Display and Presentation Look Back on 30 Years of OHIO Archaeology

Elliot Abrams, professor emeritus of anthropology and founder of the Field School of Archaeology, will be speaking about the work of the Field School in Alden Library on Oct. 3. (John Michael Simpson/ Ohio University Libraries)
Elliot Abrams, professor emeritus of anthropology and founder of the Field School of Archaeology, will speak at Alden Library on Oct. 3. He will explore the school’s achievements and offer an in-depth look at the prehistory of the Hocking Valley. (John Michael Simpson/Ohio University Libraries)

Since Ohio University’s Field School of Archaeology was founded in 1986, over 340 students have participated and excavated at sites located in a rock shelter in Wayne National Forest and beneath several agricultural fields. An upcoming exhibit and presentation at Alden Library will reflect on their work and display some of the artifacts they have found.

Elliot Abrams, professor emeritus of anthropology and founder of the Field School, will be presenting “Digging Up the Past: 30 Years of OHIO Archaeology” on Oct. 3 at 6 p.m. on the fourth floor of Alden Library. An exhibit of the same name prepared by Paul Patton, assistant professor of anthropology and food studies, is located on the fourth floor of Alden Library.

Abrams, who was hired at OHIO in 1985 in part to help establish the Field School, said the school provides firsthand experience for students to learn how to become successful archaeologists.

“That’s how students really learn archaeology,” he said. “You can teach them in the lecture course, and we do that, but you really learn archaeology by doing.”

The Field School is one of the longest-running field training programs in the state. According to the school’s website, its research focus is the Archaic and Woodland periods (4000 B.C. to 1000 A.D.) in southeastern Ohio. Students research how people during this time period built their homes, what they ate, and how they made tools.

The “Digging Up the Past: 30 Years of OHIO Archaeology” display in Alden Library features some of the artifacts excavated by students in the Field School of Archaeology, including these preforms, which are about 2,900 years old and were found between Logan and Nelsonville. (John Michael Simpson/Ohio University Libraries)
The “Digging Up the Past: 30 Years of OHIO Archaeology” display in Alden Library features some of the artifacts excavated in the Field School of Archaeology, including these preforms, which are about 2,900 years old and were found between Logan and Nelsonville. (John Michael Simpson/Ohio University Libraries)

Artifacts collected through the Field School, including prehistoric pottery and animal bones, will be on display. Patton said the focus of the exhibit will not only be the work of students in the Field School but also what life was like in the Hocking Valley region during the prehistoric era.

“[The exhibit] will I hope demonstrate data that we get from archaeological sites but also paint a more complete picture for folks to check out what life was like here in the past,” Patton said.

Field School students have excavated prehistoric seeds that show that Native Americans domesticated plants long before corn was brought into the area. Patton said the artifacts that students have found present a picture of Native American life that may contrast with what people have been previously taught.

“There’s an idea of [Native Americans] being somewhat nomadic and wandering around the landscape, but the more we dig into prehistory, and through this Field School in a lot of ways, the more we understand that that’s simply not the case,” he said.

Students also played a significant role in preparation for the exhibit itself by designing the artwork and museum displays.

The exhibit will be on the fourth floor of Alden Library through Dec. 15.