Unity man, brother donate Native American artifacts to museum
A gift from two area brothers, weighing more than 1,000 pounds and packed in dozens of boxes, represents the most significant collection the State Museum of Pennsylvania has received in five decades, officials said.
Bob Oshnock, 70, of Unity, and his brother, Jim Oshnock, 76, now of North Carolina, spent decades amassing about 15,000 prehistoric artifacts they delivered to the Harrisburg museum on June 23.
Their donation was mined from Westmoreland and Bedford counties, Oshnock said.
They also delivered about 500 pounds of artifacts Beverly Grimm of Ligonier donated from the collection of her late husband, Jacob Grimm.
Grimm spent decades excavating sites including in Westmoreland, Somerset and Fayette counties.
The donation included field logs and photographs, said museum curator Janet Johnson.
The Oshnocks recorded their findings and locations in Pennsylvania Archaeological Site Surveys.
“That is so important for preserving our archaeological history,” Johnson said.
Oshnock, retired from Kennametal, is the vice president of Westmoreland Archaeological Society.
“I got involved in (archaeology) around 1964 by a St. Vincent College priest, who told me you could find these things (Native American artifacts) out in the fields. You had to look hard, but they are there to find. I was about 19 then,” he said.
Fifty years later, Oshnock said, he wanted to preserve his collection.
Among the artifacts are arrowheads, stone tools, projectile points — which might have been used as spears or arrows — pottery pieces and slate pendants.
Many of the items found in Westmoreland County were located along the Loyalhanna Creek Watershed.
Oshnock estimated the bulk of the collection came from the Paleoindian period, about 10,000-14,000 years ago.
Charts developed from previous dig sites can help to identify what people may have used them for and when, Johnson said.
The state's archaeological site maps are confidential, she said, but can be helpful when road or development projects are considered. Developers can see a recorded site and shift a project away from it, or excavate before developing.
The maps also show migration patterns, people's habits and help with understanding pre-history, Johnson said.
Findings such as pottery and food remnants may indicate a people stayed at a site for a period of time, she said.
A site where only tools are found may indicate a seasonal hunting camp.
On Thursday, Oshnock and archaeological society president Mary Jane Shaw of Greensburg worked at a Sewickley Township site.
Volunteers have been excavating the Late Prehistoric site, believed to have been occupied between 1350-1450, for 14 years.
The two-acre site is about 90 percent excavated, Oshnock said, with about 300,000 artifacts collected and recorded.
Arrowheads, charred maize kernels and fish scales have been unearthed in the abandoned village.
“We've found a huge amount of deer bones at this site,” Shaw said.
Those artifacts and records also will go to the state museum, Oshnock said.
Last week's donation will be analyzed and catalogued in the museum's archaeology lab, Johnson said.
“That (Westmoreland) chapter has done a phenomenal job with recording and sharing information about their sites,” she said.
Information gleaned from Oshnock's collection will assist with the museum's plans to add a section on the prehistory of Western Pennsylvania, Johnson said.
The museum does not estimate the financial value of donations.
“For us, the research potential far exceeds monetary value,” Johnson said.
Mary Pickels is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Penn Township teen allegedly drunk at time of police chase, crash
- Ethics panel: It’s OK for Westmoreland commissioner to do business with municipalities
- More charged filed against Derry Township man who allegedly held woman at knifepoint
- Friends of Homeless Felines marks 10 years in Scottdale
- Father, son killed in East Huntingdon crash
- Consent decree that limits weddings at Foxley Farms ruled valid
- Police: Westmoreland women stole thousands to pay for dog show hobby
- Penn Township man seeking gun permit accused of bringing heroin to courthouse
- Man snatches purse behind Westmoreland Mall
- YouTube campaign by Latrobe 4-year-old aids Alzheimer’s Association
- Adelphoi resident charged as adult in Latrobe assault