The Buried Past: An Archaeological History of Philadelphia

By John L. Cotter; Daniel G. Roberts et al. | Go to book overview

Preface

Philadelphia has at various times in its history been a leader not only in industry, shipping, trade, and banking, but also in medicine, science, architecture, and art. It has long been a favorite research topic of historians, sociologists, and architectural historians—and, since the 1950s, of archaeologists as well. Philadelphia has, in fact, received more archaeological attention than any other major city in North America. Given its place in history and its numerous historic sites, the amount of archaeological attention the city has received is not surprising. What is perhaps surprising is that the reports of these investigations have for the most part never been formally published, let alone brought together in a single volume. The purpose of this book is to summarize in as readable a fashion as possible the results of over thirty years of archaeological work—nearly 300 reports of some 150 site investigations—in Philadelphia and its environs.

In the 1960s the pioneer modern dancer Ted Shawn offered this advice to his trainees at Jacob's Pillow: "Too many dancers today are satisfied with technical accomplishments.... I will always give my accolades to those dancers, who, having mastered the language, say something." Archaeology, like dancing, involves both technique and interpretation. Its technical accomplishments should likewise enable the practitioner to say something, and that something should be worthy of note, a contribution to the body of knowledge that makes up the archaeological record. While archaeological investigations of Philadelphia sites have not always produced hoped- for results, they have invariably in some measure enhanced our knowledge of the city's cultural past.

In this review of Philadelphia archaeology, the reader should be able to perceive why an investigation was undertaken, what it accomplished, and what it means. Readers seeking extensive new light on the past may be disappointed. The presentation invokes no tablet of laws interpreting the cultural identity of Philadelphians. Rather, it presents the physical evidence of the past, which can and often does fill in gaps and illuminate the historical record. Our intent is to place the archaeological findings so far made in a major metropolitan area in the context of history and to let those findings speak for themselves. Our hope is that the book will succeed in inserting some meaningful threads of archaeological evidence into the historical tapestry, and that it will fill out the pattern and add texture and color.

J. L. C.
D. G. R.
M. P.

Philadelphia
June 21, 1992

-xi-

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