Rocks and Roosters

By: John Rolf

Hey. What’s up? My name is John Rolf and I am a first year graduate student at IUP. As cliche as it sounds, I have wanted to be an archaeologist since I was a child. I used to devour anything I could related to foreign cultures, exotic locales, and action-adventure. Basically I was a huge fan of Indiana Jones and Dirk Pitt. However, with a subscription to Archaeology magazine, I learned early on that archaeology wasn’t all about fighting nazis and combing the desert for lost arks. Still that did not deter me from seeking a career in the field, rather it made me more fascinated by it.


Rocks: the worst thing to dig through

I received my BA from WVU, go Mountaineers, in sociology and anthropology with a focus in anthropology. It was here that I worked closely with Doug Sahady as a teaching assistant for both the WVU 2013 Field School and Archaeology Lab the following semester. It was during the field school that I learned two very important things besides how to conduct an archaeological investigation; digging through a garden of rocks is not fun and roosters make wonderful companions at archaeological sites since they eat all the bugs you dig up. That fall, as monotonous as it was, I assisted in cataloguing over 7,000 artifacts that semester too. If you want to talk about fun, try sitting in a shed looking at rocks for hours on end picking out what are artifacts and what are not, and then developing a database for it all on top of it. During this time, I also assisted Carl Mauer, president of the Society for Pennsylvania Archaeology – Mon/Yough Chapter 3, at the Schriver Farm site near Garards Fort, PA. We never really found anything outside of small chert flakes at this site, but it did give me a ton of experience conducting site surveys, laying grids, and identifying artifacts.


Me in Colorado!

After my undergrad, I took a year off to think about what I wanted to do, and at the time Colorado seemed like a good idea. So I moved to Colorado Springs. It was a beautiful place and I would have loved to stay out west, but grad school started scratching the back of my brain. I was interested in pursuing a degree that focused on the applied aspects of Archaeology, and I wanted a program that let me implement technology into my investigations. Ever since I attended a seminar in my undergrad about a man who used magnetometers for geophysically surveying a field, I’ve wanted to get training to do that professionally, plus use it in archaeological investigations. After a few Google searches, I stumbled upon IUP. I filled out the application a few weeks later, took my GRE’s (which are the worst by the way), packed up and headed back across the country to Oakland, Maryland, aka my hometown, but not before I visited the beautiful town of McCall, Idaho where my wonderful girlfriend was attending school at the MOSS Program.

If you ask anyone in my graduate class, they will tell you how great grad school is, and it really is, but there is no way to express the amount of work involved in pursuing a masters degree in Archaeology. By the end of the semester I will have written enough words to fill a small novel (literally!). I wouldn’t change a thing though. This program has taught me so much this semester alone and I cannot wait to continue on my educational journey here at IUP.

The Life and Times of a Stressed out Graduate Student


Field trip to Meadowcroft Rockshelter!

By: Sami Taylor

Hey guys, my name is Sami. I’m a first year graduate student here at IUP. I received my BA in History at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Virginia earlier this year

I first learned about IUP through my spring 2015 internship with the Cultural Resource Management program at Joint Base Langley-Eustis. After getting in contact with Dr. Ben Ford and discussing the program with him via email I decided to apply. Making my final decision to enroll was difficult to say the least. I couldn’t decide whether to attend an applied program or a more theory-heavy program. I spoke with a variety of my professors, archaeologists from around the east coast, and read every bit of information about IUP available. (At one point I even listened to a podcast that featured Dr. Ford.) After weeks of mulling it over, I made my decision to attend IUP and enrolled in classes. I’m so thankful I decided to attend IUP. The friendships, experiences, and knowledge I’ve acquired from attending this program is irreplaceable.


My first Pow-Wow in Pittsburgh

Since moving to Indiana my life has changed pretty drastically. I now spend around 80% of my time working on assignments, 10% of my time managing an online catalog, and the other 10% of my time goofing off with my fellow students. Though getting used to busy days and sleepless nights has been difficult, I don’t regret a second of it. I’ve learned so much about archaeology in only three months. I’ve made so many great friendships in both my cohort and the cohort ahead of us. My cohort and I were fortunate to be welcomed into this program and into this department with welcome arms. The community here in the IUP Anthropology Department is close-knit. We laugh together, cry together, and pull all-nighters together.

