Friday, December 9, 2011

Anthro students get their hands dirty at Hopewell site

Students from Bloomsburg University’s anthropology department, led by professor DeeAnne Wymer, participated in a four-week field school this summer in Chillicothe, Ohio, where they conducted an archaeological excavation at the Lady’s Run Site, a Hopewell habitation site. Also known as the Mound Builders, the Hopewell culture lived between 100 B.C. and A.D. 400 in the northeastern and midwestern United States, constructed massive ceremonial earthworks and produced some of the finest craftwork in the prehistoric Americas.

Wymer’s field school is a combined project with professor Paul Pacheco’s archaeology students at the State University of New York at Geneseo. Now in its seventh year, the effort has uncovered evidence that the Hopewell had a much more sedentary lifestyle than was once assumed, meaning they must also have practiced more advanced forms of agriculture, a common indicator archaeologists use to identify more sophisticated cultures. As Wymer says, these findings have “literally rewritten the history books on the Hopewell.”

“Our research is generating incredible excitement,” she says. “We’re shaking up the world of archaeology—this is the first well-documented Hopewell habitation site, and it’s using groundbreaking technology while still using good old-fashioned digging.”

During the field school, students attended presentations at Chillicothe’s Hopewell Culture National Historical Park, visited famous earthwork sites and learned archaeological skills in lessons and in the field. By the end of the six-credit practicum, students’ skills in planning, mapping and excavating qualified them to work in cultural resource management doing contracted archaeological work.

Next year, Wymer and Pacheco will take the field school to excavate a possible hamlet at the Hopewell Mound Group, the largest known earthwork the Hopewell constructed and the first official mound excavation site. The Peabody Museum exhibited artifacts found at the site at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair to highlight the new field of American archaeology.

Wymer’s modern excavations of habitation sites are just as revolutionary today. “This is a big time to go in — I’m excited about this,” she says. “This is the site that gave the culture its name, and we’re hoping to discover some really interesting findings.”
— Jenn D’Amico, '2012
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