Archeology dig

Dr. Steve Howard (at left) and his assistant Josue Valdez, who is helped by his pet bird “Pepe,” began the groundwork Monday in setting up this year’s annual archeological dig in Allegany, behind Canticle Farm on Old State Road. Volunteers are welcome to stop and help at the site on weekdays until 4 p.m.

ALLEGANY — It’s been over two years since Dr. Steve Howard has made his way from Texas to Allegany to conduct his archeology dig, and he couldn’t be happier.

On Monday, Howard and his assistant Josue (Ho-Sway) Valdez, began laying the groundwork for this year’s dig by looking over the perimeters of the excavation project.

As with many projects and activities last year, the 2020 archeology dig by Howard, along with international students and local volunteers, had to be canceled due to the pandemic. This year’s event, held later than usual, is in need of local volunteers as the international students were unable to attend due to continued travel restrictions from the pandemic.

Howard of the Allegheny Valley Project archeology dig will be on site behind the Canticle Farm farm field on Old State Road until Aug. 14. For the past several years, Howard has supervised volunteers in excavations conducted on the back farm field owned by Canticle. He and his volunteers have excavated artifacts dated from as long ago as the Archaic Period, between 8,000 B.C. and 2,000 B.C. The digs have been funded through donations to the non-profit project headed up by Howard, field director at the Gault archaeological site near Florence, Texas. He also teaches classes at Austin Community College.

Howard noted that this year’s project will focus on a small area in the southwest corner of the property with the intention of gathering more data on the ceramics and longhouses that had been used by the ancient people to live in. Maps from previous digs will help guide him on where to excavate this year.

While pointing to a hand-drawn grid map that showed where former digs took place in the field, Howard remarked, “These are all thermal features that are spaced evenly apart and are going in a straight line so that means there’s a longhouse here.”

He said the excavation will cover an area between 30 to 35 feet of field that borders on the Allegheny River.

As for volunteers, Howard said those who are interested are welcome to park their vehicles near the Canticle Farm store and walk down an open path to cars that will be parked near the site.

“If they see the cars, they can stop down anytime” during weekday mornings or afternoons until approximately 4 p.m., Howard explained.

Volunteers are needed for any number of chores including paperwork while sitting in a chair.

“From that we have artifact processing where people can wash artifacts if they don’t feel like getting down on the ground” to dig, he continued. “Most of them will be doing trowel work, if they are able to do this. You get down on your knees and trowel (dirt from the ground), but you work at your own pace.”

As an assistant to Howard, Valdez is not a newcomer to archeology digs, as he had visited Allegany in 2019 to help with the excavation.

“It’s pretty exciting,” Valdez said of the past dig in Allegany. As he spoke, Valdez was visited by his pet pineapple conure bird “Pepe” on his shoulder, which had accompanied him on the trip along with his other exotic birds. Valdez said the bird was tame enough to stay with him at the site throughout the day.

Howard said volunteers can work as many, or as few, hours as they please. In addition, they can receive participation documentation to show they had helped with the archeological dig.

The group will welcome volunteers of all ages and abilities. Children under 14, however, must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

For more information, contact Howard by email at avp.archeology@gmail.com

(Contact reporter Kate Day Sager at kates_th@yahoo.com. Follow her on Twitter, @OTHKate)