Friday, March 31, 2017

88th Society for Pennsylvania Archaeology Annual Meeting

Spring has finally seemed to have sprung which in the world of archaeology means the annual spring conferences are in full swing. The Society for American Archaeology meetings are this weekend (March 29-April 2, 2017) in Vancouver, B.C. and we reported on our last blog on  the Mid-Atlantic meetings. Our focus this week is on the Society for Pennsylvania Archaeology’s (SPA) annual meeting. Next weekend, April 7-9, 2017 the 88th annual SPA meeting, hosted by The Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission, State Museum of Pennsylvania, Section of Archaeology will be held at the Radisson Hotel in Camp Hill, PA. This year’s theme, Patterning the Past: Current Contributions to Pennsylvania Archaeology promises to be informative and encompassing topics from prehistoric to historic site and artifact interpretations, technology in archaeology as well as artifact curation.

As usual, the meeting will begin Friday afternoon with the Pennsylvania Archaeology Council (PAC) symposium. This year’s theme is Public Outreach- Preserving the Past with New Technology. These papers cover a range of topics that discuss different forms of public outreach, the importance of public outreach and how technology is currently used for new platforms and formats in public outreach.  Sharing methods for engaging the public in archaeology and increasing their awareness in their archaeological heritage and site preservation is at the heart of this session.

The SPA annual meeting registration table is open on Friday at 12:00 pm, walk-ins are welcome! The program for the 2017 annual meeting includes presentations in three sessions from Saturday morning through Sunday morning. A poster session Saturday afternoon will highlight research by students at the undergraduate and graduate level.  Primitive games allow participants the opportunity to test their skills at firestarting, atlatl accuracy and the hammerstone toss. The annual dinner banquet Saturday night will feature  guest speaker Dr. Robert D. Wall, Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Criminal Justice at Towson University sharing research on the Barton Site  ( , followed by the awards ceremony and live auction. Cordier Auctions will conduct the fund raising auction which benefits the Society.   Also, the bookroom is open throughout the day on both Friday and Saturday.  Book titles include Ice Age People of Pennsylvania , Indian Paths of Pennsylvania, The Moravian Mission Diaries of David Zeisberger 1772–1781 and First Pennsylvanians.  If you are interested in archaeology or history, there are many titles of interest.

The annual awards ceremony recognizes individuals for a number of achievements in Pennsylvania archaeology including outstanding avocational archaeologists, most archaeological sites recorded in the past year, and for other significant contributions to Pennsylvania archaeology.  Student scholarships are also awarded from the Hatch Scholarship fund and the Kinsey fund.  The Lifetime Achievement award recognizes an individual who has been an active member of the archaeological community for at least 25 years and has made significant contributions to furthering both the Society and our archaeological heritage in Pennsylvania.(  The auction is a popular and exciting SPA tradition, so be sure to bring a few extra bucks to bid on books, archaeological field equipment, and gift baskets. Money raised will go to benefit the Society, Elmer Erb Permanent Fund and Kinsey Scholarship fund.

The program concludes on Sunday morning with another series of presentation session containing papers focused on the curation and research of archaeology collections.
Please join us for an educational and entertaining weekend. We hope to see you at the meeting!

For more information on the Society for Pennsylvania Archaeology and the annual meeting please visit the website at:

The Society for Pennsylvania Archaeology, Inc. was organized in 1929 to: Promote the study of the prehistoric and historic archaeological resources of Pennsylvania and neighboring states; Encourage scientific research and discourage exploration which is unscientific or irresponsible in intent or practice; Promote the conservation of archaeological sites, artifacts, and information; Encourage the establishment and maintenance of sources of archaeological information such as museums, societies, and educational programs; Promote the dissemination of archaeology by means of publications and forums; Foster the exchange of information between the professional and the avocational archaeologists. 

For more information, visit or the Hall of Anthropology and Archaeology at The State Museum of Pennsylvania .

Friday, March 17, 2017

Recent Past, Present and Future Archaeology Events hosted and partnered by the State Museum of PA

A Day at the Museum
Over a thousand visitors attended Charter Day at The State Museum on Sunday, March 12. Janet Johnson, curator, and archaeology volunteers were on hand to lead children and the young-at-heart through the petroglyph drawing activity featured at this year’s Farm Show exhibit in the Nature Lab.

Photographer Credit: Don Giles

You’ll have an opportunity to meet archaeology staff at future museum events this summer during the popular Nature Lab series on Wednesday afternoons from late June to early August. Check the State Museum Events Calendar for more details.

March 16-19th, 2017
Virginia Beach Resort and Conference Center
2800 Shore Drive
Virginia Beach, Virginia

It is not too late to attend. Walk-in registrants are welcome through this Saturday, March 18th at 4pm.
Kurt Carr and member volunteers at the MAAC Registration Table. Photographer Credit: Judy Hawthorn

Conference activities kicked off on Thursday with a conservation and gallery tour of the Mariners’ Museum and Park, Newport News, Virginia, and a Coastal Plain Woodland Pottery Workshop in the afternoon. 
Marcey Creek pottery featured during yesterday’s Coastal Plain Pottery Workshop, Photographer Credit: Judy Hawthorn

Today, regular paper sessions begin featuring Paleoindian research; Ethnoecological approaches; Conservation practices; Climate Change, Natural Hazards and Archaeological Sites; Fairfax Co., VA Archaeology; Prehistoric Archaeology; Montpelier;  and a honorarium session for Dr. Douglas W. Sanford. Kurt Carr, Senior Curator at the State Museum will be reprising his dissertation work at the Thunderbird site as the final morning contributor to the Paleoindian session at 9:40am. Additional activities include the Student Committee Coffee Hour, “Afternoon Knapping”- Experimental Archaeology with Jack Cresson, and the evenings Plenary Session- Augmented reality: how we transformed a reality show into a unique teaching and learning opportunity,  with Dr. Bill Schindler, who will discuss his experience with the National Geographic series, The Great Human Race.

