This year is the 102nd anniversary of the Pennsylvania State Farm Show. According to the Farm Show web site it is the “largest indoor agricultural exposition in the nation, with nearly 6,000 animals, 10,000 competitive exhibits and 300 commercial exhibits.”
The Section of Archaeology at The State Museum of Pennsylvania will again host an exhibit, complete with an authentic replica of a 20-foot long dugout canoe. Our exhibit is entitled Foragers to Farmers, the Development of Agriculture in Pennsylvania. As you read in our last blog, Native Americans and then early settlers had a close connection to the land, which served to provide them with food and medicine. This exhibit explores some of those plants and how they were utilized by our ancestors and showcases some of the artifacts from Pennsylvania.
View of the State Museum of Pennsylvania’s Booth at the Farm Show
Farming is more labor intensive than hunting and gathering and there is a debate in archaeology as to why early Indian populations in Pennsylvania gradually began focusing on seed plants such as goosefoot, lambs quarter, and maygrass for food; eventually growing these plants in gardens and finally adding maize to their diet. The dependence on maize in the diet begans about A.D. 1000 eventually leading to the development of large villages and significant changes in social organization. During the 1700s, European farms began to dominate the region and farming changed to include livestock and grains. By the late 19th and early 20th century, farming became more mechanized and fed huge numbers of people. The artifacts on display document this change over the past 5,000 years.
A corn grinding station utilizing stone tools allows visitors to experience the process used by native peoples. Corn quickly became a food staple after A.D. 1200, spurring dramatic social changes. Small egalitarian groups of people grew into tribal societies. Another station will share information on types of native foods still utilized today and some recipes that you can try at home.
Artifact Case at the State Museum Booth
This event is always an excellent opportunity for the State Museum staff to connect with the community. We talk to an average of 40-50,000 visitors each year at the Farm Show and share our knowledge with interested citizens of the Commonwealth. One of our goals in reaching out to the community is to share the significance of archaeology and to stress the importance of recording archaeological sites. The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission is the state agency for preserving our historical and archaeological heritage. The State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) records and maintains the files for all known sites across the Commonwealth. This database of information enables state agencies such as PENNDOT to plan for highway projects that will have the least amount of impact on archaeological resources. Archaeology is a labor intensive and an expensive undertaking. Avoiding sites reduces the expense of building roads or bridges.
The Society for Pennsylvania Archaeology (SPA) is also participating in our exhibit as they have in past years. Representatives are on hand to answer questions about the Society and membership which includes the biannual journal, Pennsylvania Archaeologist, newsletters and meeting announcements. As an additional benefit of joining at the Farm Show you will receive three past issues of the SPA journal.
Society for Pennsylvania Archaeology Table at the State Museum Booth
Our booth will be located opposite the carousel in the Main Exhibition Hall of the Farm Show Complex. The Farm Show runs from Saturday, January 6 through Saturday, January 13, and is open from 8:00 am to 9:00 pm each day except the 13th when it closes at 5:00 pm. Mark your calendar and plan your visit to the 102nd Pennsylvania Farm Show (http://www.farmshow.pa.gov/Pages/default.aspx). Be sure to join us at the State Museum’s booth and take a ride in the dugout canoe.
For more information, visit PAarchaeology.state.pa.us or the Hall of Anthropology and Archaeology at The State Museum of Pennsylvania .