Monday, June 27, 2011
In an excerpt from the interview published by the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), Feder discusses the importance of ancient American archaeology:
"How could it not be important to truly understand a crucial part of the human past: the discovery and populating of two continents? In essence, the exploration of, migration to, settlement of, and adaptation to the many and diverse environments of the New World provides anthropologists, historians, cultural geographers, human ecologists, demographers, etc., with what amounts to a laboratory in which they can study the myriad ways in which people create ways to live.
Understanding the timetable for these adaptations, the source populations, and the environmental changes these people faced can help to illuminate the human condition and, if we're lucky, remind us in the present about ancient responses to the sometimes remarkably similar challenges we face today."
Here's a link to the NCSE interview with Feder (a subscription is required):
As an alternative, you can read a longer interview with Feder for free on the "Damned Connecticut" website:
In this interview Feder discusses why he thinks it's important to devote time in his college classes to debunking misconceptions about the past:
"I'm interested in sort of debunking stuff, but that’s not the point. The point is that if belief in extraterrestrials built the pyramids or in psychic archaeology or whatever, if that’s what gets people interested, I hook them into my classes and then I reel them in, and show them what the real deal is, and how archaeology actually works, and what we really know about the past. And it works pretty well."
Monday, June 20, 2011
The Ohio Historical Society sincerely thanks Project Director, Dr. Mark Groover; Chris Keller, an archaeologist with Ball State University and a native of the Fort Recovery area who served as special organizer/liaison; and all of the students for their hard work!
For more about their project and discoveries visit the link below.
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
According to Gregory Vogel, the director of the Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville Archaeology Field School:
Most people do not understand that few Illinois archaeological sites contain artifacts that have any commercial value, Vogel said.
He said that tiny pieces of pottery and bits of food items such as burned hickory shells and animal bones could greatly add to the story of people who lived nearly a thousand years ago, if the excavation is done in a precise manner.
"But there is nothing of commercial value here. You couldn't sell it," he said.
Sunday, June 05, 2011
The myth was based principally on the perceived contrast between the scale and remarkable sophistication of the ancient architecture, which gave every indication of having been abandoned for at least centuries, and the generally small-scale and apparently relatively culturally impoverished American Indian societies then dwelling in the Ohio Valley.
In most versions of the myth, the Moundbuilders were some non-Indian "race" from Europe, Asia, or perhaps Atlantis that built a magnificent empire in this hemisphere only to be overrun and obliterated by the ancestors of the "savage" American Indians, much as Eurasian barbarians were thought to have toppled the Roman Empire.
One of the most evocative tellings of this epic is in William Cullen Bryant's poem, "The Prairies":
" … All is gone;
All - save the piles of earth that hold their bones,
The platforms where they worshipped unknown gods,
The barriers which they builded from the soil
To keep the foe at bay - till o'er the walls
The wild beleaguerers broke, and, one by one,
The strongholds of the plain were forced, and heaped
With corpses. The brown vultures of the wood
Flocked to those vast uncovered sepulchres,
And sat unscared and silent at their feast."
Historians largely have assumed the myth was created by European-Americans more or less out of whole cloth as a just-so story to account for the presence of the amazing ancient earthworks, but also to cast the indigenous American Indians in the role of relatively recent intruders whose tenuous title to the land was based merely on conquest. Under these circumstances, the Europeans need not have felt any compunction about sweeping aside the supposed savage hordes to re-claim the land on behalf of civilization.
In my Columbus Dispatch column for June 5th I present the argument that this myth actually owes much of its substance to American Indian oral traditions recorded by early European pioneers. This does not, of course, lend credence to the story or make its use as a justification for the usurpation of American Indian lands any less heinous; but it makes the history of the myth more complicated and interesting. It also serves as a cautionary tale against uncritically accepting oral traditions as conveyors of accurate historical information.
There is no archaeological, biological or linguistic evidence for Europeans in America prior to the tentative visits of the Norse beginning around A.D. 1000. The presence of the Norse was confirmed most spectacularly and unequivocally by the archaeological discoveries at L'Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland, which is a Canadian National Historic Site.
The alleged evidence offered in support of the Moundbuilder Myth consists of outright frauds (such as the Newark “Holy Stones”) or misunderstandings of data that have more parsimonious interpretations (most of the gigantic earthworks never served as fortifications). Regardless, the Moundbuilder Myth has achieved an enduring popularity for reasons concisely (if somewhat harshly) presented by Gerard Fowke in his 1888 article in the Ohio Archaeological and Historical Quarterly:
"The truth of the matter probably is, that all this misconception is due to the readiness of people to accept notoriety and bombast for authority and learning; to believe the false, rather than the true, so long as it appeals strongly to their love of the marvelous.
And this credulity is, in turn, fostered and encouraged by shrewd empirics who see in it something that may be worked to their own advantage; or stimulated by the honest but mistaken enthusiast who wishes to believe, and to have others believe, that these mounds of earth indicate for ancient America a dominion and glory like that shadowed forth by the stupendous ruins of half-forgotten empires of the East."
Actually, Ohio's earthworks are wonders of the ancient world in their own right and do not need the borrowed glories of any Eastern empire.
Here's a link to my column in the Columbus Dispatch:
By the way, I made an error in my Dispatch column, I say that Europeans didn't get to Ohio until the mid-18th century. That was wrong. It should, of course, be mid-to-late-17th century.
The classic illustration of an "ancient American battlemound” is from the Traditions of De-Coo-Dah by William Pidgeon (1858). Robert Silverberg, in his popular book The Mound Builders, described Pidgeon’s work as “a crazy masterpiece of pseudoscience.”
Friday, June 03, 2011
Fort Ancient State Memorial near Oregonia (just north of Cincinnati) will host the 21st annual Fort Ancient Celebration: A Gathering of the Four Directions. This event is perhaps Ohio’s premier Native American festival with a weekend of storytelling, games, crafts, lectures on Native American heritage, drumming and singing and up to 100 Native American dancers in full regalia. This is an excellent opportunity to experience the finest of both traditional and contemporary Native American culture and as well as explore the vast 2,000 year old Fort Ancient earthwork and its natural surroundings. There is also a museum on site dedicated to the history of 12,000 years of Native American presence in Ohio.
Attached is an announcement for this year’s event for driving directions, hours and admission information.
Also on the weekend of June 11 and 12, The Great Circle Earthworks, located on Route 79 in Newark (formerly Mound Builders State Memorial), will play host to a re-enacted Civil War Encampment of the 76th Ohio Volunteer Infantry. The 76th was organized in Newark in1861 at what was known then as Camp Sherman. The camp was named in Honor of John Sherman a noted judge and politician in Ohio at that time and the younger brother of the famed Union General, William Tecumseh Sherman. The 76th saw extensive action the western theatre early in the war, especially in Tennessee.
The encampment will allow visitors to travel back in time for the day and become part of the Civil War as they watch re-enactors set up and live in an infantry bivouac just as they did at Camp Sherman 150 years ago. They will see how the 76th lived day to day, cooked their meals, performed military drills and trained to use artillery back when the world was a much different place.
Attached is a link to the Greater Licking County Visitors and Convention Bureau for information on the 76th O.V.I. Encampment and other events in and around Licking County this summer. Enjoy!
Thursday, June 02, 2011
Curated at the Ohio Historical Society, this collection, A4913 Phase I-III Archaeological Data Recovery at Site 33Wa823 Rockies Express Pipeline East Project, Warren County, Ohio, contains project records and over 36,000 artifacts.