Saving Artifacts, Not Paving Them

Posted on 11/24/2010 8:42:00 AM

Constructing and improving highways runs the risk of losing valuable artifacts. Anthropology professor Beverly Chiarulli helps her students gain experience by preserving these artifacts and records for future study.

Photo above: Graduate and undergraduate students Tabbi Reefer, Michele Troutman, Kim Brown, Megan Ola, and Jake Kovalchuk in the curation lab with boxes of artifacts prepared for curation.

When archaeological sites were uncovered during highway projects, the Pennsylvania State Museum stepped in to curate them.

However, before 1985, not all collections were properly labeled and organized before the close of archaeological investigations.

That changed with the partnership between the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), IUP Archaeological Services, and the Pennsylvania State Museum.

Artifacts recovered from archaeological sites include animal bones, like this pig jaw from an historic site
Artifacts recovered from archaeological sites include animal bones, like this pig jaw from an historic site.

Chiarulli is the project’s manager, leading her students in cataloging artifacts recovered from archaeological investigations conducted in the 1970s and ’80s for permanent storage in the museum.

The three years of the current agreement have provided more than $420,000 for over sixty undergraduate and graduate students in the Anthropology Department. Through the past seven years, PennDOT has funded $1,482,053 to Archaeological Services and IUP for curation and other projects. These include the Byways to the Past Conference and publication of CD versions of technical reports and popular booklets. In the process, more than 300,000 artifacts have been transferred to the state museum.

Student Michele Troutman sorts and rebags artifacts
Student Michele Troutman sorts and rebags artifacts.

There are more benefits than just preserving the past. Students develop skills in artifact identification and labeling, preservation of records, and other aspects of curation, experience that will be relevant to their future careers.

About Beverly Chiarulli

Beverly Chiarulli

Chiarulli joined the IUP Anthropology Department and IUP Archaeological Services in 1997 after spending the previous eight years with the Bureau of Historic Preservation (the Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Office) of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.

She is principal investigator on a National Science Foundation grant to develop a Mobile Spatial Research Laboratory for the Anthropology, History, Geography, and Geoscience departments, and is PI for a PennDOT project investigating Late Prehistoric village settlement patterns.

Her research also includes the Chau Hiix and Maax Na sites in Belize, and directing the GPS/GIS survey portion of the Gila Archaeological Project at Hermosa, N.M.

Chiarulli received a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from the University of Illinios–Champaign, and her master’s and Ph.D. degrees from Southern Methodist University.