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It is implied but unstated in the article below that once again this blows apart the Bering Strait hypothesis, promoted by Euro archaeologists, which claims humanity came into the Americas about 11,000 years ago over a former land bridge called the Bering Strait into what is now Alaska. If this were the case, then the most ancient sites would be found in Alaska and the Yukon, with relatively newer ones found at increasingly greater distances there from. But ancient sites have been found all over the Americas, with no clear spread of humanity from one region outward. Moreover, most Onkwehonwe, Original People, have very different stories as to their origins, and, as archeo-historians know, memorized and ritualized oral history remains intact for extremely long periods of time. ~From Distant Eagle

The Meadowcroft Rockshelter
By Betsa Marsh, Denver Post
 

Beer cans crumpled round a dead campfire, signs of late-night partying scorched into the sandstone. In a cutaway 15 feet below the modern fire circle, there's more charred stone, flecked with the shells of Ohio River mussels and the bones of passenger pigeons both long extinct.

 

In between the two fire rings? The oldest site of human habitation in North America, at least 16,000 years old.  That's the surprise of Pennsylvania's Meadowcroft Rockshelter, an inviting sandstone overhang in a tributary valley of the Ohio River that's been welcoming fishers, hunters and travelers since the Paleo-Indians. The site in Avella, 30 miles southwest of Pittsburgh, is now a National Historic Landmark, set amid towering sycamore and pawpaw trees. Its 52 carbon dates, in almost perfect stratigraphic order, reflect a continuous human record for 16,000-plus years.
 
"It was like a Paleo motel," guide Eleanor Crowe said. "People would come along Cross Creek, 7 miles from the Ohio River, and stay here, from the earliest Paleo-Indians to the time of European settlement."
 

Closed in 2007, the landmark has reopened now, with a new shelter of its own, a $2.3 million enclosure that's bolted into the bedrock and raked at an improbable 17-degree angle. A new roof protects the archaeological dig, and new platforms allow more visitors to see the excavated levels and start piecing the timeline together for themselves.
 
"Until we completed the new structure, there was just a temporary wooden structure built by the archaeologists to protect the site," said director David Scofield. "Ten people was a crowd."
 
Archaeologists began digging and sifting in 1973, led by University of Pittsburgh professor James M. Adovasio. He and his students at Pitt held six consecutive field schools there. Later, Adovasio founded the Mercyhurst Archaeological Institute at his new school, Mercyhurst, in Erie, Pa., and he's brought Mercyhurs t archaeology students to Meadowcroft into the new millennium.
 
For now, the dig is quiet, but millions of bone fragments, plant materials and cultural artifacts such as basketry fragments are being studied at Mercyhurst.
 
Thirty-five years ago, however, Meadowcroft seemed like just a good spot for field study, a "closed site" unexposed to the elements. These "often served as veritable magnets for prehistoric and historic populations," Adovasio, a Youngstown native, wrote of the rock shelter.

 

Meadowcroft was south of the last Ice Age glaciers. When an ice dam broke between 40,000 and 22,000 years ago, the racing water scooped out the softer sandstone and left the overhang, its ceiling about 43 feet above the modern surface of the shelter. From about 21,000 years ago, when the water subsided long before the Egyptian pyramids and the Greek Parthenon were glimmers in anyone's eyes the rock shelter was ready for visitors.
 
Facing south for warmth, with a good east-west breeze, this spot 50 feet above the north shore of Cross Creek would stay dry and
well ventilated. It remained more than 93 miles south of the ice front. Permanent springs to the east and west made it ideal for hunter-gatherers to stay for a few days or to set up a fall hunting camp.
 
We can still see a deer rib bone sticking out of the rock, proof that Indians butchered their kill here about 40,000 years ago. But what of the first inhabitants?

As Adovasio and his students bore down into the layers of silt, the cultural evidence kept getting older and older. By the time they hit bedrock about 15 feet down Adovasio was sending specimens for carbon dating and the word back was staggering: at least 16,000 to 17,000 years old.

But perceived wisdom in archaeology said that people arrived in the New World relatively late, about 11,500 years ago, "signaled," as Adovasio wrote, "by the appearance of a genuine North American invention: the Clovis projective point,"
a specific type of stone tool and spear point.

Could Meadowcroft really be 4,000 years older?  

 

Skeptical scholars

Adovasio and his work set off a firestorm that has raged for more than 30 years. Some archaeologists claim his samples were
contaminated, possibly by nearby coal fields. After Blacksmith Jay Hoffman helps re-create a mid-1800s Pennsylvania settlement just another point on the site's long timeline of human use.

 

(Betsa Marsh, Travel Arts Syndicate )results came back from four labs around the world with no signs of contamination and
identical carbon dates some scientists changed their minds. With the discovery of several 0D sites as old as Meadowcroft, more archaeologists have accepted the "breaking of the Clovis barrier."
 
As one of the professors on the Landmarks Committee of the National Park System Advisory Board wrote about Meadowcroft, "First and foremost, the meticulous way in which the rock shelter was excavated is a credit to the excavators. Moreover, its thick deposits are rich in artifactual remains, with just about every cultural period of Eastern Woodlands prehistory represented."
 
Most of those critical artifacts are at Mercyhurst, but travelers can see some projective points from 4,000 B.C. to 2,000 B.C. in the
Meadowcroft Museum.  Many were gathered by landowner Albert Miller, a naturalist and amateur archaeologist who was convinced since boyhood that the rock shelter on his family farm must have been used by prehistoric people.
 
Walking the area on Nov. 12, 1955, Miller noticed a groundhog had dug a new burrow. "I went home for a screen and a long-handled shovel," he later wrote.  "About 12 inches down I realized I was coming up with burnt bone and flint, which I knew was Indian. At about 30 inches I found a complete Indian-made flint knife."
 
He quickly re-covered the spot. "I never told another person, knowing that if word got out, pick-and-shovel 'pot hunters' would quickly destroy the archaeological value of this rock shelter. An archaeological site is like reading a book written long ago. Pot
hunters looking for something of monetary value would proceed to destroy these unread pages."


Miller tried for years to interest professionals in the site. Carnegie Museum of Natural History staff tried a test unit in 1967. Once
they hit rocks from a roof fall, they aborted the dig and no one touched Meadowcroft until 1973, 18 years after Miller's discovery.

Now, travelers come from around the world to see its strata tell their tales back in time, and a sandstone wall with scorch marks and charcoal from campfires over thousands of years.
 
About a third of the site remains untouched, preserved for future archaeologists with as-yet-undreamed technologies.

 
Who knows, they may find even more interesting things around the modern-to-prehistoric campfire than crumpled beer cans and
18th-century colonial gin bottles.

"People would have partied here for a lot of years," guide Crowe said of the hospitable rock shelter, "and they'd probably still be partying if it wasn't for the dig."
 
Betsa Marsh is author of "The Eccentric Traveler: A World of Curious Adventures."   http://www.denverpost.com/travel/ci_11034928

Submitted by Henietta Wise buffalohenny@hvi.net

 

 

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