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Digging I-95: Exploring Philadelphia's Buried Past

The Archaeology of Northern Liberties, Kensington-Fishtown, and Port Richmond

Today pieces of Philadelphia’s long and vibrant history are visible all around us. However, much more of the city’s historic legacy remains buried in the ground beneath our feet, still waiting to be discovered. This buried history, in the form of archaeological sites hundreds or even thousands of years old, can be found all around us, preserved in every corner of the city, and in every neighborhood.

Digging I-95, an interactive digital report about the archaeology of the I-95 Reconstruction Project in Philadelphia makes available the archaeological discoveries from along the Delaware River waterfront, in the neighborhoods of Northern Liberties, Kensington-Fishtown, and Port Richmond. These sites, and the artifacts within them, were uncovered during archaeological excavations conducted in advance of construction work to improve Interstate 95.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) and the Federal Highways Administration (FHWA) are undertaking a long-term, multi-phase project to improve and rebuild Interstate 95 in Pennsylvania. Section GIR involves the improvement of approximately three miles of I-95 between Interstate 676 and Allegheny Avenue in Philadelphia, and includes the reconstruction of the Girard Avenue Interchange; widening of the overhead interstate highway; installation of new utilities and landscaping; and improving access to the Delaware Waterfront.

Like most archaeological work in this country, investigations for the I-95 project are mandated by the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) of 1966. This law requires archaeological investigations to be completed whenever construction projects receive Federal funding. The purpose of the NHPA is to preserve America’s past and allow time for archaeologists to research important archaeological sites before they are lost to construction.

This report takes an innovative approach in how Philadelphia’s waterfront archaeological discoveries are shared with members of the public and the archaeological community alike. By making use of the latest smart technology, visitors can search through and explore this information as they please via their computers or any web-enabled hand-held device. What you will find here includes images, 3-D reconstructions, and information about individual artifacts, photos and videos of site excavations, historic research about these neighborhoods, stories about the diverse people who made the riverfront their home over the past 4,000 or more years, detailed reports of discoveries from individual archaeological sites, artifact databases that can be used for further research, and information about upcoming public events featuring the latest discoveries from this project.

Because archaeological investigations are still actively being conducted throughout the I-95/GIR project area this report represents a work in progress. As new discoveries are made, and new information is revealed over the next few years, this report will be updated and expanded.