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Eberly News Blog

23 Aug

Thirteen West Virginians got the chance this summer to get a peek of what life looked like 16,000 years ago—and they didn’t need a time machine.

The Moundsville’s Grave Creek Mound Archaeological Complex, the West Virginia Division of Culture and History and the West Virginia Humanities Council partnered with the WVU Native American Studies program to create a unique opportunity for preservation-minded individuals.

Volunteers from across the state participated in a volunteer week and symposium from June 2-9 at the Grave Creek Mound Archeological Complex, where they contributed to the state’s preservation and educational goals while learning about the rich ancient history and culture of the region.

The preservation team was made up of the volunteers, Native American Studies Program Coordinator Bonnie Brown, GCMAC staff, a project intern and award-winning archeologist Darla Spencer.

Spencer is secretary/treasurer of the West Virginia Archeological Society and vice president of the Council for West Virginia Archaeology.

The project kicked off on June 2 with a group visit to Meadowcroft Rockshelter, near Avella, Pennsylvania. Scientific research shows the site was inhabited by humans at least 16,000 years ago, making it one of the oldest such sites in North America.

The week included free public events, including a nightly film series and an all-day archaeological symposium and luncheon.

The symposium keynote was delivered by Rebecca J. Morehouse, curator of state collections at the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory and five panelists presented on various topics related to archeology, such as electronic site mapping, excavations of early historic forts, recent research on pottery and archaeological investigations at a French and Indian period fort in Morgantown.

In 2012, Brown led a pilot project at GCMAC through the Native American Studies Program with seven volunteers. Participants assisted the curators in processing and cataloging books and documents in the newly established research library. They also cleaned, labeled, and packaged stone tools and projectile points such as spear and arrow tips and transferred collections to acid-free, archival quality containers.
As the state’s official artifact repository, the facility adheres to federal collections management standards and is committed to preserving the collections for today’s researchers as well as future generations.

“It was very rewarding to watch the volunteers actively contributing to the preservation efforts,” Brown said.

Brown was awarded a $17,000 grant from the West Virginia Humanities Council to support the initiative.

“Our 2012 pilot collaboration enhanced professional relationships and highlighted our organizations’ shared commitment to preservation and education,” Brown said.

“We’re very pleased the West Virginia Humanities Council funded this expanded 2013 project. The effort integrates WVU with the broader West Virginia community, promoting mutual awareness and interest in our region and its ancient past.”

Additional support for the project came from the West Virginia Division of Culture and History, WVU’s Department of History/Cultural Resource Management Program, Meadowcroft Rockshelter Archaeological Site (part of the Senator John Heinz History Center in Association with the Smithsonian Institution), the West Virginia Archeological Society, and Cultural Resource Analysts, Inc.

For more information, contact Bonnie Brown at 304-293-4626 or

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