Newport, Blairsville Field School 2019

Written by Nathan Bokros

I am Nathan Bokros, a first-year grad student at IUP’s Applied Archaeology Master’s. This past summer, July-August 2019, I had the opportunity to be a graduate supervisor for IUP’s archaeological field school alongside another IUP graduate supervisor, Rachael Marks and under the directorship of Dr. Ben Ford and Dr. Bill I have enjoyed working at a field school, this summer was the first time I was a graduate supervisor and not an undergraduate taking a class.  Rachael and I were responsible for supervising, teaching, logging bags for artifacts, taking photos of walls and units, driving vans filled with equipment and students, and giving advice to the undergrads.

The objective of the summer 2019 archaeological field school focused on surveying and excavating the Newport Site, 36IN188, near Blairsville, PA.  Newport was once a village site founded in the late 1700’s situated along the Frankston Road and the Conemaugh River as a sort of dock and resting area for traders and travelers. The site declined after the construction of a new village at a warmer location down river and the development of a railroad.  As a result, the village was abandoned by the mid-1800s.


The field school involved two phases and two groups. The first phase involved leading eleven IUP undergrads and two IUP grad students in conducting shovel tests throughout the site, which was situated in the middle of the woods on a slight hill. Phase two began two weeks later after all the shovel testing was completed.  The undergrads were now working on one-meter by one-meter test units.  The two graduate students conducted their own project, under Dr. Chadwick and with a crew of undergrads, trying to find two buried roads.

Through the heat, occasional rain, flies, and visits from various guests, we all had a good time and learned valuable skills.  We found some interesting artifacts such as large pieces of redware, tiny pieces of ceramics (some had colored designs), glass, bone pieces, unusually large rocks in close formation, a toy horse, and charcoal. Some test units did not contain many artifacts, though there was one that I was fortunate enough to supervise and excavate personally that uncovered many artifacts, like large pieces of redware and a rock so large we dubbed it “The Big Kahuna”.  The graduate students found at least one road and possibly part of another road.


This field school was enjoyable with lots of work digging at the site and processing artifacts in the lab alongside interesting characters making memories and funny quotes. There were a few days where the rain was too heavy so excavate, so we either processed artifacts in the lab or went on field trips to local historical sites, like Hanna’s Town and the Underground Railroad Museum in Blairsville, PA. Along with these trips, there are some unforgettable quotes that will always make me smile. One last memory to share is the mascot of the field school: a golden lab named Maddie who served not just as a service dog for one of the undergrads, but served as a source of joy, laughs, and moral for everyone with her dedication when on the job and adorable friendliness when off her leash. Such a great, busy, and fun field school made for an excellent summer, as well as a looking forward to the start of being a graduate student at IUP.