Meadowcroft expert to speak
Anthropologist James M. Adovasio stands amid the rocks as he explains his work during an Insider's Tour of the Meadowcroft Rockshelter in Jefferson, near Avella.
With the meat from a deer smoking over a fire, Ed Robey, of Morgantown, W.Va., skins a deer leg at the American Indian Heritage Festival on Sunday at Meadowcroft Rockshelter.
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Many scholars and archaeologists believe Meadowcroft Rockshelter in Washington County is the oldest-known site of human habitation in North America.
The anthropologist who first studied the site will talk about the rockshelter and who the first American Indians were in two lectures this fall.
James M. Adovasio, who has a doctorate in anthropology, will speak at 10 a.m. Oct. 6 and Nov. 3 at the Meadowcroft Visitor Center. Included will be information on other Paleo-Indian sites. After each 90-minute session, he will lead a one-hour Insiders Tour of the site and discuss specific features.
The rockshelter is a natural brown sandstone formation carved over millions of years in Jefferson, near Avella, in the state's southwestern corner. Between 16,000 and 12,000 years ago, American Indians made the area their home.
More than 20,000 artifacts -- bone and stone tools and basket and pottery fragments -- have been recovered there, said museum director Dave Scofield. Also found were 956,000 animal and 1.4 million plant remains.
Meadowcroft Rockshelter was named a National Historic Landmark in 2005.
Rockshelter artifacts are stored at Mr. Adovasio's lab at Mercyhurst University, where he is provost and director of the Archaeological Institute. Plans are under way to display some of the artifacts at Meadowcroft, possibly beginning next year.
Mr. Adovasio came to the rockshelter in 1973 after amateur digging by the property's owner, Albert Miller, uncovered a number of artifacts, including an intact flint knife, at a depth of 30 feet.
Some of the artifacts he and his team recovered were sent to the Smithsonian Institution. Radiocarbon dating suggested humans had lived at the rockshelter 16,000 years ago. That's 4,000 years earlier than the oldest remains previously found in the New World, which were uncovered in New Mexico. Debate on the age of the artifacts continues.
"When Dr. Adovasio discovered the site was older than originally thought, he went deeper and did a total of six consecutive years of field research, which continued periodically into the 1980s and '90s," Mr. Scofield said. "A full third of the site remains to be excavated, which we hope to do sometime in the future."
Mr. Adovasio received a bachelor's degree in anthropology from the University of Arizona in 1965 and doctorate in anthropology from the University of Utah in 1970.
He is thought to be the world's leading authority on analysis of perishable artifacts. Since 1970, he has published more than 400 books or book chapters, manuscripts and technical papers including "The First Americans" (with Jake Page).
Most recently, Mr. Adovasio has been a main investigator in a project to find and excavate underwater Paleoindian sites on the shelf of the Gulf of Mexico.
The Insiders Tours cost $20, which includes access to the Meadowcroft Village complex, 401 Meadowcroft Road,. Space is limited to 70 participants; reservations required: 724-587-3412.
First Published September 27, 2012 5:50 am