Excavation1.The Millersville University (MU) archaeology program has made a discovery of national significance, one that promises to shed new light on some very old and important history. After more than a decade of searching, Dr. Timothy Trussell and his students have excavated the first pioneer settler’s cabin ever found or studied archaeologically in Lancaster County.

Since coming to MU in 2004, Trussell and his students have excavated at more than 14 different historic sites, both here in Pennsylvania and in Bermuda. Among these are the Elizabeth Furnace site, the Witmer Road site and Rock Ford Plantation, home of Revolutionary War General Edward Hand. The latest project has Trussell and his students working closer to MU, studying a site of great historical significance for Lancaster County and American history.

Excavation35“To me, the past is a place that is shrouded in mystery and intrigue, because there is so much we don’t know about in terms of the details and processes of historical development, so it’s our job to go out and find places, sites and artifacts that shed light on parts of this mystery that we don’t yet understand,” says Trussell.

The Hans Graff site was excavated over a period of two years by archaeology students, and the artifacts, some nearly 300 years old, are now undergoing study and analysis in the Millersville Archaeology laboratory.

Lancaster County was one of only three culture hearths of colonial America, places where the culture, language, and even the architecture shaped vast swaths of the American frontier due to large out-migrations during later times. The discovery and excavation of the only first-generation settlers cabin ever found, dating to 1714, promises to give archaeologists and historians their first look at this crucial, yet still misunderstood period of history.

Diego Lopez-Cabrera, Tabatha Smith and Devan Donaghy measuring a feature during excavation.

“Because these people were among the first and most prominent settlers, they had an outsized influence on the development of these places, because they took with them all the things they learned growing up here. Early Lancaster County history is extremely important for understanding the later development of the nation,” says Trussell.

Trussell grew up on the West Coast, but has worked and lived in all four time zones over the course of his career. His stay here in Pennsylvania is the longest that he’s ever been in one place. He notes that he is coming up on his 30th year as a professional archaeologist, a fact that he finds hard to believe.

For more information about current and past excavations or for information about the Archaeology program, visit http://www.millersville.edu/archaeology/index.php.


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  1. Imagine being in Lancaster in 1714. Being one of the very first settlers to push inland from the coastal cities. Well done Dr Trussell and all of the students who worked on this very important project of discovery.

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