• Congress Voting Independence

    Independence

    National Historical Park Pennsylvania

Archeology in Independence National Historical Park

Drawing on 1872 map of Independence Hall

This detail from an 1872 panorama of Philadelphia shows Independence Hall on the left (labeled 'State House') and, to the right, the three blocks that today comprise Independence Mall. The Mall is currently being re-developed and archeology is being conducted in advance of this new construction

(Map: Library of Congress, American Memory webpage).

Archeologists
Archeology Laboratory
Chronology of Excavations
James Dexter Site

History Beneath Our Feet

Sealed beneath the surface of Philadelphia's modern cityscape are remnants of the city's past. As we navigate the streets of the city on our day-to-day business, the abundant evidence of relentless growth and change is everywhere and these holdovers from the past remain well hidden. New buildings replace old, tall office towers rise in place of more modest structures; streets are widened and repaved or excavated to add new fiber optic transmission lines to the tangled nest of water and electric lines, which snake their way across the city.

The signs of change are everywhere. Cities constantly remake the landscape to serve the changing needs of their residents. Amidst this change little bits of the city's past are sometimes preserved in surprising places. New construction, which clears away much of the older landscape, sometimes seals beneath a modern building a portion of an older street or alleyway, a colonial backyard or the foundations of an earlier residence. Indeed, even in the modern city the ground under your feet may contain the preserved evidence of the areas earliest residents. Native Americans may have left a record of their activities under sidewalks and buildings.

The National Park Service is working in partnership with the National Constitution Center, the Gateway Visitor Center Corporation, Eastern National and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to redevelop the three blocks of what we currently call Independence Mall. This project involves construction of a museum, a visitor center, the educational Independence Park Institute and a new building to house the Liberty Bell.

Some aspects of this new construction will involve excavation in areas, which may contain preserved remains of Philadelphia's past. Where disturbance to areas believed to contain historic resources cannot be avoided, archeological excavations will precede construction. These excavations will document the threatened archeological sites and will recover artifacts and information which will help us better understand our nation's past.

Provision for these kinds of archeological projects is a part of federal law and is also an important part of the National Park Service's mission. By conducting such studies the National Park Service acts to preserve and protect the resources under its care.

Before the Digging Begins

Brushes, Trowels and Backhoes:
Digging An Urban Site


What Can We Learn from Archeology?

Protecting Our Past

Did You Know?

Photo of Constitution

Did you know Gouverneur Morris, a signer of the Constitution and author of its preamble lost his leg in a carriage accident on Philadelphia's Dock Street in 1780?