by Bernard K. Means
In writing up the Fort Hill site report, Edgar Augustine noted a local pot hunter mentioned finding “a skull so large that it was possible for the discoverer to insert his own head inside, which he promptly did” (Augustine 1940:51). Fort Hill was a Monongahela village excavated in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, as a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project from 1939 to 1940. Augustine did not himself make such wild findings or claims during his six years (off and on) running WPA projects in Somerset County. He did, however, make significant discoveries related to the American Indian inhabitants of this region, particularly those living in villages and associated with what is termed by archaeologists the Monongahela tradition.
I’ve admired Augustine’s dedication–and sense of humor–since I first encountered one of his frequent letters and reports while doing research in the closing years of the 20th century. For this reason, I dedicated one of my chapters in Shovel Ready: Archaeology and Roosevelt’s New Deal for America, (2013, University of Alabama Press) to Augustine and his lasting contributions to archaeology.
Later this week, I’ll join fellow contributor Janet Johnson, Curator of Archaeology at The State Museum of Pennsylvania, on Friday, October 4, at The State Museum to present a lecture about our research on New Deal archaeology in Pennsylvania, as part of the Learn at Lunchtime series, as well as sign copies of Shovel Ready. This is also a Pennsylvania archaeology month event. We hope to see some of you there.