Lucy Harrington, Mercyhurst University presenting during the Paleoindian Session this morning. Photographer Credit: Judy Hawthorn.

Saturday’s paper and workshop sessions continue with topics ranging from Historic Sites; Archaeological Survey; the Biggs Ford Site; Connecting museum collections in news ways with the public audience in the digital age; Current Research at St. Mary’s College of Maryland; Gender Identity in the Archaeological Record; Sherwood Forest Plantation, Stafford Co., VA; Domestic Archaeology in an Early Industrial Context; Public Sites and Parks; to a honorarium session for Leverette Gregory.  The poster session will run Saturday afternoon and the evening  General Business Meeting  is capped with the festive Student Committee Mixer at 7:30pm and Reception at 8:30pm.
The conference ends with concurrent Sunday morning sessions—the Indigo Hotel Site; the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center; and Specialized Analysis of Historic Sites and Artifacts.  

Follow the provided link to read the complete program and speaker abstracts.

The Society for Pennsylvania 88th Annual Meeting will be featured in our next blog, however, we don’t want those interested to miss their chance to pre-register for the event online or call to reserve a hotel room. Click here for a program listing of the SPA session contributors and presentation titles.

The Pennsylvania Archaeology Council (PAC) Symposium and
The Society for Pennsylvania Archaeology (SPA) 88th Annual Meeting
April 7-9th, hosted this year by Section of Archaeology
Radisson Hotel Harrisburg
1150 Camp Hill Bypass
Camp Hill, PA 17011
(717) 763-7117

This year’s PAC symposium, Public outreach- Preserving the Past with New Technologies, was organized by Bernard Means. The Annual meeting presentations begin Saturday morning and will feature the research of several of our staff curators—Melanie Mayhew, Kurt Carr, Kimberley Sebestyen, and Janet Johnson—as well as SPA members and professional archaeologists from across the Commonwealth. Other highlights from the weekend meeting include the banquet speaker, Dr. Robert D. Wall, Towson University, presentation of Paleo to Susquehannock in the Upper Potomac Valley: The Barton Site, and the ever popular Primitive Games to be held late Saturday afternoon on the hotel grounds. The games are an opportunity to test your flint and steel fire making skills, your spear throwing accuracy with an atlatl, or how far you can toss a hammerstone to name a few of the friendly competitions you can participate in as a meeting attendee. Cordier Auctions has agreed to conduct our ever popular fund raising auction on Saturday evening which is sure to hold many a treasure. We hope to see you there!

Atlatl spear throwing, Fort Hunter Indian Day 2013

For more information, visit or the Hall of Anthropology and Archaeology at The State Museum of Pennsylvania .

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Children’s Story: Kids tell their story using petroglyphs at the Pennsylvania Farm Show

As many of our dedicated followers will recall, this year’s Farm Show exhibit featured the petroglyphs of Pennsylvania.  Petroglyphs are images that have been chiseled into stone and are found throughout the world.  Many people associate the American southwest with this cultural phenomenon but there are 42 petroglyph sites currently recorded in the Pennsylvania Archaeological Site Survey files, most of them located in the Ohio watershed.

There are many different designs depicted.  Some symbolic or animal in nature, others more abstract in design and some undefinable. 

The chart above describes some of the symbols but there are many more beyond these and not all of them so easily interpreted.  I believe its human nature to look at these pictures and speculate about the story that inspired someone to spend the amount of time necessary to carve these designs into solid rock.

With all of this in mind, this year’s children’s activity invited the children to tell us their story.  After spending time looking at the exhibit and hearing a little about petroglyphs

we provided a large sheet of paper, a dozen templates of various documented petroglyphs from Pennsylvania and a box of crayons…

The kids seemed to enjoy the activity and it was interesting to see their response.  As promised to the children, here are some of those responses…

One repeated theme is the name.  People throughout time have felt the need to leave their mark.  Whether it was the symbols used by Native Americans, or the modern graffiti of “B Weaver”, people want to say “I was here”.

The story depicted by the red circle is reminiscent of a hunting story on Little Indian Rock at Safe Harbor Dam.

I think it’s also interesting to see the kids’ reflection on home, either for the natives as depicted in the blue circle above or perhaps in a more personal way.

The activity was enjoyable for the kids; and gave them an opportunity to apply their newly found thoughts on petroglyphs.  It also afforded us a chance to observe the behaviors of these little humans telling stories with pictures.  After all anthropology is the study of human behavior.    

For more information, visit or the Hall of Anthropology and Archaeology at The State Museum of Pennsylvania .