Archaeologists working at the SugarHouse casino site between Fishtown and Northern Liberties have concluded their field work without finding any trace of a Revolutionary-era British fort, a casino spokeswoman said yesterday.
But the abundance of Native American relics unearthed during the dig, some dating back 3,000 years, has drawn the interest of a New Jersey band of the Leni-Lenape Indians.
Casino spokeswoman Leigh Whitaker said archaeologists from A.D. Marble & Co. of Conshohocken found "thousands of artifacts," ranging from Indian artifacts to fragments of pottery.
"The field work is complete," Whitaker said. "The next step is for our archaeologists to catalog all the items that they did find."
The Sand Hill Band of the Lenape has made an official request to Gov. Rendell to view the artifacts.
"We thought what they would mostly find would be colonial things," said Chester Shadow Walker Robinson, a Cherokee chief from New Jersey. "We know there was a Lenape burial ground in that area." He said that if there were any human remains, "we'd like to reclaim them for proper burials."
Laura Zucker, a spokeswoman for the Sand Hill band, said the descendants of the Lenape also have asked the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission if they could inspect the items. Under an agreement with SugarHouse, the commission will eventually take possession of the relics.
"We want to see if there are any ancestral relics or items of antiquity, and sit down to discuss what will become of them," Zucker said.
Whitaker said many of the Native American items were stone fragments from tool-building. Many were found near an ancient hearth on the 22-acre site, between Northern Liberties and Fishtown on Delaware Avenue.
Historians say ancient trails that were heavily used by tribes - which became Frankford and Germantown Avenues - ended near the waterfront. Before the arrival of European settlers, tribes would encamp on the Delaware to fish and hunt, returning to inland settlements in the winter, said Ken Milano, a Kensington historian.
The absence of any evidence of the British redoubt from 1777 has disappointed local historians, who pressured SugarHouse to look for it. SugarHouse released an early archaeological report in 2007 that made no mention of the fort. Neighborhood experts produced 18th-century maps pinpointing the fort to a location under what became Penn Street.
Whitaker said archaeologists looked for evidence of the small fort on Dec. 3 and 4. She said archaeologists found that the area had been "highly disturbed," perhaps when utility lines were installed decades ago.