Those Who Came Before: The Archaeology of Centre County’s Native Americans

Those Who Came Before – The Archaeology of Centre County’s Native Americans, explored the rich history of the people who lived in Central Pennsylvania for thousands of years before Euro Americans arrived.  This exhibit was presented in 2011 by the Centre County Historical Society, the Bald Eagle Archaeological Society, and the Matson Museum of Anthropology at Penn State.

Native Americans first came to the region about at the end of the last Ice Age.  For thousands of years, they moved seasonally from camp to camp, hunting animals and gathering food.  Eventually, they began fishing, gardening and settling down in permanent settlements.  About one thousand years ago, they lived in villages and survived by growing corn, beans, and squash while continuing to collect the bounty of the forest and rivers around them.  By the time Andrew Boggs, James Potter and a few others had settled in the 1760s-70s in what would be named Centre County, the original inhabitants had already left their territory in response to the encroachment of colonists and other native peoples, the ensuing conflicts, and the resulting spread of diseases. 

Because this pre-history is not written in a book, it must be reconstructed by archaeologists from the material remains found of Native American camps and villages.  The exhibit included artifacts, photographs of excavations in the region, and images that try to capture what the lives of Native Americans were like over the millennia that they called Centre County their home.

The exhibit panels are below. Click on the download link to download to your device for easier viewing.

Contributors to the exhibit include:
Centre County Historical Society . Bald Eagle Archaeological Society . Matson Museum of Anthropology of Penn State, Graphic Design by Penn State student Kellie Rae Waksmunski, Landscape Architecture

Exhibit Committee: Dr. Melissa Diamanti, Bob Donaldson, Mary Alice Graetzer, Jackie Melander, Dr. Claire McHale Milner, Mary Sorensen

Special Thanks to: Jaru Associates, Inc., Centre Glass, Richard Pencek, Jennifer Shuey, Katherine Daley, Clare Daley, Julianne Snider, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences at Penn State

Content and images for portions of this exhibit came from the following sources: (click to expand)

Albion, Robert G. and Leonidas Dodson.  Philip Vickers Fithian: Journal 1775-1776, Princeton:  Princeton University Press, 1934.

Baker, Terry L.  The Pennsylvania Legacy: American Indians Greet William Penn.  Salt Lake City: Gibbs-Smith Publishers, 1997. 

Custer, Jay F.  Prehistoric Cultures in Eastern Pennsylvania.  Harrisburg: PA Historical & Museum Commission, 1998.

Fogelman, Gary L.  Artifacts and Early Cultures in the Susquehanna’s West Branch.  Turbotville, Pa: Fogelman Publishing, 2001.

Fowler, William S.  A Handbook of Indian Artifacts from Southern New England.  Middleborough, MA:  Massachusetts Archaeological Society, 1983 (1976). 

Griffing, Robert.  George Irvin, text.  Art of Robert Griffing: The Journey in the Eastern Frontier. Asheville, NY: East/West Visions, 2000. 

Jeffries, Richard W.  The Archaeology of Carrier Mills:  10,000 Years in the Saline Valley of Illinois.  Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press.  1987.

Johnson, Michael G.  Richard Hook, illustrator.  American Woodland Indians (Men at Arms).  Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 1990.

Kent, Barry C.  Discovering Pennsylvania’s Archaeological Heritage.  Harrisburg: PA Historical & Museum Commission, 1994. 

Kent, Barry C.  Susquehanna’s Indians.  Harrisburg: PA Historical & Museum Commission, 1981.

LaFarge, Oliver.  A Pictorial History of the American Indian.  NY: Crown Publishers, 1957.

Lepper, Bradley T.  An Illustrated Chronicle of Ohio’s Ancient American Indian Cultures.  Wilmington, Ohio: Orange Frazer Press, 2005.

McCurdy, Michael.  The Year According to the Full Moon.  Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2000.

Meltzer, David.  Search for the First Americans.  Washington: Smithsonian, 1993.

Milner, George P.  The Mound Builders: Ancient People of Eastern North America.  London: Thames & Hudson, 2006.   

Peck, Ira.  Pennsylvania – A History of the Keystone State.  Scholastic, Inc., 1985.

Reader’s Digest.  America’s Fascinating Indian Heritage: The First Americans: Their Customs, Art, History and How They Lived.  2002.  Pleasantville, NY:  Reader’s Digest Assn., 1975.

Ritchie, William A.  A Typology and Nomenclature for New York Projectile Points. New York State Museum, Bulletin No. 384, Albany, NY revised 1971.

Stewart, Hilary.  Stone, Bone, Antler and Shell:  Artifacts of the Northwest Coast.  Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1996 (1973).

Taylor, F. Colin, ed.  The Native Americans: The Indigenous People of North America.  Washington: Smithsonian, 1991. 

Wall, Robert D. & Hope E. Luhman.  A Bridge to the Past: The Archaeology of the Mansfield Bridge Site.  Harrisburg: Penn DOT and PA Historical & Museum Commission, 2003.

Wallace, Paul A.W.  Indian Paths of Pennsylvania.  Harrisburg, PA Historical & Museum Commission, 1998.

Witze, Alexandra.  The Mystery of the Megafauna.  American Archaeology, Spring, 2004.

The Archaeology of Pennsylvania’s Changing Frontier:  The Contact Period 1500-1763, pamphlet  of the PA Historical and Museum Commission