History of Meadowcroft Rockshelter

October 9, 2012

Speaker: DR. JAMES ADOVASIO,Provost, Director, Mercyhurst Archaeological Institute, Mercyhurst College

From Heinz History Center

Meadowcroft Rockshelter, the oldest site of human habitation in North America, provides a unique glimpse into the lives of prehistoric hunters and gathers. This archaeological site has revealed the earliest evidence of people in North America, dating back 16,000 years.

This National Historic Landmark, located in Avella, Washington County, Pa.,( 36 miles west-southwest of Pittsburgh) is a massive rock overhang beneath which the earliest known inhabitants of the Upper Ohio Valley camped 16,000 years ago. Subsequently, the site was revisited by Native Americans and, ultimately, Euro-Americans all the way up to the present. It is currently the longest occupational sequence in North and South America.

The Rockshelter, named a National Historic Landmark in 2005, has provided archaeologists with a rare glimpse into the lives of the first people to arrive in the New World.
The first prehistoric artifacts were discovered in a groundhog burrow at the site in 1955 by property owner and museum founder, Albert Miller. In 1973, the first professional excavation of the Rockshelter was conducted by the Cultural Resource Management Program (CRMP) of the University of Pittsburgh and directed by J. M. Adovasio. Subsequent University of Pittsburgh field school excavations took place from 1973-1989. More recent research and excavation has been directed by J. M. Adovasio through the Mercyhurst Archaeological Institute (MAI). The excavation protocols used at Meadowcroft are still considered state-of-the-art and the site is widely regarded as one of the most carefully excavated sites in North America.

About the speaker from Mercyhurst College website: Adovasio, a native of Youngstown, Ohio, received his undergraduate degree in anthropology from the University of Arizona and his doctorate in anthropology from the University of Utah. He served as a Post Doctoral Fellow at the Smithsonian Institution and as professor and chairman of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Pittsburgh.

Adovasio achieved world acclaim as an archaeologist with his excavation of Meadowcroft Rockshelter, 30 miles southwest of Pittsburgh, Pa. Meadowcroft has been widely recognized as the earliest well-dated archaeological site in North America with evidence of human habitation dating to circa 16,000 years ago.

In 1990, Adovasio accepted the positions of chairman of the Department of Anthropology / Archaeology and director of Mercyhurst Archaeological Institute, which is widely recognized as the preeminent archaeological research program in a small to medium academic setting in North America. Adovasio also served as a commissioner with the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (1995-2001) and has published nearly 400 books, monographs, articles, and technical papers.

In addition to his administrative responsibilities at Mercyhurst, Adovasio will continue to teach and do research at the college.

“Since his arrival at Mercyhurst, Dr. Adovasio and his carefully selected faculty of specialists have built an internationally renowned science program, attracting top students from all over the world,” Mercyhurst College President Dr. Thomas J. Gamble noted. “In addition, the depth and breadth of his knowledge of and commitment to Mercyhurst make him the ideal choice for provost.”

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