Sunday, July 01, 2007

Field school explores 19th Century digs
About 250 years before Daniel Massey built his farm house in Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania, his great-grandfather came to the New World as an indentured servant. Now, about 150 years later, Penn State's Archaeological Field School is excavating Daniel's house to see how far he came from those humble beginnings. Penn State's anthropology department focuses on prehistoric archaeology, but this foray into historic archaeology is yielding some unexpected rewards.

"I think historic archaeology can engage a little more directly than the prehistoric archaeology we sometimes do," says Dr. Claire Milner, director of the field school and director of exhibits and curator of Penn State's Matson Museum of anthropology. "It is more obvious and immediate who the people were and what the artifacts are."

I've often wondered whether historic archaeology might not be a better place for students to do their initial fieldwork than in prehistoric sites. What they find ca be more immediate.