Rhiannon Flaig inspects a digging site as Dr. Trussell looks on. REBEKAH HOLMES/ THE SNAPPER

Marti Zimmerman

Staff Writer

Millersville archaeology students searched for evidence of pirates, more specifically red sea pirates during their fall 2022 field experience. This archeology field school takes place in Marcus Hook Pa, which sits on the Delaware river, and was once suspected of being a pirate haven. 

Scholars allege this area once belonged to pirates due to Marcus Hook being the farthest up the Delaware river; there was a time when a boat could travel there without a guide. Marcus Hook was colonized by the Swedish in 1640, then became under British control around the late 1670s. In the town of Marcus Hook, there are two locations that the field crew are testing, which is Discord Lane, around 1st and 2nd street of the current town, as well as the plank house property, which is suspected to have housed one of the pirate Blackbeard’s mistresses. 

“The goal of the Fall 2022 field school is to test potentially historic areas in the port town of Marcus Hook on the Delaware [river],” says Millersville Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Dr. Timothy Trussell, who runs the field experience.  

Evidence was also found by the students that supposedly lean toward the idea of pirates frequenting the area. Rebekah Holmes, one of the student supervisors, talks about an artifact found in a trash bin at the plank house, the artifact was a pewter sailor spoon, “which definitely hints at sailor spoon and that lines up with the history of the area and what we are trying to find.”

To better understand why the archeological field experience exists and matters, one needs to understand what archeology is. Archeology is a subcategory of anthropology, which focuses on the material culture remains. Archeology is done through tedious methods and practice.

 “Archeology is the study of human history and the past through material remains, what people left behind whether that be documents, features, artifacts,” explains Rhiannon Flaig, an archeology field student.  

 “The most scientific of the humanities and the most humanist of the sciences,” is how Dr. Trussell describes it. He sees that when archeology is done right there is an almost perfect balance between science and the humanities.  

 To be an archeologist, one needs to learn the method and practices. According to Dr. Trussell, “you cannot be a professional archeologist without having experience in the field, the hands-on field experience is what we build our entire program around, and everything revolves off of that.” 

Field experience is important for the anthropology program in many ways. Other than teaching students how to do archaeology, it gives them a chance to apply what they learned in the classroom setting to the real world of archeology.   

“Explaining only goes so far, and actually being out there sort of makes what he [Dr. Trussell] told us in intro [to archeology] make a lot more sense, and helps develop a deeper understanding of what exactly you are actually doing.”  Says Jack Feinberg, a student participating in the field school.

Holmes explains “the classroom makes it sound a lot more challenging and intimidating than the actual work.”  

According to Dr. Trussell field experience has two main components. The first is technical skills.

 “I want to give all of my students the opportunity to do fieldwork and become very good and technically proficient as an archeologist,” he explains.

The second is engagement.

“What I’ve found is students are deeply engaged by being a part of the process of research, people love being in the field, finding artifacts that are hundreds of years old and gaining insight of the people from the things they find.”