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.
- Senator John Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center page on Meadowcroft Rockshelter
- Minnesota State University emuseum
- James Adovasio and Jake Page, The First Americans: In Pursuit of Archaeology's Greatest Mystery, 2003, ISBN 0-375-75704-X.
- Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Museum of Rural Life
- "The Greatest Journey," James Shreeve, National Geographic, March 2006, pg. 64. Shows dates 19,000 to 12,000 years ago; as well as Clovis (13,500 years ago) and Monte Verde 14,800 years ago.
- 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.