AVELLA, Pa. - Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Historic Village, the oldest site of human habitation in North America, will kick off its 2014 season at noon Saturday.
Meadowcroft, part of the Senator John Heinz History Center's museum system, was recently named one of the "Five Great Places to See Evidence of First Americans" by Smithsonian magazine. The site has become an international destination and last season, nearly set an attendance record with more than 17,000 visitors from 41 states and 17 countries.
The National Historic Landmark features a massive, 16,000-year-old rock overhang used by the region's earliest inhabitants for shelter.
Meadowcroft offers visitors the chance to experience what everyday life was like for Upper Ohio Valley inhabitants over the past 400 years.
Visitors to the 16th century Eastern Woodland Indian Village can step inside a wigwam, pound corn into meal, or try their hand at throwing the atlatl, a spear thrower used by prehistoric hunters.
Two new 1770s era structures help to spotlight the similarities and differences between the everyday lives of European settlers and American Indians in the Upper Ohio Valley. An open-sided log shelter represents the initial home and trading post of European settlers, while a log cabin shows how late 18th century American Indian families adopted European building techniques.
The Historic Village recreates an Upper Ohio Valley Village from the mid-19th century. Visitors will come face-to-face with elements of everyday family life, such as watching a blacksmith forge red-hot iron or enjoying a lesson in a one-room schoolhouse.
In addition to experiencing 16,000 years of history at Meadowcroft, a variety of special events highlight the 2014 schedule:
June 21, Atlatl Competition. Visitors can try their hand using the atlatl, a spear-thrower used by prehistoric hunters. This contest, which is sanctioned by the World Atlatl Association, is open to all ages and is free to enter with Meadowcroft admission.
July 4, Independence Day Celebration. Meadowcroft will celebrate the spirit of 19th century rural America with old-fashioned summer games, open hearth cooking demonstrations, and a pie-eating contest.
Insider Tours of Meadowcroft Rockshelter. On select dates, visitors can enjoy exclusive Insider Tours with James M. Adovasio, who achieved began the archeological excavation of the Rockshelter in 1973. Adovasio will present a lecture and lead a special tour of the site on June 28, Sept. 13, Oct. 11 and Nov. 8. For reservations, contact Frances Skariot at (724) 587-3412 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sept. 27-28, American Indian Heritage Weekend. Visitors exploring Meadowcroft's recreated Indian Village during this weekend will encounter native artisans dressed like their ancestors as they demonstrate skills of everyday life.
Later this summer, Meadowcroft will open a newly renovated gallery in the Miller Museum to the public, featuring a variety of vehicles from the 19th century, including a sleigh, buggy, hearse and Conestoga Wagon, along with artifacts from this era in American transportation. Renovations to the Miller Museum are expected to be completed by June 2014.
Also planned for this summer is a 19th century baseball game featuring rules and equipment from the deadball era that will be played on Meadowcroft's property. More details about the game will be released in the coming weeks.
Throughout May, Meadowcroft is open from noon to 5 p.m. Saturdays and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays. From Memorial Day through Labor Day, Meadowcroft is open from noon to 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturday sand 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays.
Admission is $12 for adults, $11 for senior citizens and $6 for children ages 6 to 17. Children under 6 and History Center members get in free.
For information on Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Historic Village, visit www.heinzhistorycenter.org and click on the Meadowcroft tab or call (724) 587-3412.