It would be really hard to mention just one experience I’ve since attending IUP so I’ll list some of my favorites:

  1. Attending my first Pow-Wow in Pittsburgh at the beginning of the semester with Heather.
  2. Going to ESAF in Langhorne with Gen.
  3. Going to the Meadowcroft Rockshelter with most of the graduate students.
  4. Spending long, homework-filled weekends in McElhaney with Danielle

    ‘Accidentally’ matching in our Meadowcroft t-shirts

    and Heather (they’re usually full of not-so-funny youtube videos).

  5. Going to Trivia Night with Danielle, Heather, and Jared.
  6. Annoying Dr. Chadwick and Dr. Ford in their offices.
  7. Meeting members of previous cohorts and getting to know them.
  8. Drinking way too much coffee in Dr. Ford’s 9 AM class just to stay alive.

I can’t believe how much fun I’ve had this semester, and how much I’ve grown so far. I have no doubt that IUP is going to help me achieve my goals as an archaeologist. I’m really excited for what’s to come, and I know I’ll continue meeting so many great people along the way.

International Archaeology Day 2016

By: Genevieve Everett

International Archaeology Day is upon us! Saturday, October 15th to be exact. Get excited!! Dr. Lara and I have been meeting weekly to discuss logistics, and reaching out to undergraduate and graduate students to get involved. Some of you have participated in the past, and for some of you it’s your first time. Our event will include Historic and Prehistoric archaeology, a GPR demo, flintknapping, Zooarch, a kids table, and much more!open-house-flyer-16-1

This is our chance to show the community what we know, and why archaeology is important, and connects us to the past. It is not only our duty to educate the community, but make it fun at the same time. If we just put a bunch of artifacts on a table and tell our guests what they are and where they came from, that isn’t interesting or fun. We as archaeologists know that they are interesting, but how can we make them come alive?

We can ask people to come to Archaeology Day, even bribe them with snacks, but we want them to walk away saying, “Wow, that was really cool! I want to get involved in my local archaeology chapter” or “I am changing majors tomorrow”. Most importantly, we want them to walk away thinking that archaeological sites are a valuable resource that should be protected. Now, I know that isn’t going to happen with everyone, but that is how we should think about this day. It’s an opportunity to show the public why we do what we do.

We look forward to seeing you all there!

I’m New Here.

By: Genevieve Everett

Hi, I’m Genevieve, or Gen! One of the first things that people notice about me are the tattoos on my arms. Without fail someone asks me about them, especially my most prominent one, a trowel on my right forearm. As you know, once you get a tattoo, well, you’re pretty much stuck with it. And so, it has become a permanent reminder to live up to my own personal goal of doing exactly what I want to with my life and career, archaeology.


A little more decorative than your typical trowel.

After graduating from my undergraduate with a double BA in Anthropology and History, I spent several years working in the service industry. I was still trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my degree. One day in 2010 while bartending at my old job, making Bloody Mary after Bloody Mary, I struck up a conversation with an acquaintance that had been working in archaeology for years. I told her I had been looking into field schools around the country, so, she gave me her card, and on the back of she wrote, “STATE CONSERVATION RESCUE ARCHAEOLOGY PROGRAM (S.C.R.A.P)”. A year later I found the card (I still have it) in an old recipe box amongst other pieces of scribbled on paper and ticket stubs. So, the summer of June 2011 I drove up to my first field school at a Clovis site in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, and never looked back!


At my first field school through the State Conservation Rescue Archaeology Program (SCRAP) in 2011.

Besides SCRAP, I spent a few years going into the Temple University anthropology lab to help clean historic artifacts from Elfreth’s Alley (the longest continuously occupied block in the country) in Philadelphia. One of the PhD. students had organized a fantastic public archaeology lab day for volunteers with all experience levels to come help. In the summer we were also provided with an opportunity to come out to the alley and excavate behind the museum.


