Special Report

Five Great Places to See Evidence of First Americans

Encounter the fossils and other remnants of the lives left behind by the continent’s original settlers

(Courtesy of Mastodon State Historic Site)

Meadowcroft Rock Shelter

(Ed Massery)
Avella, Pennsylvania

A local property owner discovered this site in 1955 but kept a lid on it until 1973, when University of Pittsburgh archaeologists led by James Adovasio began to excavate. They found artifacts about 3,000 years older than those at Clovis, sparking a great academic controversy.

Meadowcroft, 35 miles southwest of Pittsburgh, is now a National Historic Landmark run by the Senator John Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh, a Smithsonian affiliate. Dug from a cliff face 45 feet above Cross Creek, the rock shelter was once largely inaccessible. Now there are tours, and a stairway climbs the hillside to a 2007 building that protects the original site and areas still to be excavated. A visitor center offers exhibits. Open May through October.

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