Digging into Delaware history

Delaware Archaeology and History Symposium returns in 2023

The 2023 Delaware Archaeology and History Symposium brought together nearly 50 professional and amateur archaeology and history enthusiasts to learn more about local archaeological investigations and historical research.

The symposium was held on April 22, 2023, and was hosted by the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the Archaeological Society of Delaware. The day-long event was filled with questions, curiosity and engagement during the presentations, and there was a workshop activity on how to identify Native American ceramics found in Delaware.

Sessions explored a variety of topics from earthenware and stoneware production in the First State to a decades-long search for an elusive Odessa tannery from the 1700s, and the unique history of one African American family from Wilmington.  

This image is a composite from the 2023 Delaware Archaeology and History Symposium. It shows the crowd absorbing the presentations.
More than three dozen people attended this year’s Delaware Archaeology and History Symposium. Photo by Steve Cox.

Another presentation unveiled findings from archaeological work done for the Delaware Department of Transportation’s Route 1 and Route 16 intersection project, where a 19th-century tenant site was discovered. Unlike many archaeological sites that might include evidence of more permanent habitation, ephemeral sites like this one can be difficult to identify since there are fewer artifacts and reflect a more modest assemblage. However, the archaeologists made a powerful case for the importance of studying these sites, which give insight into the lives of many Delawareans that may not be well-represented in history books. 

“For me, the takeaway is we need to be more careful about disregarding sites based on surface finds alone, even if we are not seeing the amount and/or type of artifacts we usually expect to see,” said Luke Pickrahn, an archaeologist with the division who helped organize the event. He said the varied group of presenters offered many opportunities for learning.

Sarah Carr, another of the division’s archaeologists who helped plan the event, said symposiums like this offer a variety of resources and new understandings to those who participate, whether they’re new to the field or longtime professionals. The event marked the return of this annual symposium and renewed partnership between the division and the Archaeological Society of Delaware to highlight the diversity of research on the State’s rich past. Planning for the 2024 symposium will begin soon, with details to come at a later date. The 2023 event was free to the public and was held at The Old State House in Dover.

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