The History of Playwicki Farm

In the Beginning......

Archaeology at Playwicki Farm

The Playwicki Farm contains a variety of prehistoric and historic archaeological sites dating from circa 7000/6500 BC through the period of contact between Native Americans and European colonists and extending through the 19th and early 20th centuries.  Native American sites dating to prehistoric times represent: a series of hunting and gathering stations and perhaps small, transient camps and areas where useful rock materials were collected by the natives and the production of stone tools initiated.  The jewel” of the Native American sites is 36BU173, where the remains of an historic, early 18th century settlement (attributed to the Lenape/ Delaware Indians) are buried and layered above earlier, prehistoric artifacts deposits.  Components of some other Native American sites on the property represent activities carried out by some of the other inhabitants of this settlement.  The Playwicki Farm contains areas where additional prehistoric and historic archaeological deposits are anticipated to occur.       

Archaeological research has focused on 36BU173, what we have called the Playwicki Farm site.  To-date, three houses have been identified in our excavations.  Two of them are circular and range from 38 – 40 feet in diameter.  Not enough of the third structure has been examined to determine its overall size and shape – but we know that it will be large.  The two circular structures are constructed employing wooden wall posts set in a dug trench outlining the shape of the building.   The building probably had a pitched roof, with beams laid from the outer wall to interior support posts.  This is the first example of this type of native construction that archaeologists have seen in the Delaware Valley.  The third building appears to be a more traditionally fashioned, bent-pole wigwam, comparable to the reconstructed example at the nearby Churchville Nature Center.   A variety of evidence suggests that the buildings were abandoned and partially stripped of timbers before being destroyed by fire.  It is likely that first European colonists who cleared the land for farming are responsible for the burning of the buildings.

Artifacts from the Playwicki Farm site include a variety of stone tools and implements, water-smoothed cobbles used for pounding and grinding, fragments of knives and scrapers and the chips or waste flakes that result from the fashioning and maintenance of stone tools.  Also found were fragments of ceramic pots fashioned by the natives.  Objects made by and obtained from colonists are rare on the site.  There is not that much difference between the native-made artifacts and the kinds of things that you will find on just about any Indian camp or settlement in the Delaware Valley dating to the past 3,000 years.  Then what makes the Playwicki Farm artifacts so special?  The remarkable thing about the artifacts from 36BU173 is that they ARE so typical of traditional native culture.  But the people who were making and using them lived during the early 18th century, during historic times and almost 100 years after Europeans began exploring and settling in the Delaware Valley.  We know that many other Indian groups rapidly adopted tools and goods that the Europeans brought with them:  metal knives, axes, kettles, pots and guns.  In embracing the technology of these outsiders, some native peoples abandoned traditional crafts, such as working stone and making pottery.  This, in turn, altered traditional social relations within the community.   Some native groups migrated quickly out of the area to get away from the colonists.  The existence of a traditional-looking Indian community at 36BU173 is startling given the historical development of the Delaware Valley, the long-term presence of European colonists (farmsteads in the area since 1682) and the colonial government’s generally poor attitude regarding native peoples.

What was the relationship between the native inhabitants and local colonists?  Why are there so few European-made goods in the archaeological deposits?  How did the native inhabitants resist the often overwhelming influence of the Europeans?  The Lenape/Delaware’s reaction to Europeans is clearly different from that of their native brethren.  Why?  As a native community surviving in the midst of colonial settlements, the archaeology of Playwicki Farm has much to teach us about human behavior and culture, the forces that act upon them and the resiliency of Lenape/Delaware culture.

To date there have been three archaeological investigations.  The first conducted by Henry Mercer in 1893.  The Heritage Conservancy then called the Bucks County Conservancy commissioned a study in 1983 and Temple University completed three years of study in 1995.  The above text by Dr. Michael Stewart, Department of Anthropology, Temple University.

Playwicki Farm site 36BU173 is being rested, with the hope that one day in the future further studies can be done.