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A Journey to a New Land

People, Terrain
Multimedia Library

Dr. Richard Shutler

Department of Archaeology, Simon Fraser University


Meadowcroft was excavated in the 1970s, by James Adovasio, then of the University of Pittsburgh, USA. It is a large rock shelter in southern Pennsylvania with very complex stratigraphy because the whole cave was covered in rockfall. It was impossible to get a straight stratigraphic profile. He also had an advisory committee. At that time, I was at the University of Iowa and I was on it, with Vance Haynes, George Frizzen, Al Spalding and others. We visited the site twice. I think he has the stratigraphy correct. He has basketry dated at 19,000 years and other dates around 12, 500 – 13,000.

People are very suspicious of the 19,000 year old date because it would make it the oldest artifact in North America. People were claiming that the radiocarbon dates were contaminated with water and coal dust as there were coal mines nearby. But some intensive studies have since been done on those samples and it has been determined that there was no contamination from the coal. People are still very reluctant to accept the 19,000 year date but are going along more or less with the 12,500 to 13,000 date. There is a pre Clovis level there with lanceolate points, and another site not too far from there, called Cactus Hill in Virginia, has a pre-Clovis level with dates of around 13,000 years.