It’s January and the start of a new year for us at the State Museum of Pennsylvania and we are excited about all the great programs coming up this year. We start off every January with our trip to the largest indoor agricultural fair in the United States! Held each year right here in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. This event draws hundreds of thousands of visitors and our booth is visited by about 40,000 of those visitors! That’s a lot of interest in archaeology and our cultural heritage.
Our exhibit theme this year is “Discovering the Susquehannock Indians”. The focus is on tracing the cultural evolution of the Susquehannocks of central Pennsylvania covering the period from just before European Contact, (AD 1500), through the period of Conestoga Town (AD 1763). The exhibit features four large panels and two cases of artifacts which provide an overview of the transition from Native made goods to a reliance on European trade goods. One exhibit case contains a sample of pre-European Contact artifacts and the other contains a sample of Susquehannock artifacts from the Contact period obtained from Europeans. The panels and supporting artifacts, demonstrate a culture in transition and the impact of European influences on their lifeways.
European contact significantly impacted the Susquehannocks and other Indian groups living in the region. The introduction of diseases, conflict with other Indian tribes competing for the fur trade with the European, and the invasion of the land by the English, Dutch and Swedes on their territories greatly reduced the populations of Susquehannocks and the other Indian tribes. Up until about 1660, the Susquehannock’s controlled trade with the Europeans. However, disease and competition with other Indians forced them to seek refuge with the English in the Chesapeake Bay area. By 1680, they returned to their former homeland but this