The Archaeological Conservancy divides the states of West Virginia and Pennsylvania down the middle between our Midwestern and eastern offices. One of the archaeological preserves in the eastern half of the State of Pennsylvania is the King’s Quarry Preserve; containing the remains of a jasper quarry that was in use throughout all of known prehistory.
The site was first excavated and recorded by Henry Mercer in the 1890s and was then mapped by James Hatch in the 1990s. More recently, in the early 2000s, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission’s Bureau for Historic Preservation’s Commonwealth Archaeology Program undertook excavations of the site. As part of the excavations a step trench was dug to a depth of 23 feet, revealing the extent and methods of prehistoric quarrying.
King’s Quarry is distinct for the variety of lithic material that is found, with colors of jasper ranging from brown to yellow to red to green. In many instances pieces of jasper contain different bands of colors. In addition to the quarrying areas, the site contains evidence of other activities including hunting and butchering.
Investigations of the Kings Quarry site showed that the quarry was used from the Paleo-Indian through Late Woodland periods (ca. 12,000 B. C – A.D. 1550). Additionally, this work revealed that the some quarry pits found at the site had actually been backfilled during an earlier time, and then re-mined in the Late Woodland period. Initially the quarrying activities would have taken place near the surface, but over time people would have had to dig deeper holes to reach good quality materials. Portions of the quarry would then be backfilled when new holes were dug, or due to natural processes like erosion. This process is illustrated in the following images which depict what quarrying activities may have looked like from the earliest time period to the most recent:
King’s Quarry was thought to be one of the last undisturbed jasper quarries in the Mid-Atlantic region. The Conservancy acquired a small portion of the site in 2005, protecting it from a housing development that has now encircled the site. King’s Quarry is an invaluable resource for future research on prehistoric quarries, including studies on lithic sourcing, as it is likely that jasper excavated at King’s Quarry was traded and used throughout the region. For additional information on the site please check out this article by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.
Images courtesy of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission’s Bureau for Historic Preservation’s Commonwealth Archaeology Program
Read about another Famous Quarry Preserve: Prince Edward Soapstone Quarry (Virginia)
Learn about other Pennsylvania Preserves: Queen Esther’s Town