Search JMU Web | Find JMU People | Site Index   
 Montpelier Magazine

The JMU president is not chasing gophers on the Quad. He visits JMU archaeology professors and students as they survey the history and pre-history of Big Meadows on Skyline Drive.


Professors lead students in a survey of the history of Big Meadows - a world heritage archaeological site

JMU President Linwood H. Rose is helping Lillian Ledford ('03) and a Harrisonburg High School student excavate a test pit - a 1-foot-square excavation unit that is dug according to natural stratigraphy - at Big Meadows in Shenandoah National Park.

JMU students in the 25-year-old summer archaeological field school give public tours of the meadow that anthropology professor Carole Nash describes as 'a world heritage ecological site' The students explain archaeological methods and findings to park visitors interested in the high-elevation meadow that once drew native peoples from as far away as 70 miles, perhaps for hunting.

Through a cooperative agreement with the SNP, JMU's sociology and anthropology professors and students locate as many archaeological sites as possible at Big Meadows. The park is developing a long-term management plan and needs to know what's there. Nash and her students dig test pits every 50 feet along a grid to sample the meadow. In the third year of the field school, students studied how long-term climate changes affected the use of the meadow. Students have also documented a World War II mountain warfare training camp, an 1850s homestead from one of the pre-Park families, 14 Native American sites and evidence of prehistoric activity. 'Watching the students move from being introductory students to being practicing archaeologists is incredibly satisfying,' says Nash.