EXCAVATION OF THE WHITBY BRANCH SITE (7NC-G-151)
The Whitby Branch Site is one of many Native American archaeological sites that have recently
been excavated along Delaware’s new State Route 1. Planning studies for this new highway have
included a broad program of archaeological investigations, resulting in a great amount of new
information about Delaware’s ancient cultural heritage. Indeed, there has been a virtual explosion
of new information from the numerous archaeological excavations. Perhaps more important than
new data, new analytical methods have been developed, new theories constructed, and new ways
of interpreting information to broader audiences have appeared.
The Whitby Branch Site is unusual in that it was found in one of the few arable locations in
Delaware that had not been subject to cultivation. The archaeological deposits were extremely well
preserved and the site therefore offered an excellent opportunity to examine a Native American
occupation area. The site investigation focused on issues of prehistoric chronology, subsistence,
settlement patterns, intrasite patterning, environmental adaptation, and technology. The first period
of documented site use occurred during the Clyde Farm complex of the Woodland I period (ca.
3000-500 BC). Intensive site use occurred during the Black Rock I complex of the Woodland I
period (ca. 500-1 BC), and was followed by occupation during the Webb complex (ca. AD 500-
1000). Site use during the Woodland II period (ca. AD 1000-1650) was limited and the remains
from this period may represent only sporadic visits.
The site occupies a low ridge surrounded by extensive tidal wetlands that are tributary to the
Appoquinimink River. The site was exploited for its extensive bed of workable cobbles, and may
have been a procurement and processing station for game and plant resources. A number of hearth
areas were present, as well as tool and activity areas relating to the manufacture and maintenance
of lithic implements. One area of the site contained unusually high concentrations of lithic debris.
Four 1x1-meter units excavated in this area collectively yielded over 4,000 pieces of debitage, a
number that exceeds the total assemblages from many other sites in Delaware. The concentration
of debitage at the Whitby Branch Site appears to have been the location of a refuse deposit situated
at a distance from the site’s primary work area. The activities inferred from the observed debitage
and tool frequencies suggest that the site functioned in large part as a lithic quarry and workshop.
A possible pit house dwelling was uncovered and was dated to the Black Rock I complex. Botanical
and faunal preservation at the site was poor, although charred walnut and hickory nutshell were
recovered from a number of features, including a large storage pit within the proposed pit house.
These remains may represent consumed food items.
Several regionally recognized point types were identified in the artifact assemblage, including
Susquehanna Broadspear, Poplar Island, Jack’s Reef Corner Notched, and Levanna. Artifact
frequencies were unusually high for a site of this size, reflecting the extensive utilization of the
locally available cobbles for tool manufacture. Flake-attribute and flake-size analyses demonstrated
that the range of production techniques used at the site included core reduction and biface reduction.
Cite this Record
EXCAVATION OF THE WHITBY BRANCH SITE (7NC-G-151). Robert M. Jacoby, Charles H. LeeDecker, Richard J. Dent, John Bedell. Delaware Department of Transportation Archaeology Series ,157. 2001 ( tDAR id: 375163)
Archaeological Feature • Artifact Scatter • Domestic Structures • Hearth • Pit • Pit House / Earth Lodge • Quarry • Resource Extraction / Production / Transportation Structure or Features • Storage Pit