A photo of me screening behind the Elfreth’s Alley museum in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

As much as I enjoyed spending my free time taking part in these experiences, I decided it was time to step it up. The next step was to begin the process of applying to graduate programs. I told myself, “I either have to be in graduate school or working another CRM job before I am thirty”. So here I am, on the cusp of turning 30, and I have never been so sure of my decision to make archaeology a career until now.

My life is not all archaeology, so I will leave you with this…


Yes, I can draw on an etch-a-sketch…

Exploring the Late Prehistoric in Central Western Pennsylvania

By Sarah W. Neusius

More than a decade and a half ago, then Director of IUP Archaeological Services, Dr. Beverly Chiarulli, and I observed that Pennsylvania archaeologists sometimes referred to the area around Indiana as vacant during the last centuries of the Pre-Columbian period. The dominant cultural tradition archaeologists recognize for southwestern Pennsylvania after AD 1000 is the Monongahela tradition, and while there had been a lot of research on Monongahela sites in counties to our south and west, there wasn’t much known about the inhabitants of our immediate area. Thus it was fairly logical to assume that this was a cultural backwater or even vacant at this time. The tradition that our area was used only for hunting early in the Historic era also supported this idea.

However, based on work that Dr. Chiarulli had been doing with the Pennsylvania state site files and predictive modeling, she knew that there was a relatively large numbers of Late Prehistoric or Late Woodland village sites recorded – at least 30 apparent villages for the Conemaugh-Blacklick and Crooked Creek watersheds alone. This went against the assumption that this part of the state, which can be called central western Pennsylvania, was a sort of cultural backwater and even uninhabited after AD 1000. The problem obviously seemed to be that most of these sites had not received much professional attention; very little was known about them, and even less was included in the regional literature.

LPP area

Red circle outlines the approximate area of interest for the IUP Late Prehistoric.

The IUP Late Prehistoric Project or LPP, was initiated because of these observations, and it continues today because there is still a lot to learn. It only made sense for IUP archaeologists to explore these recorded sites. They are accessible, potentially well preserved, and likely to add significantly to Pennsylvania archaeology. Since approximately 2000, many IUP faculty and students have focused on learning more about sites in the Conemaugh-Blacklick, Crooked Creek, and Loyalhanna drainages of west-central Pennsylvania dating between approximately AD 1000 and 1600. We have employed field schools, student projects, and MA thesis research to learn about these sites. We also have been incorporating sites studied by IUP archaeologists during the 1970s and early 1980s as several of these are LPP villages that haven’t been thoroughly analyzed and written up. Occasionally the work of IUP Archaeological Services has dovetailed with these efforts as well. Dr. Chiarulli, myself, and Dr. Phil Neusius all have participated in excavations and analyses related to this project. With this summer’s field school at the Squirrel Hill site, Dr. Homsey-Messer and Dr. Chadwick also have become part of this initiative. Together, we are adding significantly to archaeological knowledge of the distribution of people during the Late Prehistoric. Some of our information has been shared through meetings presentations, Masters theses (available through the IUP website) and publications. However, there is a great deal more to be written about, and I am currently working hardest on this aspect of the project.

Before explaining a little bit more about the areas of research that have been pursued, I’d like to clarify the use of the term Late Prehistoric. You may have learned that Late Woodland is the name archaeologists use for the end of the Pre-Columbian times in places like Pennsylvania. In the southern Midwest and Southeast, Late Woodland follows the collapse of Middle Woodland Hopewellian societies by approximately AD 500. It continues in these areas until Missisisppian cultural developments are evident between AD 800 and 1000, when archaeologists designate a Mississippian period continuing until Historic times. Elsewhere evidence of Mississippian tradition societies has not been found by archaeologists, and in the Upper Midwest the Late Woodland often is not seen as ending until European Contact. The situation on the eastern edges of the MIdwest, is a little more complicated. Some archaeological traditions including the Fort Ancient tradition, found mostly in Ohio and West Virginia, and the Monongahela tradition, found mostly in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, often have been designated as Late Prehistoric because of the similarities in dating, presumed interactions with Mississippian societies, and similar material culture (e.g. shell-tempererd pottery and communities with central plazas). Thus, it has been more common to call Monongahela tradition sites Late Prehistoric than Late Woodland. Because central Western Pennsylvania encompasses the northern edges of the Monongahela area and some of our sites can be considered Monongahela, we use the term Late Prehistoric rather than Late Woodland for our project.

