If not for the curiosity of a Washington County, Pa., farmer six decades ago, Meadowcroft Rockshelter – the oldest site of human habitation in North America – might have never been discovered. In 1955, Albert Miller stumbled upon a groundhog hole on his family’s farm in Avella and uncovered what looked to be a prehistoric tool.
Miller chose to cover up the hole and carefully search for a professional archeologist who could properly assess the historical significance of the site. Almost two decades later in 1973, Miller finally connected with University of Pittsburgh anthropology professor Dr. James Adovasio who visited the farm and looked at the object found near the groundhog hole.
Astonished by the artifact, which was a prehistoric flint knife, Dr. Adovasio assembled a team of archaeology, anthropology and geology students to study the area as part of a curriculum. The field school’s excavation of the site over the next six years yielded nearly two million artifacts and ecofacts, including ancient stone tools, pottery fragments, and evidence of ice-age fire pits.
Further testing of the newly found artifacts concluded that the rock ledge overhang – naturally formed by the waters of Cross Creek – served as a campsite for prehistoric hunters and gatherers 16,000 years ago. Meadowcroft Rockshelter provided shelter for visitors with nearby fresh water springs and sources of plants and animals for food.
In 2005, the U.S. Secretary of the Interior designated Meadowcroft Rockshelter a National Historic Landmark.
Discover this important archeological treasure for yourself and visit Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Historic Village. Tours of the Rockshelter are available during regular operating hours and begin in the Meadowcroft visitor center.
During Meadowcroft’s open season, daily tours of the Rockshelter begin at the Visitors Center. Tour times vary and last approximately one hour. Please contact Meadowcroft directly at 724-587-3412 for more information.
In this KQV Radio History Minute, History Center President and CEO Andy Masich talks about the 16,000-year history of the Meadowcroft Rockshelter.
Insider Tours with Dr. James Adovasio
On select dates, visitors can enjoy exclusive Insider Tours with James M. Adovasio, Ph.D., who achieved international acclaim with his archeological excavation of the Rockshelter in 1973. Dr. Adovasio’s lectures and special tours of the site occur periodically throughout the year.
For information about scheduling and reservations, please contact Meadowcroft at 724-587-3412 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Explore Meadowcroft Rockshelter
This GigaPan is a series of interactive images that allows anyone to explore the Meadowcroft Rockshelter archaeological site from any computer. Choose an image to explore by selecting it in the column on the left. Click and drag, scroll to zoom, or click on a tear-drop marker to access additional multimedia content.
If the GigaPan feature below does not work or if you wish to see the GigaPan in full screen mode, please click here.
Teachers, please see Meadowcroft’s First Peoples School Programs Guide for information on utilizing this gigapan exploration in your classroom.
This project was made possible through the generous support of the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, and through partnership with Carnegie Mellon University’s CREATE Lab and Learning Media Design Center.