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Anthropologist Neusius Presents on Late Prehistoric Subsistence at Statewide Conference on Heritage

Sarah Neusius, Department of Anthropology, presented “Exploring Late Prehistoric Subsistence in Central Western Pennsylvania” at Byways to the Past XIII: the Statewide Conference on Heritage, which took place in Lancaster, Pa., on July 16, 2012.

The paper was coauthored by Beverly Chiarulli (Anthropology), Jack Rossen (Ithaca College), and Laura Kaufman, graduate student in the IUP M.A. in Applied Archaeology program.

The Statewide Conference on Heritage is an annual event which features workshops, sessions, and speakers from the historic preservation, archaeological, heritage tourism, transportation, legislative, and planning communities. Many of the sessions and tours highlight Pennsylvania’s rich agricultural heritage and offer attendees an opportunity to experience traditional Pennsylvania Dutch cooking.

This year, the Statewide Conference on Heritage partnered with the Transportation Research Board ADC50 Committee on Historic and Archaeological Preservation. Because the Keystone State possesses a long and proud history of foodways, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, the commonwealth’s official history agency, adopted “The Land of Penn and Plenty: Bringing History to the Table” as the theme for 2012.

Paper Abstract

Over the past 12 years, as part of the IUP Late Prehistoric Project, we have begun to develop a database on the utilization of plant and animal resources by the inhabitants of central western Pennsylvania between AD 1000 and 1600. Some related information from a preliminary palynological study has also been obtained. Systematic flotation sampling in a series of excavations of Monongahela and other sites has allowed us to recover archaeobotanical remains. Our data document the use of tropical and native cultigens, tobacco, and a variety of wild plants as well as nuts and wood. At the same time, excellent preservation of faunal remains at several sites has led to the recovery of large faunal assemblages indicating the use of deer, turkey, turtle, fish, and other animals. Although only a small amount of faunal remains recovered through flotation have been examined, work to date indicates the importance of this assemblage for properly assessing the use of fish. Although some archaeologists have decried the poor preservation of plant and animal remains in our region, our experience is that preservation can be good and the potential for further study of all aspects of Late Prehistoric subsistence in our region is great.

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