About 33 miles from downtown Pittsburgh in Avella, Pennsylvania, lies a pretty significant part of North American history. Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Historic Village, “
the oldest site of human habitation” on the continent, gives visitors a glimpse of what life was like in Southwestern Pennsylvania thousands of years ago. This unique attraction near Pittsburgh is definitely worth a visit.
Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Historic Village, run by the Heinz History Center, boasts the oldest evidence of human habitation in North America. The Rockshelter dates back 16,000 years and has been continuously inhabited for centuries.
Archeologists began work at the Meadowcroft site in 1973 and, like peeling back the layers of an onion, they quickly discovered layer hidden below layer of the land. The first layer revealed steel beer cans. Another layer uncovered bottles from the colonial era.
The archeologists eventually determined, after uncovering all the layers, that humans had lived in the area for at least 16,000 years, longer than any other site in North America.
The Rockshelter, a cave of sorts, naturally formed within the brown sandstone of Pennsylvania and provided shelter for individuals. Today, visitors can get an up-close view of the Rockshelter that played a pivotal role in the survival of countless Pennsylvanians.
While the masterpiece may be the Rockshelter, visitors can also explore other Southwestern Pennsylvania eras by touring Meadowcroft, a historic village that allows visitors to experience life over the past 500 years.
The historic village, which opened in 1969, features an 1834 one room schoolhouse complete with the desks children sat at and the chalkboards on which the teachers wrote to give a glimpse into education at the time.
The 19th century welcomes visitors to watch a blacksmith work at his trade.
Demonstrations are held throughout the day at the different exhibits, allowing visitors to get a firsthand look at (and sometimes a hands-on-experience of) Pennsylvania's history
Stop by the Prehistoric Indian Village, which dates back 400 years. Visitors can even experiment by trying a prehistoric spear once used by the Indians to catch fish and hunt animals.
Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Historic Village is open from May through October with opening and closing times dependent on the season.
Admission to this unique attraction in Pittsburgh is $14 for adults, $13 for seniors 62 and older, $6 for children between six and 17, and free for Heinz History Center members and children five and younger.
The Heinz History Center recommends planning to spend a minimum of three hours at the attraction, if you want to explore all of Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Historic Village. Picnics are allowed and visitors are encouraged to bring a picnic lunch to enjoy while at the site.
After visiting this unique attraction near Pittsburgh, consider driving the half an hour to the Burgh to dine at the
oldest restaurant in the city.