One of the highlights of the LPP is the development of an extensive catalogue of radiocarbon dates for the sites in our area. When we began this project in 2000, there were not any radiocarbon dates for the LPP sites and villages. Now there are approximately 85 dates some of which are standard radiometric dates, but the majority of which are AMS dates. These latter Accelerator Mass Spectrometry dates now are the preferred radiocarbon dating method because they require less carbonized materials – as little as 20 mg as opposed to the 10 grams required for wood charcoal by standard radiometric dating methods. This means less material is destroyed in the dating process. Another advantage of AMS dating is that the dates often are more precise; they usually have date ranges within 50 years plus or minus from the mean. In any case in just over a decade and half we have greatly increased our ability to understand the chronology of the Late Prehistoric in our area. Most importantly we have been able to show that occupation of these watersheds spans the entire Late Prehistoric as shown in this chart of some of the dates we have obtained for Conemaugh-Blacklick Watershed sites. Note the AD years from AD 100 to almost AD 1800 in calibrated years across the bottom of the chart. These dates certainly span the Late

conemaugh dates pic

Radiocarbon date ranges for some Conemaugh-Blacklick watershed sites.

Prehistoric period from AD 1000-AD 1600. Calibrated years are approximations of calendar years based on adjusting radiocarbon years to known fluctuations in the amounts of carbon in the atmosphere. This figure gives you date ranges at both the 68% confidence interval (dark brackets) and the 95% confidence interval (gray lines) so that the earliest date on this chart has a 95% probablity of falling between approximately AD 650 and AD 1175 and a 68% probabilty of falling between approximately AD 775 and AD 1025 while the most recent date falls between ca. AD 1290 and AD 1780 at the 95% confidence interval and between ca. AD1400 and AD 1650 at the 68% confidence interval.

Another highlight of the LPP has been our identification of a possible cultural boundary between Mononghaela people and their neighbors to the north. Although many of our sites can be assigned to the Johnston Phase of the Monongahela tradition, others, especially those in the Crooked Creek drainage, appear not to truly be Monongahela, and to exhibit closer ties to Late Woodland groups living in northwestern Pennsylvania. These more northerly people seem to have made different ceramics, especially pots made with limestone temper as opposed to shell temper, as well as possibly to have less organized villages. Recently, and in part due to LPP research, the Crooked Creek Complex has been defined to encompass these sites, but there is a lot more that needs to be learned about these sites and those still further north, as much of the data remains in the hands of avocational archaeologists, and has only been partially studied. Important Crooked Creek Complex sites for which IUP has collections are Mary Rinn (36IN29) and Fleming (36IN26). This year an undergraduate honors thesis will be exploring the Mary Rinn site through geophysics as well.


Contrasting ceramics from the Johnston site (Johnston Phase Monongahela) and the Mary Rinn site (Crooked Creek Complex).

A major undertaking of LPP archaeologists has been re-investigation of the Johnston site (36IN2) , located near Blairsville. This large village site is the type site for Johnston Phase Monongahela (AD 1450-1590), and it may be the second largest known Monongahela village. It was excavated in the 1950s by archaeologists from the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh before the completion of the Conemaugh lock and dam. Today it is buried beneath flood sediments of the Conemaugh River Lake on land belonging to the US Army Corps of Engineers. By conducting five IUP archaeological field schools at Johnston beginning in 2006, we have added greatly to the information on this site, demonstrating that it is a multi-component site of some complexity, and we have called the definition of the Johnston Phase itself into question. Although, there is still much more potential for research at Johnston, we have obtained more than 40 radiocarbon dates from this site alone and recovered hundreds of thousands of artifacts. As a result, we are pausing in our excavations to take more thorough stock of what we have been learning. Graduate and undergraduate theses have now focused on ceramics, bone tools, faunal remains, lithics, FCR, and botanical remains from the Johnston site. Three others still in progress are exploring the site’s geomorphology, the spatial distribution of materials, and micro-artifactual evidence, and I am immersed in the analysis and write-up of our findings as well.

excavation shot

Excavations in progress at the Johnston site, 2012 (left), 2010 (right).

