Archaeoloogists at Horseshoe
Contributed by Clarke A. Green
Buzzard's Rock has been a familiar destination for Horseshoe Scout hikes since the camp's founding. It is an interesting and important place to explore. Jutting from the steep hillside the giant boulder forms a shelter that overlooks the Octoraro creek.
In 1987 Buzzard's Rock was given a second name: 'Horseshoe Rockshelter (36Ch488)'.
According to camp folklore Buzzard's Rock was a prime location for finding arrowheads and it was long assumed that Native Americans once occupied the site. During the summer of 1987 a couple of staff members exploring Buzzard's Rock turned up a few significant artifacts that piqued my interest. I sketched the shards of pottery and projectile points they unearthed and sent the drawings to the State Museum in Harrisburg with a letter inquiring about the origins of these interesting objects.
I received a reply from archeologist Mark McConaughy expressing an interest in visiting the camp to assess the possibility of excavating the site. He visited camp that September and we arrived at an agreement between the State Museum Commission and Chester County Council to conduct an excavation. Buzzard's Rock was then officially designated 36Ch488; 36 for the alphabetic rank of Pennsylvania amongst the first 48 states, Ch for Chester County and 488 as the 488th recorded site in Chester County.
Eric Hanson (right) and an unidentified Indian stand watch amongst the Buzzard's Rock site at Camp Horseshoe. This picture was most likely taken in the early 1980's when Eric was on staff.
Contributed by Anonymous
As the dig progressed during the summer of 1988 Mark and his assistant Doug Miller painstakingly recorded the location of the many artifacts they unearthed. Every ounce of soil removed from the site was carefully sifted to assure that every piece of history, no matter how small, was preserved for study. Within each layer of soil lay the story of Buzzard's Rock, one that would prove to stretch back farther than any of us could imagine.
Through the course of the summer Mark and Doug had the opportunity to share their considerable knowledge with 673 Scouts who visited the site. 77 Scouts were lucky enough to actually participate in the dig. Both archeologists proved to be a wonderful addition to the camp program. Doug, a student of military history, gave a powerful performance at our Fourth of July campfire representing soldiers from different periods of American history complete with his collection of uniforms and accoutrements.
One of the concepts the archeologists stressed then (and is now an important part of the Archeology Merit Badge) was that found artifacts should not be disturbed or collected. Understanding of pre-history is gained only when artifacts are studied in the context of the area they are found. An arrowhead, for example, may be a tempting souvenir but once removed from where it has rested for perhaps thousands of years it loses much of its power to inform us of the past.
When the summer drew to a close Mark and Doug packed up their equipment and the artifacts for their return to Harrisburg. They backfilled the excavations after placing some brand new 1988 pennies in the holes to pinpoint the date of the excavation for should any future archeologists follow them.
In the ensuing months the artifacts were studied, identified and dated and Mark completed a thorough report of the dig. Perhaps the most unique find mentioned therein was a bit of stone chipped into a crude arrowhead. At first the arrowhead confused the archeologists; it was the wrong kind of stone, the wrong shape and was found at a relatively shallow depth.
With a little help they put two and two together and identified an entirely new class of projectile point. Apparently a former camp director (who shall remain nameless) had occasionally made his own arrowheads and 'seeded' the area around Buzzard's rock to enhance the camp legend. As a result the newly discovered artifact, officially designated the "Ernie Point", is now in the collection of the State Museum in Harrisburg.
Unidentified Horseshoe Brave gazes over Camp from Buzzard's Rock.
Contributed by Anonymous
While the other artifacts unearthed at Buzzard's rock may not be considered individually archaeologically significant, as a group they paint an astounding picture. It is certain that Native Americans used the site as a short-term camp, perhaps for hunting parties or as a place to procure quartz to make tools or temper pottery.
The things unearthed at Buzzard's Rock were carried there by people of many Native American cultures from many different places over a great span of time. Things aren't so different now - we still come to Camp Horseshoe from all over hunting for serenity, adventure and fellowship, stay for a relatively short time, and return home.
To my mind the most extraordinary conclusion based on the study of the artifacts found during that summer is that Buzzard's Rock was occupied as far back as 6000 BC, or nearly eight thousand years.
By identifying, studying and preserving Buzzard's Rock we now know that long before the Scouts, the Reynolds farm, Frey's Forge; or Mason and Dixon - before the bend of the creek bore the name Horseshoe, or Crook's Hill; even long-long before the first Europeans set foot on this continent - for thousands of years people sitting beneath Buzzards rock looked up to see the same stars we can see if we sit in their place today.