By: Samantha Taylor
Upon enrolling in graduate school, I had a pretty clear understanding of what aspects of archaeology interested me the most: the African Diaspora and historic ceramics. I never imagined that I would actually be able to pull those two interests together into a thesis topic, but here I am over a year later, waist-deep in artifacts from my thesis site.
My thesis research is on Pandenarium, an antebellum (pre-Civil War) African American diaspora site in northwestern Pennsylvania. In its prime, Pandenarium was home to dozens of ex-slaves who had been freed by their owner, Virginia physician Charles Everett, upon his death. Along with freeing his former slaves, Everett’s will also funded the creation of a modest-sized settlement in Mercer County, Pennsylvania. The freed people of Pandenarium arrived to the settlement in the fall of 1854 to find 24 furnished houses that were built by the local abolitionists. Rosie Allen, a first generation occupant of Pandenarium, was quoted saying that the settlement was “just like heaven.” Despite the economic pull of nearby cities such as Sharon, New Castle, and Mercer, Pandenarium was inhabited until the 1930s.
My research focuses specifically on a single household at Pandenarium belonging to John and Rosie Allen, the original inhabitants and first-generation freed slaves at the site. In particular, I want to compare the ceramics found around the Allen’s half-cellar foundation to those recovered from a nearby (the Old Economy Village), another antebellum freed African American site (Timbuctoo, New Jersey), and a Virginia plantation that neighbored Everett’s (Monticello, Virginia). The comparative analysis focuses on structures at each of these sites that date approximately to the same time period that Pandenarium was inhabited. By conducting this analysis I hope to determine what types of ceramics the Allen’s were using, how they were using them, and in what ways they were participating in the local and regional economy.
After nearly four months of deliberation and planning with my thesis committee, my thesis fieldwork began on July 14th 2017 and was completed September 17th 2017. Of course there was a month-long break in between those dates in which no fieldwork occurred and my hands (and brain?) were bleeding from all of the washing and cataloging I was doing. Fieldwork consisted of a total of 28 shovel tests around the half-cellar foundation, and two judgmental 1-meter by 1-meter test units.
In order to accomplish this I enlisted the help of my committee, fellow graduate students, and the public. The first weekend of fieldwork went without problem. I was assisted by my amazing mentor, Casey Campetti, and was able to clear the land, lay out my STP grid, and even finish digging the first three STPs. However the next three weekends were riddled with bad weather and poor field conditions, causing me to cancel a total of four days of field work. By the first week of August, 25 of my STPs were completed but we were unable to begin the two test units. Angela Jaillet-Wentling, one of my committee members and the only other person to conduct archaeological research at Pandenarium, and I were able to organize a public archaeology weekend at the site in order to introduce the site to the public and finish up my fieldwork.
Pandenarium’s inaugural Public Archaeology Event occurred on September 16th and 17th. The invitation was extended to the local Society for Pennsylvania Archaeology chapter, graduate students and anthropology professors at IUP, retired veterans, a reporter from a local newspaper, and interested members of the local government. A total of 19 individuals attended the public event, 8 of which participated both days. The event consisted of a site tour, a quick informative speech about the site, the excavation of two test units and three STPs, along with a lunch generously provided by the Jaillet-Wentling clan. The event was also featured on the front page of the Record Argus Newspaper on September 24th, 2017. Overall, feedback from the Public Archaeology Event at Pandenarium was positive and most attendants were interested in attending future public archaeol
ogy events. Angie and I hope to assist in hosting more public archaeology events at Pandenarium in the future, as the site is a rare glimpse into a marginalized past.
Following Pandenarium’s Public Archaeology Event, my fieldwork was completed and I have been in cataloging hell. I’m being dramatic, I actually really enjoy cataloging, researching, and analyzing everything that has been unearthed at Pandenarium. To date, I have cataloged and washed 3,226 artifacts from Pandenarium. Also, I currently have a really awesome undergraduate student assisting me with washing! So far this whole “thesis” thing has been a really insane, stressful, and educational experience. I feel as though I’ve really grown as an archaeologist and a person. My future goals for this site are the following: to get Pandenarium listed on the National Register, to track down descendants and get them more involved in archaeology and research at the site, and to hopefully inspire someone *cough* Dr. Ford *cough* to start an undergraduate field school at the site.
In the meantime, if you have questions shoot me an email (TJKW@iup.edu) and keep yourself updated on my research by following the hashtag #Pandenarium2017.