Visitors to Moundsville this weekend will have a chance to learn about the Indians who built the largest conical burial mound in North America and used to inhabit the Ohio Valley thousands of years ago.
The Grave Creek Mound Archaeological Complex in Moundsville, operated by the West Virginia Division of Culture and History, will host the 20th annual Archaeology Weekend from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. All activities are free and open to the public.
"It's a celebration of West Virginia archaeology," said cultural program coordinator Andrea Keller.
She said there will be a number of activities available throughout the event.
"We'll have a lot of things that people don't get to do on an everyday basis," said Keller.
"Archaeology Weekend has become a popular event at Grave Creek," said site manager David Rotenizer. "It's fun and family-oriented with something to offer and challenge visitors of all ages."
For example, Keller said a man will be doing flint knapping demonstrations.
"That's where you take a raw piece of stone, usually flint, and a skilled craftsman can chip it into the shape of a useful tool," said Keller.
On Saturday, Lori and Andy Majorsky, members of the World Atlatl Association, will be demonstrating how to throw a spear using a prehistoric throwing tool called the atlatl. Lori Majorski is a three-time women's world champion of this skill.
On Sunday, visitors will get the chance to try using the atlatl to throw spears themselves. Keller also said there will be special behind the scenes tours of the West Virginia Archaeological Research and Curation Facility, which is not usually open to the general public. She said people can learn how archaeological research is done, and also that there are a lot of artifacts in the research database that are not usually available to view.
Visitors of all ages are invited to complete a scavenger hunt around the complex and earn prizes donated by Marble King of Paden City. Other family activities include making paper plate puzzles, examining historic ceramics for markings, grinding corn with stone tools, creating a jumping jack turtle toy (which has become the complex's unofficial mascot), and molding small clay "pinch pots" using prehistoric techniques under the instruction of Betsy Cox.
A number of displays will also be set up to educate people on prehistoric life. There will be a display of American Indian artifacts and books by Marian Phillips, Robert and Jaynetta Walden's replicas of prehistoric tools, and crops grown from the museum's Interpretive Garden. Another display will feature American Indian wild plants, both culinary and medicinal, set up by "Wild Liz" Harper of the West Virginia Master Gardeners.
A slide presentation will also be set up to display archaeological work being done at the historic Cockayne Farmstead in Glen Dale. Archaeological films will also be running constantly throughout the weekend in the auditorium.
According to Keller, a lot of the weekend's work will be done by volunteers.
"We have a lot of volunteers," said Keller. "We couldn't do it without them."
Among the volunteers donating their time will be students from John Marshall High School in Moundsville.
"I'm expecting a good turnout, and it's always nice to have it personalized by community participation," said Keller.
For more information, Keller can be called at 304-843-4128 or email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org.