These are only a few highlights of the IUP Late Prehistoric Project, which has been employing excavation, geophysical survey, as well as faunal, botanical, lithic and ceramic analyses to gather evidence concerning the forgotten or porrly understood Late Prehistoric villages of central western Pennsylvania. As a result these villages are forgotten no more. If you are an IUP graduate or undergraduate student, you should consider joining other IUP archaeologists and getting involved with some aspect of this project. There are many worthwhile projects that you might undertake, and I will be happy to explore possibilities with you.   Whether or not the LPP is your cup of tea, it is an important part of the archaeology IUP is doing, and you can anticipate hearing more about it in the future.

Advanced Metal Detecting for Archaeologists at Fort Necessity

Uncontrolled metal detecting can be one of the most destructive activities at an historic-period archaeological site, especially a battle or military site. And it is illegal to metal detect, or remove any artifacts, from a National Park without an Archaeological Resource Protection Act (ARPA) permit. But with the proper research design and permits a systematic metal detector survey can be a very powerful archaeological tool. That’s what 16 IUP students and faculty learned at Fort Necessity this past weekend.

The class was taught by the Advanced Metal Detecting for Archaeologists (AMDA) as a Register of Professional Archaeologists (RPA) continuing education course. In addition to IUP, 10 other participants from Cal, Juniata, University of Binghamton, and the National Park Service took the class. AMDA is a group of professional archaeologists dedicated to integrating metal detecting into archaeological research. Since IUP has an excellent assemblage of geophysical equipment, it was natural for us to add metal detecting to our skill-set.

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IUP Anthropology undergraduates Amanda Telep, Chyna Haley, James Miller, and Brendan Cole learning proper technique from AMDA instructor Sheldon Skaggs. Photo by Chris Espenshade.

The class began with a day of lectures on the mechanics and use of metal detectors, as well as many examples of how metal detectors can be used for historic and pre-contact period archaeology. The next two days were spent in the field collecting real archaeology data.

Quick history of Fort Necessity: A 22-year old George Washington was sent to western PA to push the French from the region. On May 28, 1754 colonial and native soldiers under Washington’s command killed Joseph Coulon de Jumonville and most of his force who were carrying a message ordering Washington’s force to leave the area. Expecting a reprisal from the French, Washington’s troops fortified their depot in the Great Meadows, naming it Fort Necessity. On July 3, 1754 French soldiers under the command of Louis Coulon de Villiers, Jumonville’s brother, attached Fort Necessity. After a day of fighting in the rain Washington surrendered. The killing of Jumonville, which Washington admitted to in his surrender, ignited the Seven Years War, the first truly inter-continental war.

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Metal detector survey at Fort Necessity National Battlefield. Note the string transects to ensure proper coverage and the pin flags to mark finds. Photo by Chris Espenshade.

It has long been believed that the heaviest French fire came from the tree line southeast of the fort where the trees reached within 60 yards of the fort. That’s where we focused our metal detecting efforts for the field portion of the class. We found evidence of the battle in the form of dropped and fired musket balls as well as other artifacts relating to the attack. These data confirm that at least some of the French were attacking from this location.

We also now have a cadre of IUP archaeologists trained to use metal detectors on an archaeological site – a skill that we can use here and that students can take with them into the professional world. It was a very productive and successful weekend.

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AMDA Fort Necessity National Battlefield Class Photo. Photo by Chris Espenshade.

