A Trip to Meadowcroft

The second colloquium for our Applied Archaeology graduate students was held on October 16th with a trip to the Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Historic Village for their Archaeology Day event.

The Meadowcroft Rockshelter is marketed as one of the oldest sites of human habitation in North America. The large overhang of sandstone was undercut by the Cross Creek waters over tens of thousands of years ago, creating the rockshelter used by people starting as early as 19,000 years ago. After farmer Albert Miller discovered what looked like a prehistoric tool in 1955 on his property, he connected with Dr. James Adovasio from the University of Pittsburgh nearly twenty years later in 1973. Dr. Adovasio led a field school excavation of the site over the following six years. Excavations and tedious work recovered around 20,000 artifacts, almost a million animal remains, and over 1.4 million plant remains.

In 2005 the site was designated a National Historic Landmark by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior.

Today, people across the U.S. and the world can visit the site in its modern enclosure. The enclosure was built in 2008 to protect the site and create an ideal viewing spot for visitors, highlighting stratigraphy layers and where major artifacts were found.

Along with touring the Rockshelter, students explored the Historic Village, the Prehistoric Indian Village, the Frontier Trading Post, exhibits, and met with several interpreters and craftspeople along the way.

At the 16th century Monongahela Indian Village, students had the chance to see the recreated dome-shaped dwellings, meet with someone who has been doing flint napping for over 30 years, and even got to try atlatl throwing! The atlatl was a prehistoric spear throwing device used by American Indians for hunting.

At the 18th century frontier trading post, students observed a typical early European trading shelter used in Western Pennsylvania. Students met with an informative interpreter who let them try their hand at tomahawk throwing!

Students crossed the Pine Bank Covered Bridge to check out the 19th century historic village filled with rural architecture and artifacts the Miller family put together. An interpreter dressed as a schoolmaster described the typical day-to-day life for a student in the 1800s, and how he would have taught lessons in the one-room schoolhouse visitors were seated in. Students also has a chance to observe a log house, log church, and a blacksmith shop.

Students visited the Miller Museum, complete with a Carriage Museum, Farm Implement Museum, Barn Exhibit, and Harness Racing Exhibit. Before leaving students also checked out prehistoric textile spinning and weaving demonstrations.

The day was filled with learning, and if you ever get the chance, you should definitely take the time to experience the Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Historic Village.

Check out the Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Historic Village Website to look for upcoming events: https://www.heinzhistorycenter.org/meadowcroft/

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