Historic Hanna’s Town, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania

  • Excavations, artifact analysis, historical research, and digital archaeology to reconstruct 18th-century life on the Pennsylvania frontier.

    2013 Archaeological Field SchoolHanna’s Town was the first English county seat west of the Allegheny Mountains and the source of the Hanna’s Town Resolves—a precursor to the Declaration of Independence and the first such document in the American colonies. Hanna’s Town was founded circa 1769 by Robert Hanna and prospered for a generation as a regional economic and political center. In the late 1770s, the town contained approximately 30 homes and vied with Pittsburgh for regional importance. Hanna’s Town was destroyed in 1782 by a contingent of British and Native American soldiers. The town never recovered, and by the early 19th century the site had become a farm field. Archaeology at the site began in 1969 when the town location was acquired by Westmoreland County. The site offers a unique view of Western Pennsylvania at an important time in American history.

    Hanna's Town ReconstructionIUP has been working at the site since 2011 in partnership with the Westmoreland County Historical Society. The Anthropology Department has held two archaeological field schools at Hanna’s Town, and there are currently several MA theses being conducted using artifacts from the town. Four decades of previous excavations have generated a rich data source of nearly one million artifacts and several shelves of records. Dr. Ben Ford is working with students to digitize these records so that they can be studied and made accessible to other researchers.

    2013 Archaeological Field School close-upThe collection has the potential to shed light on the lives of frontier inhabitants of various classes, ethnicities, ages, and genders. Hanna’s Town is an important historical and archaeological site that is poorly understood. The goal of the Hanna’s Town project is to synthesis the enormous dataset to better understand life in colonial Pennsylvania, and to use this information to better interpret the site to the public.

    Images, from top to bottom: 2013 archaeological field school at Historic Hanna's Town, note the reconstructed fort to the right; Artist's reconstruction of Hanna's Town circa 1775; Student excavators interpreting the archaeology to site visitors.