On a hot day at the beginning of September, I had an opportunity to visit an archeological site that has revealed some discoveries that have changed our understanding of human history and migration. Arrow and spear points, fire pits, and bone fragments have been found that date back 19,000 years before the present. That would not be so startling if the site I visited was in Africa, or Asia, or even Europe. This site is in southwestern Pennsylvania, west of Pittsburgh, as any person on foot for many thousands of years would have traveled, seven and a half miles upstream of the Ohio River on what we now call Cross Creek
. Prior to this discovery, the earliest humans were thought to have arrived in North America six to eight thousand years ago.
The Meadowcroft Rockshelter
is a sandstone overhang situated high above the creek, where generations of tool making travelers took shelter on their travels in this area. Underneath the shelter of this overhang, a large flat area was the resting place for these travelers. And as is still the case today, when these travelers left, they did not always take everything they came with. As a kid, before it was developed, I had an opportunity to run around in this site, hearing stories that Indians had once lived there. It is possible that in the very first layer of excavation the archeologists might have found loose change, a marble, or a baseball card.
These are images of some artifacts of our time, pre-discovered by casting them in plaster and photographically grafting them to images of fossil-bearing Devonian rocks. I had originally created them with an interesting but complicated formula in mind, which went something like:
Lost keys/Devonian fossils = Creationist age of earth/Geologist age of earth
The visit to Meadowcroft helped to reframe these very recent discoveries, and has me thinking about what else might be discovered. Fifty pounds of mold-making clay are sitting on my workbench.