The past is easy to see at Independence National Historical Park as you walk through Independence Hall or gaze at the Liberty Bell. Even more history exists just beneath the surface of Philadelphia's modern cityscape. Colonial backyards, house foundations, privies, wells and other remnants of the city's past survive. At the park's archeological lab, experts and volunteers piece together these fragments of history, offering glimpses into the lives of those who lived and worked where the park now resides.
Archeologists have been digging at Independence National Historical Park since the 1950s. Their work has uncovered the stories of many well-known figures like George Washington and Ben Franklin as well as the lives of those less-documented by history, including enslaved and free Africans such as James Dexter, who purchased freedom for himself and his wife. Archeology also reveals the lives of laborers, craftsmen, merchants, shoemakers, tavern keepers and their families. The archeologist's trowel has also uncovered evidence of Native Americans who inhabited the area long before the arrival of Europeans.
The excavation and study of archeological sites and artifacts is an important part of the National Park Service's mission and is provided for in federal preservation law. By conducting such studies the National Park Service acts to preserve and protect the resources under its care for all Americans.
Did You Know?
Thomas Jefferson wrote the rough draft of the Declaration in only a few days? He spent a period of two weeks refining it and even gave a copy to John Adams and Benjamin Franklin for their review.