Meadowcroft Rockshelter


Meadowcroft Rockshelter
Meadowcroft Rockshelter
Washington County History & Landmarks Foundation Landmark
Meadowcroft Rockshelter is located in Pennsylvania
Location: Jefferson Township, Washington County, Pennsylvania, USA
Nearest city: Avella, Pennsylvania
Coordinates: 40°17′11″N 80°29′30″W / 40.28639°N 80.49167°W / 40.28639; -80.49167Coordinates: 40°17′11″N 80°29′30″W / 40.28639°N 80.49167°W / 40.28639; -80.49167
Area: 0.2 acres (0.081 ha)
NRHP Reference#: 78002480[1]
Significant dates
Added to NRHP: November 21, 1978
Designated NHL: April 5, 2005[2]

Meadowcroft Rockshelter is an archaeological site located near Avella in Washington County, in southwestern Pennsylvania, United States. The site, a rock shelter in a bluff overlooking Cross Creek (a tributary of the Ohio River), is located about 36 miles west-southwest of Pittsburgh. The site, including a museum and 18th-century village, is operated by the Heinz History Center. The artifacts from the site show the area has been continually inhabited for 16,000 years, since Paleo-Indian times. The Rockshelter was named a National Historic Landmark in 2005. It is also recognized as a Pennsylvania Commonwealth Treasure and is an official project of Save America's Treasures.

It is designated as a historic public landmark by the Washington County History & Landmarks Foundation.[3]

Contents

Etymology

Meadowcroft was named for the nearby Meadowcroft Village historical park. Although sometimes referred to as "Meadowcroft Rock Shelter", the more accepted and popular term is "Meadowcroft Rockshelter".[citation needed]

Following construction of a new observation deck and enclosure, the Rockshelter had a reopening on May 10, 2008.

Site

The rockshelter is a natural formation beneath an overhanging cliff of Morgantown-Connellsville sandstone, which is a thick Pennsylvanian-age sandstone brown in color. Meadowcroft is in the Allegheny Plateau, northwest of the Appalachian Basin.[4]

The site was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978 and designated a National Historic Landmark in 2005.

Archaeological findings

Meadowcroft Rockshelter and other Native American points of interest, Southwestern Pennsylvania

Native Americans left the site during the American War for Independence. It was not re-discovered until many years later. The first artifacts at Meadowcroft were discovered by Albert Miller in 1955 by way of a groundhog burrow. Miller delayed reporting his findings for some time, until he contacted James M. Adovasio, now director of the Mercyhurst Archaeological Institute. The site was excavated from 1973 until 1978 by a University of Pittsburgh archaeological team led by Adovasio through the Mercyhurst Archaeological Institiute (MAI). Radiocarbon dating of the site indicated occupancy beginning 16,000 years ago and possibly as early as 19,000 years ago. The dates are still controversial, although some archaeologists familiar with evidence from the site agree that Meadowcroft was used in the pre-Clovis era and, as such, provides evidence for very early human habitation of the Americas. In fact, if the 19,000-years-ago dating is correct, Meadowcroft Rockshelter is the oldest known site of human habitation in North America, and thus provides a unique glimpse into the lives of prehistoric hunters and gatherers.

Meadowcroft Rockshelter has yielded Woodland, Archaic, and Paleoindian remains. Paleoindians were primarily hunters of big game animals which are now extinct. In total, animal remains representing 149 species were excavated. Evidence shows that natives gathered smaller game animals as well as plants, such as corn, squash, fruits, nuts and seeds. The site at Meadowcroft rock shelter has produced Pre-Clovis remains. The remains were found as deep as 11.5 feet underground. The site also has yielded many tools, including pottery, bifaces, bifacial fragments, lamellar blades, a lanceolate projectile point, and chipping debris. Recoveries of note also include fluted points, which are a marker of the Paleoindian period. This is further evidence that supports Adovasio's findings. The Meadowcroft Rockshelter site also included remains of flint from Ohio, jasper from eastern Pennsylvania and marine shells from the Atlantic coast. These findings suggest that the people inhabiting the area were mobile and involved in long distance trade. At least one basin-shaped hearth was reused over time. Additionally, the site has yielded the largest collection of flora and fauna materials ever recovered from a location in eastern North America.[5] The arid environment found at Meadowcroft Rockshelter provided the necessary and rare conditions which permitted excellent botanical preservation. The methods of excavation used at Meadowcroft are still seen as state-of-the-art. It is viewed as one of the most carefully excavated sites in North America.

Current site

Recent renovations to the rock shelter have been made so that visitors can see some of the tools and campfires made by the first Americans thousands of years ago. The Rockshelter is recognized as a Pennsylvania Commonwealth Treasure and is an official project of Save America's Treasures.

Improvements at Meadowcroft have taken place recently, including a newly paved road which makes getting to the site easier for visitors. A recreation of a 17th-century Native American village is under development to help visitors see how the people lived before Europeans arrived.

See also

Citations

  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2009-03-13. http://nrhp.focus.nps.gov/natreg/docs/All_Data.html. 
  2. ^ "Meadowcroft Rockshelter". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. http://tps.cr.nps.gov/nhl/detail.cfm?ResourceId=1113831918&ResourceType=Site. Retrieved 2008-07-02. 
  3. ^ "Meadowcroft Rock Shelter". Landmark Registry - Public Landmark. Washington County History & Landmarks Foundation. 2008. http://www.washcolandmarks.com/landmark_registry_display.php. Retrieved 2010-11-08. 
  4. ^ Meadowcroft Rockshelter, Mercyhurst Archeological Institute. Mercyhurst College. Erie, PA. Retrieved 2010-03-05.
  5. ^ Heinz History Center: Rockshelter Artifacts, Heinz History Center. Pittsburgh, PA. Retrieved 2010-10-17.

References

Further reading

  • Senator John Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center page on Meadowcroft Rockshelter
  • Adovasio, J. M., with Jack Page. The First Americans: In Pursuit of Archaeology's Greatest Mystery. New York: Random House, 2002. Chapter 7 focuses on the Meadowcroft Rockshelter; the rest of the book sets the dig and the controversy surrounding it in a broader scholarly context.
  • Adovasio, J.M., J. Donahue, and R. Stuckenrath. "The Meadowcroft Rockshelter radiocarbon chronology 1975-1990." American Antiquity, 55.n2 (April 1990): 348(7).
  • Chandler, Graham. “The dawn of civilization.” Equinox, 96 (1998): 18. A brief article about the site and its artifacts.
  • Shea, Neil. “The First Americans?.” National Geographic, 207.5 (2005): 2.
  • "Who's Really on First?", Natural History, 109.9 (Nov 2000): 10. Presents differing opinions between James Adovasio and Anna Curtenius Roosevelt regarding the accuracy of dating artifacts from Meadowcroft.

External links


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