the Midwest.

Pottery is also found at the Hickory Bluff site. Various types of pottery of different ages have been identified at the site. Among these are the steatite tempered ware known as Marcey Creek (1200 BC to 800 BC). Clay tempered wares are also being found, including the Wilgus and Coulbourn (400 BC to 0 AD) types, which are the most common types appearing at the site.

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