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Grant will allow IUP to complete preservation project

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Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2007
 

Beverly Chiarulli and a team of students at Indiana University of Pennsylvania are preserving a slice of state history dug up during highway projects.

Chiarulli, director of IUP's archaeological services, will get as much as $850,000 during the next five years from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. A big part of the grant will pay for preparing and cataloging more than 250,000 artifacts for the State Museum in Harrisburg.

"These (highway) projects represent the history of everyone in Pennsylvania," Chiarulli said. "They represent people that aren't the famous people in history books and aren't the people who left written records."

The most common artifacts from the "Legacy Collection" project are pieces of glass and ceramics that tell scientists how people lived as far back as the late 17th century.

"The more English ceramics you have, the wealthier you were," Chiarulli said.

The collection includes many bottles, especially medicine bottles from the 18th and 19th centuries. The bottles give clues to the health, diet and wealth of early Pennsylvanians.

Some of the bottles, for example, contained worm medicine.

"People were eating meat that wasn't always cured that well," Chiarulli explained.

Other artifacts include pottery, arrowheads and other points from American Indians who lived as long as 10,000 years ago.

IUP junior Carrie Glessner, 21, of Somerset is one of 12 students working on the project this semester. She admires pottery wrapped with cords or decorated with designs drawn by sticks.

"It's interesting what they were able to do with primitive technology," she said.

PennDOT began doing archaeological investigations on federally funded road projects in the 1970s. By 2003, when IUP became involved in the project, the state had amassed more than 500,000 items.

The university is about half done with the project. The new agreement will pay for the two or three years of work to finish the job.

Ira Beckerman, group leader of cultural resources for PennDOT, said IUP was chosen because it's a state university with an archaeology program that has labs, faculty, a supervisor and a stream of students.

"There are very few state institutions that can do this, and this is one of them," he said.

Susan Lukowski, 22, an IUP senior from Avis in Clinton County, has worked three years on the project. She wants to become an archaeologist specializing in animal bones.

"Bones to me are a puzzle," she said. "You have the pieces, and you can figure out what people were eating. It's a way to connect to the past."

 

 
 


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