Work Relief Archaeology: Laboring for the Past

by Bernard K. Means

Winder excavation at Powell 1

Winder excavation at Powell 1

B8240_powell 1 excavation

Today is Labor Day in the United States and I wanted to briefly thank the men and women who worked so hard during the Great Depression to uncover our nation’s past.  So many of us rely on the records they generated and the artifacts that they recovered for our own research–in fact, I finished an article yesterday on two American Indian sites excavated by a Work Projects Administration (WPA) crew in Somerset County, Pennsylvania.  For the Powell 1 and 2 sites, I was able to perform sophisticated statistical analyses because of the care that the WPA field director, Edgar E. Augustine, took with the sites.  He did this under difficult circumstances–constantly shifting crews of varying experience, and brutally cold days as well.

A tip of my metaphorical hat to the men and women of the WPA, as well as the CCC, NYA, FERA, PWA, and other “alphabet soup” programs that supported archaeology during the Great Depression.

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