Byrd Leibhart archaeological site is located within Native Lands Park and while it is no longer a current dig site, archaeologists have unearthed many artifacts and discovered burial sites from a Susquehannock Native American village. The most recent tribe located here during the latter half of the 17th century and archaeologists estimate that the fortified village was home to 600 Susquehannock. Records suggest that the tribe was pushed south into Maryland by members of the Iroquois Confederacy sometime around 1680. Three cemeteries, village elements, a stockade, a longhouse and numerous Native and European trade goods have been excavated from the site which has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 2009.
artifacts were discovered at the Byrd Leibhart Site around 1929 as this is the
year Albert Cook Myers purchased some artifacts from Byrd Leibhart’s son. In 1933, Byrd Leibhart plowed out some Native
remains near the Dritt family cemetery.
He then went on to dig out 90 graves at the site and numerous Native and
European artifacts. He and David Graham
then divided the artifacts among themselves.
Graham’s portion is now in the hands of the York County Historical
Society, while Leibhart’s half, to include gun parts, was sold off to unknown
Prior to a major
excavation of the site in 1970, George Keller dug up numerous grave sites and
village components. During July and
August of 1970, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission sponsored a
major excavation of the site which was supervised by Barry Kent. They uncovered a 22,300 square-foot village
area, to include a longhouse, that was surrounded by an oval shaped stockade
fence. The archaeologists also unearthed
Native Strickler cord-marked pottery, iron tools, copper kettles, knives,
wooden spoons, pipes, beads, European and Native ceramics, glass and gun parts
(frizzens, hammers, springs and flints).
The archaeologists placed the occupation of the Byrd Leibhart Site at no
earlier than 1670 and no later than 1683 and placed the burial population at approximately
were, at one time, a powerful force in the area during the first half of the 17th
century. They controlled the trade
routes from Delaware Bay to the tribes of the Five Nations to the north and west. Their power peaked after defeating the Seneca
in 1663. However, the Susquehannock came
into conflict with the Iroquois Confederacy over fur trade with the Europeans;
the Dutch in modern day New York, the Swedish in Delaware and the English in
European diseases quickly took their toll on the Susquehannock and by 1673 they
were in decline which accelerated when their alliance with the English
collapsed in 1674. It is thought that
the Byrd Leibhart Site is the location of the last Susquehannock village. As William Penn’s representatives expanded
west in search of land, there was no mention of the Susquehannock in the lower
Susquehanna Valley by 1683 except for those located at Conestoga Town in the
1690s. Today, the site and park are
owned by York County and the Native Lands Heritage Trail runs through the park
which is part of the larger Mason-Dixon Trail.