Written by Janee Becker
My thesis research focuses on archaeological investigations at The Wigwam in Dubois, PA. The Wigwam Project investigates the historic context and potential significance of 20th-century Native American performer campsites in western Pennsylvania. The Wigwam is the former home of Major Israel McCreight, a prominent historical figure in local Dubois history. The property was built in 1906 and has historically been documented as a camp for Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, a haven for visiting Native Americans, and the location of a Six Nations Mowhawk tribe council house. Aside from Buffalo Bill Cody, Major Israel McCreight often hosted chiefs Flying Hawk and Iron Tail and was considered a life-long friend and defender of Native Americans.
No previous cultural resource investigations have been conducted within the vicinity of the Wigwam property. Therefore, this project attempts to locate features related to historic Native American performer campsites using metal detector and geophysical survey in the form of magnetic gradiometer survey. Archaeological investigations of these deposits excavated approximately four and a half square meters. These investigations recovered approximately 870 artifacts including charcoal, lithic debitage, and a piece of worked glass potentially associated with historic Native American short-term use of the site.
Classical research into the historic assimilation of Native Americans often focuses on the dichotomy of change and continuity from precontact cultural practices to European colonialism (Silliman 2009). Therefore, it often obscures the use of Euro-American materials by Native Americans to represent their own cultural heritage; creating a narrative of Native American authenticity (Cipolla 2013b). This belief in authenticity implies that to be a true Native American, the cultural lifeways and materials must reflect precontact cultural practices. Silliman (2009:212) rightly questions the appropriateness of using these “precontact cultural practices as the baseline” in archaeological research.
Photo by Jamie Kouba
Data collected through these investigations attempt to address the adaption and resiliency of Native American’s during the period of 1906 through 1913. Research questions will explore the pressures of this time-period on Native American lifeways and how these pressures influenced Native American performer identity. These investigations are a study of archaeological materials associated with the with these changing identities.
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Today January 24, 2020 one of our graduate students defended her thesis. Zaakiyah Cua graduated from her undergrad at Youngtown State University with degrees in Anthropology and Geography and a GIS Certificate in 2015. In 2018 she received the Paul Goldberg Award at the SAA conference for her work using Earth Science methods in archaeology. Zaakiyah’s thesis is entitled Loyalhanna Creek: A Geoarchaeological Approach to Understanding the Archaeological Potential of Floodplains. Loyalhanna Creek is a point bar of upstream of a dam in Westmoreland County, PA. Her research used ground penetrating radar, gradiometry, and auger sampling to find anomalies and investigate soil horizons. As in all IUP graduate theses, Zaakiyah’s research was directed by three research questions. They are:
-Are there Buried Landscapes that have the potential to yield pre-contact archaeological sites within the selected floodplain along the Loyalhanna Creek?
-If there are buried landscapes what are the extent of these landscapes, how do they relate to one another, and what was the landscape before sediment deposition?
-What is the Archaeological potential of existing buried landscapes on the selected floodplain?
Zaakiyah first surveyed her area using GPR and gradiometry in order to answer questions one and locate possible buried landscapes. After analyzing her data and comparing both geophysical methods to each other and topographic maps, she located 6 potential large landscapes. She augured select points along these landscapes to compare the landscape horizons. The soil samples were first analyzed in the field using visual characteristics and then in the lab using particle size analysis. Using these methods, she was able to identify several soil trends including stacked B horizons, buried A horizons, and restricting features within a landscape. One landscape had enough charcoal deposits to conduct radiocarbon dating providing her with a date of roughly 5000 BP for that horizon. From all of this data, Zaakiyah was able to show that there is archaeological potential for that area and recommends more research and sampling.
She gave an amazing and very professional presentation to her research committee and around 8 current graduate students. One professor commented that her research is one of the most impressive to come out of the program in many years. She spent a total of four years surveying, analyzing, and writing her thesis. Everyone was very impressed with the amount of work she was able to accomplish in that short time. The department is very proud of her and wishes her the best in her future careers.
To learn more about IUP’s graduate and undergraduate opportunities visit https://www.iup.edu/anthropology/
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