The Forest Service Youth Conservation Corps is teaming up with archeologist technicians from the Allegheny National Forest to preserve the past.
They’re working to excavate the Allegheny National Forest Tally Ho area to find out what’s left to be preserved after looters poached the property — all before the lumber in the woods are sold off as part of the timber project.
U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service Public Affairs Officer Chris Warner explained why the teens — ages 15 and 16 — are a vital part of the process.
Warner said, “It’s a great way for kids to learn about forest service, to learn about their own backyard” referring to the Allegheny National Forest. He went on to emphasize that it helps youth understand the value of the forest and the hands-on experience helps spark their passion toward a clearer career path.
Trip Hoover, who is from Bradford and is part of the YCC, cited the use of a sieve to dig through the soil as a part that he particularly enjoyed. Hoover explained that he finds it fun to “preserve the remnants of what you find sifting through the soil and learning about the history of the area itself.”
The Forest Service chose five teens from the Bradford side of the Allegheny National Forest and five from the Marienville side to take part in the opportunity with the Corps.
Nathan Gabriel, the district archeologist, believes that the Tally Ho area may have been occupied by Native Americans hundreds of years ago. The damage to the site caused by looters in the years since makes it impossible to ascertain what the Native Americans did at the site or how they used it.
The archeologists now, working with the Corps, are trying to preserve what’s left — arrowheads, bits of bone or whatever they find.
Gabriel emphasized that the less disturbance of a site over the years, the easier it is to determine its history.
“The less interfered with the site is, the more clear the history of the site becomes, from finding out whether the site was used as a battlefield in the war or how the Senecas lived their lives from day-to-day at the site, or whether they just used it as a camping space during their travels,” Gabriel said.
Three archeology technicians were at the site leading the excavation process, Steven Campbell, Mack Cline and Megan Holleran. Holleran helped explain their objectives and how they go about completing them.
Their objectives include finding out what’s left in the soil that can be salvaged, seeing how much is still left to be discovered on the given site, determining how to preserve the artifacts that do end up being found, and assessing the damage done to the site by looters. They accomplish these tasks by taking GPS points and performing detailed write ups from the excavation process. Using this, they are able to tell the age of the soil and the extent of damage done to it.
Gabriel explained, “Each level of soil tells a story, which is why looting is so destructive, even centimeters of change can make a huge difference.”
Holleran went on to explain, “The soil is dug into one-meter-by-one-meter units, 50 centimeters by 50 centimers, 4x4 squadrons. Where measurements and data are collected every 10 centimeters to better understand how the soil changes.”
The importance of preserving these areas cannot be understated, because every centimeter matters. Gabriel gave a great analogy, stating “soil reads like a book, if it’s been obstructed or obtruded or whatever, pages get torn out and the book is much more difficult to read.”
Learning about the importance should start early, the officials opined.
The Forest Service officials and its archeologists concurred that they would like for more people to become aware of how fragile the Allegheny National Forest is and why it’s important to respect one’s backyard.