by Amy L. Covell-Murthy
It was my pleasure to organize a field trip for Anthropology and Anthropocene staff, students, and friends to the Grave Creek Mound Archaeological Complex in Moundsville, West Virginia. Our gracious host, Dr. Olivia Jones, who is the facility’s lead curator showed us around the complex while explaining the history of the facility and of the mound. She also provided us with plenty to explore on our own.
Maintaining a relationship between Carnegie Museum of Natural History and the Grave Creek Mound Complex has been a highlight of my responsibilities as collection manager over the past five years. Dr. Jones and I work hard to keep each other informed of current research and initiatives in our institutions, while sharing resources that pertain to the history of the region.
Adena is the name given by archaeologists to the mound building cultural group who developed around 2500 years ago in the Ohio River Valley and many of its major tributaries. The Grave Creek Mound, now located in the center of a town whose name references the structure, is one of the largest of the conical Adena burial mounds. Dr. Jones, curator Hank Lutton, and the staff of the Archaeological Complex work to maintain the integrity of this National Historic Landmark. According to their website, the mound was constructed between 250 and 150 B.C.E. and in 1838 it was measured as being 69 feet tall, and 295 feet in diameter.
In addition to the mound, the complex consists of an archaeological research and collection facility, and the Delf Norona Museum, which interprets lifeways of the Adena people for the public. The museum, named for the author of the mound’s definitive history, opened its doors in 1978, and the research facility was constructed later in 2008. This facility is the repository for all of West Virginia’s State-owned collections and artifacts.
Although our exhibits do not explain the arrangement, Carnegie Museum of Natural History once served as a repository for the State Museum of Pennsylvania for all cultural material excavated in Western Pennsylvania. This material remains in our care at our collection facility and is used for research. As we try to reconcile our institutional past and bring equity and inclusion into our storytelling, these collections will help us interpret the pre-contact narratives of the region.
I am very lucky to be able to offer these educational experiences to my students and volunteers and I encourage those of you who can, to take the 90-minute drive from Pittsburgh to Moundsville, West Virginia to check out the Archaeology Complex. And the next time you find yourself in the North Eastern section of the Alcoa Hall of American Indians at CMNH, take some time to think about the mound builders who were here before the Haudenosaunee, Lenape, and Shawnee in Western Pennsylvania.
Carnegie Museum of Natural History Blog Citation InformationBlog author: Covell-Murthy, Amy L.
Publication date: July 14, 2022