An Undergraduate Abroad 2: Cemetery Excavations in Romania

By Harley Burgis

3This summer I spent three weeks in Odorheiu Secuiesc, Romania learning how to excavate human skeletal remains. I worked at Valeni (Patakfalva), a medieval church and cemetery site. Although the modern cemetery is slowly encroaching the medieval one, the site is still more or less intact. Our job was to excavate the human remains from three different trenches, so that the site directors could learn more about the history of the people who inhabited this part of Romania and see how they are linked to present day populations in the area. I specifically spent the whole three weeks excavating a juvenile. This was very taxing, because of three reasons: 1) because of the2 sun and incessant heat, I was working with baked out clay, 2) there was so much back fill bone on top that was not associated with the individual, and 3) I had to use wooden picks to do the entire excavation, because of how fragile juvenile bones are and how close the bones were together. After I finished excavating the individual, I learned how to map the bones, which was a very meticulous task. In the end, I had a great time in Romania, I met amazing people from all over the world, and I learned a lot about the culture there and how to excavate human remains.

Voices from the Field: A Graduate Student Abroad

By Sarah Henley

Map1This summer I went to Menorca Spain to attend the Sanisera Archaeology Institute for International Field Schools and took a course on underwater archaeology from June 10-18, 2016. First I will share information on Menorca and the archaeological site where we worked then give an account of my time there. (Note: I was not able to catch/record all the history of the site so there are some gaps).


Port of Sanitja

Menorca is one of three islands off the eastern coast of mainland Spain. The other two islands are Mallorca and Ibiza. The official languages spoken on Menorca are Spanish and Catalàn. The locals also speak English, however the clarity and quality varies. The Sanisera Archaeology Institute is currently excavating the Roman city of Sanisera located on one of the northern peninsulas, and the underwater archaeology course focused on Port Sanitja. The shipwreck sites dated between the 4th century B.C. and 4th century A.D., and recovery/projects have been conducted since the 1950s.

Each day we would start out by diving for about 40 minutes at 54 feet. After diving we would head back to the field school to have lecture, lunch, and do some identification of Amphoras or ceramic vessels used to transport wine, olive oil, salted fish, etc. on ships, drawing, photography for 3D modeling, and 3D modeling.


Ancient basilica

The first day the underwater group got to tour Port Sanitja, and see and hold some of the artifacts that had been discovered. Throughout the week we learned and applied the Sanisera methodology of underwater archeological survey such as linear and circular survey, documentation, and 3D modeling to name a few. One of the things I will never forget was trying to take photos of artifacts underwater. My dive buddy and I had to take pictures of two Amphoras. The Amphoras were in a hole, surrounded by sea grass, next to a rock wall, and a bunch of fish that would not go away. When taking photos underwater you have to keep the area clear around the artifacts, not stir up the sand, and watch your bouncy. It was not easy.


Downtown Ciutadella

Each day we finished around 2:15pm, and would drive back to the residency were we had “dinner” at 2:45pm, and had the rest of the day to explore or do whatever we wanted to. The Town in which we stayed in was Cituadella on the western coast of the island. Cituadella is the second largest town on the Island along with the town of Mahon on the eastern coast.


Cave Diving (photo by dive buddy Jenna Zwiller)

During my time on Menorca I also got to go cave diving, which was amazing. Everyone in the dive group went. We first took a 10-minute boat ride out to a bay surrounded by rock cliffs. Then we dove for about 5 minutes to reach the entrance of the cave, and then dove 150 meters to the end of the cave were we surfaced. Diving into the cave was an experience. It slowly becomes dark and cold and at a couple points everything becomes blurry because of the mix of warm and cold water. Once at the end of the cave we swam on the surface and got to look at the stalactites, which were beautiful. When returned near the entrance we dove back down and swam out. Diving/swimming out of the cave felt like something out of National Geographic. The rock wall surrounding the entrance silhouetted the beautiful blue water that had light shining through it. I almost did not go because I was having some ear trouble, but I am so glad I went. When diving you have to equalize your ears as you descend and ascend. However, as a child I had many ear infections, which has left behind scar tissue and has made my eardrums less flexible. Diving is already hard on the body especially when you dive several days in a row. I was also unable to dive the last couple of course days because of my ears. Overall my experience was amazing and I will never forget it!


