Students tackle archaeology law with documentary

Students tackle archaeology law with documentary

WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. - Two Lycoming College students are working on the documentary film, Just Below Your Feet, to investigate the status of cultural resource management in the state.

What began as a combined, independent-study research project by seniors Stephanie Bowen, of Barto, an archaeology and American studies major, and Sara Griggs, of Downey, Calif., a digital communication major and archaeology minor, has steamrolled into an interesting partnership with Northcentral Chapter 8, Society for PA Archaeology, the Lycoming County Historical Society and has enlisted the assistance and interest of State Rep. Rick Mirabito (D-Williamsport).

The students have contacted current and former lawmakers and politicians, historic preservation officers, government employees, museum directors, university faculty, professional archaeologists and even recent graduates looking for careers in the field of archaeology to learn more about the history of Act 70, a 1995 amendment to the State History Code. Historic preservationists and archaeologists argue the law weakens the state’s ability to protect its cultural heritage. Numerous prehistoric and historic sites have been threatened, and many lost, to development in the law’s wake.

The duo created a Facebook page, www.Facebook.com/JustBelowYourFeet, where they share photos and video clips of their progress. They also host weekly events to update their fans on their research.

According to Bowen, her interest in the topic was piqued while taking an archaeology course at Lycoming College. “During an American Archaeology class, I learned about Act 70 and its position within Pennsylvania archaeology,” she said. “As a young archaeologist and PA resident, I found it troubling that I was unaware of a law that had a tremendous influence upon archaeology in my state. Hence, I decided to investigate how Act 70 began and how the legislation has affected archeology in the state.”

Researching the project gives rise to mixed feelings. “I’m excited about the interest both professionals and the public are showing in this project,” Bowen said. “People are generally concerned about the status of Pennsylvania’s cultural resources, and they should be. While Pennsylvania makes a valiant effort to preserve its past, our research is showing that Act 70 hinders the process and can lead to lost cultural resources.”

Griggs, the cinematographer in the group, also has a background in archaeology. “I have always been interested in history and archaeology and having the public more interested in museums and educational outreach programs, but I never knew how I could personally do that,” she said.

But Griggs also is experiencing the positive and negative aspects of the project. “It’s exciting to work with the equipment out in the field, and have someone helping,” she said. “Visiting and interacting with various archaeologists in Pennsylvania has greatly increased my interests in historical preservation and public awareness on the topic.” 

Lycoming College is a four-year, residential liberal arts and sciences school dedicated to the undergraduate education of 1,400 students. Its rigorous academic program, vibrant residential community and supportive faculty foster successful student outcomes. Lycoming offers 36 academic majors and is recognized as a Tier 1 institution by U.S. News & World Report. Founded in 1812 and located near the banks of the Susquehanna River in Williamsport, Pa., Lycoming is one of the 50 oldest colleges in the nation. For more information, visit www.lycoming.edu.