Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Angel Site

Hi everyone! Our adventure is just starting into the realm of archaeology. For those of you following me on Twitter, I've already said that 90% of all archaeology takes place not excavating, but doing research in libraries, archives, and historical societies. However, in the late spring, that ground has thawed from a long winter, and the smell of fieldwork is in the air!

Today I visited the Father Angel Site where a very good friend of mine is conducting a field school to teach budding anthropology and criminal justice majors the art of archaeological excavation. The field school is a joint collaboration between California University of Pennsylvania and West Virginia University where students from both schools get the opportunity to get some "hands" on training.
The first video in this series is an interview with Dr. John Nass from California University of Pennsylvania who is one of the lead instructors on the Father Angel Site. As he explains, the Father Angel Site may be one of a variety (or combination) of site types. In Pennsylvania, archaeological sites are submitted by people (land owners, amateur archaeologists, contract firms) to the state on a very specific form known as a PASS Form (Pennsylvania Site Survey Form). On this form Dr. Nass tells us, the site has been described as possibly Late Prehistoric earthwork.

Paleo-Indian Period (10,000 to c. 8,000 BC)
Early, Middle, and Late Archaic Periods (8,000 to 1,000 BC)
Terminal Archaic Period (2,000-1,000 BC)
Early, Middle and Late Woodland Periods (1,000 BC- AD 1,000/1050)
Late Prehistoric Period (A.D. 1000-1580)-possibly the Father Angel Site!

There is also a rumor of speculation the site maybe a French and Indian War encampment or a settler's fort from the 1770's. The great thing about archaeology is that every site is a mystery waiting to be unraveled.
Why is the Late Prehistoric important? There are several reasons, the first one being that the Monongahela Indians that occupied the Monongahela River Valley never directly made contact with white European settlers. As one can see from the dates, the Late Prehistoric extends well into the contact period after 1492 AD (when Columbus sailed the ocean blue...). It is possible to find European trade goods such as beads, copper, wampum, glass, and ceramics that point to a complex trade network where European goods passed from one native group to another. The second important feature of the Late Prehistoric is the migrations and incursions of native groups into areas where they traditionally had not moved before. During this time period, Monongahela people's villages become larger, and heavily fortified with the addition of palisade walls, perhaps to protect them and their lands from pressures exerted by other Native American peoples moving into their territory.

I urge everyone to watch the video, it is the first in a series that highlights archaeological survey and the equipment that archaeologists use in the field. The Father Angel Site is important in piecing together the prehistory of southwestern Pennsylvania, and helping to give voice to those Native Americans that time has muted.

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1 comment:

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