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One Tank Trip: Hall of Anthropology and Archaeology

One Tank Trip: Hall of Anthropology...

HARRISBURG, Pa. - Just below our are feet layers and layers of lives lived. It wasn't that long ago we realized how native peoples came to live here, and now we know they likely took more than one path.

As for Pennsylvania?

"People have been living in Pennsylvania for 16,000 years," said Kurt Carr, the senior curator of archaeology at the Hall of Anthropology and Archaeology in the State Museum of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg.

The exhibit is a mix of prehistoric and historic artifacts that, together, tell the story of life, how it's changed and how we can learn from all of it.

"Ultimately, we want to understand how they behaved in the past so that it can help us plan for our own futures," Carr said. "We're not just documenting artifacts, we're trying to understand how they behaved. Cultures don't change because people want them to change. They change because they have to change."

Pennsylvania's own past runs deep. Eleven layers were found in Washington County, Pennsylvania, in a place known as Meadowcroft Rockshelter.

You can see the different layers. It's the earliest well-dated evidence of human occupation in North America. It takes you back to the Paleo-Indian period 10,000 to 7,000 BC, when the natives were nomadic hunters and gatherers and it was cold.

Small dioramas take you on the journey from there, showing a lifestyle often characterized as primitive, but perhaps a more accurate term would be: leisurely.

"It's one of those lazy periods where you don't need a lot of new technology to support yourself," curator Janet Johnson explained. "You've got a lot of good food and you don't have a really high population, so you're living the good life."

Over time, the story changes as the climate changes again and Europeans arrive. There's farming and the beginning of what's known as the contact period.

"So between the warfare and that exposure to disease, that puts a lot of stress on the population," Johnson said.

Defining moments when the focus shifts from prehistoric to historic, from arrowheads to pottery and ceramics.

"We're already seeing some changes just in how we do things today, and that's again changes that we look for in the archaeological record when we're excavating," Johnson explained.

Johnson uses hydroponics and container gardens as examples of modern adaptations to a changing world, ideas we were able to come up with because of what we already know.

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