From the Executive Director features news and reflections on the work of PHMC by its chief administrator.

This year’s observance of Pennsylvania Archaeology Week, October 9-17, calls attention to the rich and diverse heritage of Native Americans. It also gives us an opportunity to recognize the unique research and invaluable preservation efforts undertaken by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC).

The PHMC has earned a national reputation for its pioneering efforts in preserv­ing prehistoric artifacts and sites. As early as 1910, The State Museum assembled important collections associ­ated with the peoples who inhabited the central Pennsyl­vania region and who are known collectively as the Susquehannock Indians. In the 1920s, Commissioner Frances Dorrance had the ingenious idea of surveying local postmasters throughout the state to determine the locations of prehistoric sites. Her survey identified more than twenty­-five hundred sites and became the basis of the Pennsylvania Archaeological Site Survey, which now contains informa­tion about more than fifteen thousand sites.

The Commission continued its sponsorship of archaeologi­cal field expeditions through the early 1980s. One of the most significant excavations was undertaken at Sheep Rock Shelter, Huntingdon County, a well-preserved site with materials – including such fragile artifacts as rope, a bark basket, a wooden canoe paddle, nets, moccasin fragments, and arrow shafts – dating back more than nine thousand years! [n recent years, the PHMC’s prehistoric collections have grown dramatically as the central repository for archaeological contractors working on state or federally-sponsored develop­ment projects. The most recent inventory of our collections estimated nearly one million artifacts.

Dissemination of our research is, of course, a major responsibility. PHMC staff members have established impressive credentials in their various fields through articles in academic journals and by presentations at various conferences and seminars. More public forms of sharing our knowledge of Pennsylvania’s prehistory include state historical markers, exhibitions, and popularly-styled publica­tions. The State Museum of Pennsylvania’s Hall of Anthro­pology features outstanding exhibits of artifacts drawn from our extensive holdings. Indians in Pennsylvania, our perennially best-selling title, is considered the standard work on the subject.

The PHMC continues to play a leadership role in the identification and protection of our precious archaeological heritage. We are currently developing a visitor services plan for the Meadowcroft Rock Shelter, Washington County, perhaps the oldest known site in North America. Commis­sion staff archaeologists are also involved in protecting two recently discovered sites that have yielded exciting new information about the Indian cultures of western Pennsylva­nia: an ossuary in Erie County and a Monongahela village in Westmoreland County. We have also been successful in registering the Minisink Site, Pike County, as a National Historic Landmark.

The Native American presence in Pennsylvania is too often considered invisible and, therefore, of little consequence. Pennsylvania Archaeology Week is an important public commemoration that gives new meaning – and new life -­ to the peoples who occupied this land for thousands of years.

Brent D. Glass
Executive Director