Archeology at Independence

The past is easy to see at Independence National Historical Park. 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.

Archeology is the study of the past through material remains, the everyday objects that people lost or discarded, as well as the places they inhabited and the spaces through which they moved. Wherever people live, work, or play, they leave some physical trace of themselves - a sewing needle that falls through a gap in the floorboards, a child's toy lost and forgotten in the yard, a broken dish tossed down an abandoned well. Through the excavation and analysis of artifacts, we can often learn about the kinds of food people ate, the clothes they wore, some of the ways in which they entertained themselves, and even the diseases they suffered from.

Archeological efforts have uncovered the stories of many well-known figures like Benjamin Franklin in Franklin Court, as well as the lives of those less documented by history, including enslaved and free Africans such as James Dexter.

The excavation and study of archeological sites and artifacts is important to the National Park Service's mission and protected under federal preservation law. By conducting such studies the National Park Service acts to preserve and protect the resources under its care for all Americans.

 
Color photo showing archeologists piecing together pottery.

Independence Archeology Lab

Get a behind-the-scenes view of park archeologists at work.

Color photo of a dig site with modern buildings in the background.

Digging at an Urban Site

Two recent urban excavations - the National Constitution Center and the President's House Site - provided some unexpected discoveries.

Last updated: September 6, 2016

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