Meadowcroft Rockshelter

Meadows Rockshelter is an archaeological site located near Avella in Washington County, in southwestern Pennsylvania, United States. A rock shelter in a bluff overlooking Cross Creek (a tributary of the Ohio River), Meadowcroft Rockshelter is located about 36 miles west-southwest of Downtown Pittsburgh and is part of the Pittsburgh Metro Area. It is operated by the Heinz History Center.

The site was excavated from 1973 until 1978 by a University of Pittsburgh team led by James M. Adovasio. Radiocarbon dates from the site indicated occupancy as early as 16,000 years ago and possibly as long as 19,000 years ago. The "Clovis First" camp has tried to dispute the age of the findings, but generally their efforts have been dismissed. Although the dates are still controversial to some, archaeologists familiar with evidence from the site agree that Meadowcroft was used by Native Americans 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 Native American cultural site. Seeing as the site fails Hayne's criteria for dating Paleoindian sites in the Americas as the site could potentially have been contaminated by natural carbon at the site the age of 19,000 years could be significantly older than the real age.

Meadowcroft Rockshelter has yielded Woodland, Archaic and Paleoindian remains, indicating evidence of the processing of animals, such as deer, elk, bird eggs, and mussels; as well as plants such as corn, squash, fruits, nuts and seeds. The site also has yielded many tools, including ceramics, bifaces, biface fragments, lamellar blades, a lanceolate projectile point and chipping debris. At least one basin-shaped hearth was reused over time.

It was given the name Meadowcroft from the nearby Meadowcroft Village historical park. Although sometimes referred to as "Meadowcroft Rock Shelter", the more accepted and popular term is "Meadowcroft Rockshelter".

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


Further reading

  • 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

See also

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