- James M. Adovasio
James M. Adovasio (born 17 February 1944) is the director of the anthropology and archaeology department at
Mercyhurst Collegeas well as director of the Mercyhurst Archaeological Institute, in Erie, PA. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Utah in 1970 (where he studied under Jesse Jennings) and his D.Sc. from Washington and Jefferson University in 1983. He also currently serves as commissioner of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC) and has had an active role with law enforcement agencies helping to apprehend and convict people who loot archaeological sites.
Before arriving at Mercyhurst in 1990, Adovasio was chairman of the anthropology department at the University of Pittsburgh, where he founded the cultural resource management program (CRMP) and directed the Meadowcroft-Cross Creek project beginning in 1973.
Adovasio is probably best known for his work at the
Meadowcroft Rocksheltersite in Pennsylvania and his involvement in the debate on the colonization of the American continents. His work at Meadowcroft began in June 1973 and ongoing research there has been funded by the NSF, the National Geographic Society, the State of Pennsylvania, the University of Pittsburgh, as well as numerous public and private donors. Most recently, the Pennsylvania government has donated over 2 million dollars to fund the construction of a visitor center at the site, due to be completed in late 2007.
In addition to his excavations at Meadowcroft, Adovasio has worked throughout North America and Eastern Europe, studying lithic technology as well as perishable materials (basketry, clothing, textiles, cordage, etc.). One of his main academic interests, and a topic that he discusses often, is the role of women, children, and elderly people in prehistory and their relative absence from discussions of archaeological materials and theory. He has worked to reverse the gender bias in archaeology, focusing on crafts that are usually associated with females to demonstrate that the stereotypical way that ice-age life is typically portrayed (groups of men running around with spears, killing big animals) are incorrect, and often outlandish. Although perishable artifacts can outnumber lithics as much as 20:1 in sites with good preservation, stone tools are typically the only materials that are recovered in most contexts, and since they are associated with men (and since most archaeologists historically have been men), our interpretations of the past are often biased and incorrect.
For better or worse, however, his work with gender has been overshadowed by the “Clovis first” debate that he has been involved in based on his work at Meadowcroft for the past 30 years. The Clovis first hypothesis states that the initial colonization of the New World began about 12,500 years ago with the opening of an ice-free corridor between the two ice sheets that covered most of North America at the time. People walking across the then-exposed Bering land bridge from Siberia followed herds of animals into the Americas and subsequently populated the entire hemisphere to the tip of South America.
However, Adovasio has culturally distinct stratigraphic levels at Meadowcroft that date to over 16,000 years and possibly as old as 20,000 years, which invalidates the Clovis first hypothesis. Some archaeologists, including Vance Haynes at the University of Arizona, claim that the radiocarbon samples taken from the early levels at Meadowcroft have been contaminated by nearby coal seams, resulting in artificially old dates. While his excavation methodology at Meadowcroft was meticulous and extremely detail-oriented, and his funding for the excavation, analysis, and preservation of the site has been unsurpassed, his very public and emotional defense of his data has caused people to disagree with his results for personal reasons instead of scientific ones.
Adovasio has made his mark on North American archaeology, but not necessarily in the way that he had hoped (or in the way that he believes he has)Fact|date=October 2008. His work with gender is overshadowed by his involvement with Meadowcroft, and some people believe that his refusal to share information or publish a site monograph has blemished his careerBy whom. However, he is still well respected for his public involvement and his fine-grained excavation and analytical methodology.
* [http://www.mercyhurst.edu/ Mercyhurst College ]
year = 2004
url = http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/stoneage/
title = America's Stone Age Explorers
work = NOVA
publisher = PBS TV
accessdate = 2006-06-01
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