Sunset from the rooftop in Ciutadella

Voices From the Field: An Undergraduate Abroad

By Sean Duncan

13662448_1145568005484989_292685888_oThe site is located about 15 minutes outside of Gravina in southern Italy. It’s called Vagnari and it’s a second century Roman cemetery located in a field surround by rolling hills. The primary person and leader of the dig is Doctor Tracy Prowse from McMasters University in Ontario. We opened two trenches, one that is completely new and another that’s half and half because they weren’t able to excavate some of the burials last year. So far we have around seven burials that have been uncovered. We just got down to layer where we can trowel away the burials which is about 35-45 cms down.


I’ve learned that archaeology is a lot different here than it is in states. For example, we don’t sift every bit of dirt and for a majority of the dig we used pick axes and shovels. We also just ignore and throw away Roman tile, which would be the sort of thing we would document in American field school. I think the most challenging thing was adapting to the trench style digging and generally different style of archaeology. But it was only a little bit of a learning curve and I quickly adapted to learning how to pick away the dirt rather then slowly trowel it away.



By Lara Homsey-Messer

From May 16 to June 17th, 10 students from IUP and 2 students from Clarion University ventured to the Squirrel Hill site in New Florence, PA, to learn archaeological field techniques, including excavation methods, shovel testing, and using high-tech equipment such as a total station and ground penetrating radar.

SquirrelHill1bClockwise from upper left, students practicing test unit excavation,
ground penetrating radar survey, using a compass, and using a total station.

Perhaps the most humorous aspect of this site is the feeling that you are on the set of LOST and that something might come crashing out of the bamboo jungle at any minute…well, technically it is Japanese Knotwood, but it sure looks like bamboo and is clearly where the phrase “grows like weeds” comes from. These hardy students braved not only the bamboo (as we lovingly called it), but also a six-day work week (yep, Monday through Saturday folks), a gypsy moth caterpillar infestation (it’s hard to keep a unit floor clean with these buggers falling in every other second), more than one drenching storm (being dry and clean is totally overrated…), and all sorts of critters running amuck in our test units (we miss our resident mouse in Test Unit 2).

SquirrelHill2Representative pics of the “bamboo” (top), an impending mid-afternoon storm,
and our cute resident mouse.

Seriously, though, these students learned a lot about not just archaeology over these five weeks, but also the Monongahela folks who lived in this village over five centuries ago. Squirrel Hill has been known to archaeologists since the 1950s, and has been heavily collected by local residents for decades. The site is currently listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the land it sits on is now owned by the Archaeological Conservancy. The site is believed to be a Johnston-phase Monongahela village (ca. 1450-1590). Very little systematic study has been conducted at the site, so many questions remain to be answered, including its occupation and cultural affiliations; location & extent of site boundaries; the internal arrangement of houses, plaza, and stockades; and its relationship with neighboring communities such as the Johnston Site, the location of previous IUP field schools.

This summer we opened 10, 1 x1 meter, test units in areas that previous geophysical survey identified as “hotspots.” We also conducted additional ground penetrating radar survey and shovel-tested around the Conservancy’s property line. We found pottery, lithic flakes, a LOT of fire-cracked rock, and over 80 features (such as post molds and storage pits). Perhaps most intriguing, we now suspect that there may be more than the one, Johnston-phase, occupation at the site. Many of the post molds intersect and intrude other features, minimally suggesting some rebuilding. Interestingly, we discovered several features (including a large rock cluster), nearly a meter below the surface. Fortunately, we were able to collect charcoal from them for radiocarbon dating; it will be very interesting to see if these enigmatic features are contemporaneous with, or pre-date, the Mon occupation. We hope to have these dates before the end of the calendar year, so check back if you want to find out the results…

SquirrelHill3Rock cluster feature nearly a meter below surface (left)
and two possible egg-shaped, post-enclosed storage pits (right).

Many thanks to the folks who visited us this summer and offered their expertise, volunteer labor, support, and enthusiasm. Special thanks to Bill Johnson for sharing his knowledge of Mon ceramics, Sarah Neusius and Bev Chiarulli for expertise on Mon culture, and Dr. and Mrs. Driscoll for their support of IUP Archaeology. Your visits made our day!

SquirrelHill4From left to right: Dr. Bill Johnson giving an impromptu lesson on Mon ceramics, Dr. Sarah Neusius giving students excavation tips, and Dr. and Mrs. Driscoll chatting with students.