According to William C. Mills, former Curator of Archaeology (and later Director) of the Ohio Historical Society, there used to be 132 mounds and 28 earthen enclosures in Franklin County. Very few of these have survived the depredations of historic farming and more recent development across the county.
Four mounds located north of Columbus were going to be lost when Alum Creek was dammed to create the Alum Creek Reservoir. They included the Bagley Mound, James Mound, La Moreaux Mound, White Mound and Alum Creek Mound. Fortunately, however, at least these mounds were investigated by the Ohio Historical Society, under contract to the National Park Service, prior to their inundation, so we have a record of what they contained – and not just the objects themselves, but also detailed records of their context.
They appear to be more or less typical burial mounds of the Adena culture, although the archaeologists recovered no formal burials and only a few fragments of burned human bone from these mounds. The Bagley, James, La Moreaux and White Mound had traces of circular wooden structures at their base that likely served, at least partly, as places where mortuary rituals took place. Perhaps the honored dead were housed here on a temporary basis, while the proper rites were performed. Once the rituals were concluded, the spiritual leaders removed the human remains, dismantled the structures and built a mound over the site.
In my latest column for the Columbus Dispatch, I report on a recent re-analysis of these mounds undertaken by Christopher Hays, an archaeologist with the University of Wisconsin – Washington County. Hays' results appear in the Summer 2010 issue of the journal Southeastern Archaeology. He compared what was found in the Alum Creek mounds with what Ohio Historical Society archaeologists found in four approximately contemporary mound sites from the Columbus area – the Davis and Greenbrier mounds located along Big Walnut Creek, the Toephner Mound located along the Scioto River just north of its confluence with the Olentangy River and the Dominion Land Company site, which included a large circular enclosure and two mounds located along the Olentangy River.
You can read my Archaeology column in the Columbus Dispatch to see what Hays learned about the patterns of mortuary ceremonialism in the mounds from these two neighboring areas, but it's a fascinating look at the religious lives of the American Indian peoples that lived in central Ohio between about 800 BC and AD 100.
It's worth noting, however, that Hays' reanalysis would not have been possible if the artifacts, photographs and records of these investigations had not been maintained by the Ohio Historical Society. Our collections are a kind of library that researchers can consult for new insights into the lives of ancient Ohioans. As new analytical techniques are developed or new explanations are proposed, these collections can be consulted to learn new and formerly unexpected things or test new hypotheses about the life and times of ancient cultures. If a researcher in the future decides, for example, that Hays was wrong about some of his interpretations, the material will be here for her or him to check the facts against their alternative hypothesis. That's how science works.
If you want to read more about the archaeology of Franklin County, I highly recommend the short booklet by Don Gehlbach entitled, appropriately enough, The Archaeology of Franklin County, Ohio. Don is a dedicated amateur archaeologist who works as a volunteer in the OHS Archaeology Unit.
Here’s the link if you want to read my Dispatch column: http://www.dispatch.com/live/content/science/stories/2011/03/27/adena-groups-had-own-burial-practices.html?sid=101
The painting is by Susan A. Walton from the Ancient Ohio Art Series and represents a portion of the Adena culture earthworks near “The Plains” along the Hocking River in Athens County, Ohio.
For more information about the Ancient Ohio Art Series, check out OhioPix at http://ohsweb.ohiohistory.org/ohiopix/search.cfm
Thursday, March 24, 2011
About a year ago I posted an entry about the Double Horse Burial at Ft Meigs. Since then, in the summer of 2010, a very large horse burial feature was unearthed along the Maas River near Amsterdam, Holland. Iron Age horse burials have been found occasionally in Europe as well as others dating to the Roman Empire but very few if any of these contained the remains of more than three or four animals. As can be imagined this was the largest equine mortuary feature ever discovered. The feature eventually yielded the remains of 69 horses that were laid out in a linear fashion in a single long trench. Some still had their shoes attached and there was evidence that one animal had been put down with a gun shot. Other than a single stirrup, no buckles, harness gear or other horse tack was recovered from the feature. From radio carbon dates obtained from the feature the burial is thought to date to one of two military incursions into that region during the 16th century. Attached are a couple of images sent along to me by Dr. Angela Simons, the project’s principal investigator. I have also provided a link to a published news article. Enjoy. http://www.physorg.com/news197131761.html Bill Pickard
Wednesday, March 09, 2011
The Great Lakes Historical Society's Peachman Lake Erie Shipwreck Research Center (GLHS/PLESRC) and the Maritime Archaeological Survey Team (MAST) will be conducting their annual Nautical Archaeology Workshop April 30-May 1, 2011 with skills practice dives scheduled for May 21 or 22. The workshop teaches divers why underwater archaeology is important, how they can impact and protect Ohio's wrecks, techniques they will use during shipwreck surveys and much, much more. For a good idea of what the weekend will be like you can visit http://ohio-archaeology.blogspot.com/2007_04_01_archive.html .
In conjunction with the workshop, MAST will hold their annual dinner on the evening of April 30th at the Elyria Holiday Inn. This years Keynote Speaker is Dr. Brian Redmond, Curator and Head of Archaeology, Cleveland Museum of Natural History. His topic will be The Danbury Site: Clues about early Ohioans and their relationship to Lake Erie
"The Danbury Site was discovered in 1977 on the southern coast of the Marblehead peninsula in Sandusky Bay. The site was believed to be Late Woodland (500 – 1000 AD) and was professionally excavated from 2003-2007 by archaeologists from the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. The finds show a society of seasonal habitation that was using pits to store food, including fish from the lake. There is a lot to be learned about the society from the burial practices, which have been found in abundance at the Danbury site. Evidence suggests a more permanent settlement with greater reliance on the Lake and horticulture in the Late-Prehistoric Period (1000 – 1750 AD)."
Both events are open to the diving and non-diving public. For more information on the workshop and dinner you can go to http://www.ohiomast.org/Webpages/PDF_Flyers/2011WorkshopFlyer1.pdf
Post by Linda Pansing