Ceremonial Stone Landscapes

In 2021 the WCLV hosted a presentation on Ceremonial Stone Landscapes; this page provides follow up to field testing that was done following that presentation.

The 2023 Lehigh Valley Watershed Conference will have a session on ceremonial landscapes on March 14th, and there will be a presentation at Nuture Nature the evening prior, on the 13th. See the links, below, for more information.

Optically Stimulated Luminscence Dating

With financial assistance from donations provided by WCLV Board Members and others, several sites were dated, and the results are now available.

Several years ago, samples were taken locally in the Lehigh Valley for luminescence sampling. After waiting 18 months for the luminescence dating results of stone and sediment samples taken from eight ambiguous stone constructions in eastern PA in April 2021, the results are finally in! And with just one exception, all the results predate colonial contact. They range in dates from about BC 2610 to about AD 1740.

This luminescence dating project was sponsored by the New England Antiquities Research Association (NEARA). Each sample cost $1000 to process in the Luminescence Lab at the University of Washington in Seattle. The project was funded in large part by generous contributions from the many individuals who tuned into a webinar on the subject of Ceremonial Stone Landscapes hosted by WCLV in March 2021. NEARA could not have paid for testing as many samples as it did without the generous support of these individuals. NEARA thanks everyone who donated to the cause.

The results of this archaeological luminescence dating project in eastern PA will be soon be published in a professional archaeology journal. It is generally suspected that these constructed stone features were built as part of a ceremonial landscape and not for utilitarian purposes.

As a result of this project and the growing awareness of enigmatic constructed stone features in woodlands and wetlands in the Delaware and Susquehanna River watersheds, the PA State Historic Preservation Office is now taking a fresh look at these stone structures and has partnered with NEARA on a project to identify, map and record them (https://pahistoricpreservation.com/finding-meaning-stone/). This has the potential to rewrite what we knew about Indigenous land use history in eastern PA.

To learn what luminesce dating is, click here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luminescence_dating.

WCLV will be hosting a free community program on the subject of ceremonial landscapes at the Nurture Nature Center in Easton on March 13. For more info, check out Nurture Nature’s calendar, here. This subject will also be covered at the Lehigh Valley Watershed Conference on March 14th.

And NEARA will be hosting its three-day 2023 Spring Conference on the subject at the Best Western in Matamoras, PA on April 28-30. For more info, click here (conference info will be posted soon): https://neara.org/. Also check out the information in the attached issues of NEARA Transit, below. 

Jim Wilson, Board Member, WCLV

& PA Chapter Member, NEARA