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William Sevon, Bill Sevon. He came up with his wife and
that was one of the most important meetings I think I had
regarding the site. He looked at the big boulder on the top,
which is actually the heart of the site, and he said, "You
know, I think it originally rocked." I found his comment
really interesting.
He also said that the quartz that you find incorporated in
some of the cairns up there came from the valley below.
The ridge itself is granitic gneiss. He said that you won't
find any dikes of quartz up there. He said quartz definitely
had to come from the valley below.
He also said that the Wisconsin glacier ended its southern
movement twenty miles north of Oley Hills. So the glacier
didn't dump rocks and unusual stones like quartz at the
site. That didn't occur.
He called the big boulder on the summit a tor, which is an
outcrop that has weathered in place (Figure 2). It turns out
that the stone of the big boulder is the same as the base
rock, as the ridge itself. There's nothing that's unusual
about that.
But, unfortunately, archaeologists don't seem to care
about knowing this
stuff. They've got their
minds set that all of
the unusual stone fea-
tures are colonial. "No
matter how much you
throw at us, we're not
gonna believe it."
So that's where it's
been for me for these
t w e n t y - s o m e t h i n g
years that I have been
involved in this site.
I had a date for some
cinder samples we
found at the base of
the terrace, scattered among stones that had collapsed.
The cinder samples were odd (Figure 3). I brought one of
them to a friend of mine, and he said, "Ah, that's from a
coal fire." But then I talked to another friend of mine, a
conservator at the Freer Gallery, who suggested I send
them to Robert Gordon, an archaeo-metallurgist professor
at Yale, which I did. He wrote back that the cinder was
from a clay-lined hearth that contained a very hot fire. It
also had bits of shale, limestone, and other stuff mixed
in with the froth. One of the cinders was sent to Victor
Bortolot, who does thermoluminescence dating in a lab in
Connecticut, or did. He's probably still there. He performed
TL on one of the cinder samples and he came up with a
date of about 1200 before the present time. But, he said
that because no research has been done on these kinds of
cinders, the date was only tentative and not a hard piece
of evidence.
But why wasn't he satisfied with that?
Because he said he had never worked on stuff like this, and
because it wasn't all clay--other stuff was mixed in with
this froth--he hadn't really worked on this stuff before.
You had a cinder that had some clay with some other stuff
mixed in with it. The cinder I would think was wood or some-
thing? What was the cinder composed of?
He didn't analyze that. He said it was from the lining of a
clay-lined hearth.
So how big are we talking?
Size of a walnut, or smaller. And they were all found at the
base of this feature called the terrace. I found one of them
on the surface, in a cavity at the top of the terrace, one of
the cinder samples. So I knew that the cinder samples that
were below must have been part of the terrace, probably
at the very top.
It's because of this one date I have through thermolumi-
nescence and the fact that I think this site is so important,
that I wanted to pursue this new method of dating, OSL
dating, because you can date stone. They have done that
in Greece and have come up with really accurate dates for
features that they already know a lot about.
A Greek scientist who does OSL dating put me in touch
with Jim Feathers at the University of Washington, who's
the top expert in this technique here in the US. He told
me how to obtain a sample. I followed his advice and, in
June [2018], a small group of us went out to Oley Hills, to
the terrace. The landowner, who was very nice, fortunately
allowed us to take two sets of samples from the hole that
was dug in the surface of the terrace. We got stones from
about a foot below the surface, and we had to do all of
that in the dark, using only red light. I bought a light-proof
Coleman tent, but to make sure it was light-proof, we put
some tarps over it. We cut a flap in the floor, pulled it
back, and that was the access we had to the surface. John
Waltz, a friend of mine, obtained the stones. They were
Figure 2. A tor at the center of the Oley Hills site in Pennsylvania.
Photo by Norman Muller on his first visit, 1997.
Figure 3. An analysis by thermolu-
minescence dated this sample from
the Oley Hills site to 1200 years BP.
Photo by Norman Muller, 2007.