Tuesday, January 24, 2012
Attached is a link to a site that recounts a similar article that was passed on to me a while back. I guess you’ll just have to read it and judge such a venture on its own merits. Enjoy!
Saturday, January 21, 2012
Ancient earthwork foundations and filled ditches are dramatic, but they are not the only kinds of archaeological sites that remote sensing methods can detect; and magnetometry is only one of many remote sensing technologies available for archaeological investigations.
The Ohio Historical Society (OHS) now routinely uses remote sensing surveys at sites prior to any planned construction activities that have the potential for disturbing the traces of past activities hidden beneath the surface that are, after all, part of the reason we preserve and interpret these sites in the first place. Over the past several years, these projects have resulted in important new discoveries many of which have been reported in this blog.
At Fort Laurens, Ohio’s only Revolutionary War era fort, we traced the outlines of the 18th century military occupation using metal detector surveys. We discovered a scattering of metal objects beneath the sod, including a deposit of around 200 musket balls that were intended to have been used by the U.S. soldiers stationed at the fort, but which were lost in an unfortunate accident. This work began as an attempt to discover the location of the 1764 blockhouse built by Henry Bouquet’s forces on or near this site, but it was expanded over the years in response to various proposed construction projects across the property. Jarrod Burks is now engaged in a remote sensing survey of the entire site.
At Serpent Mound, prior to the construction of updated toilet facilities, Burks conducted a remote sensing survey of the areas that were going to be affected by the excavations necessary to install the new septic system. Burks located features that we decided to save by re-routing the proposed water lines around them.
At Fort Ancient, Burks used a variety of methods to examine an area that was going to be used as an access route for heavy equipment employed in repairing damaged segments of the earthworks. Burks discovered traces of a previously unknown circular arrangement of large posts, now referred to as the Moorehead Circle. We decided to alter our plans to avoid disturbing this area, but subsequently it has become the focus of a multi-year investigation led by Robert Riordan of Wright State University.
In each case, remote sensing technologies revealed important clues to our past that might otherwise have been lost. In the Serpent Mound example, the results of the survey were used to preserve the remains of the ancient feature. At Fort Laurens and Fort Ancient, the results were used to focus archaeological investigations on specific anomalies, which have revealed important new insights about these remarkable places.
Stay tuned to this blog for announcements of discoveries that are sure to be made by forthcoming remote sensing investigations at some of the most important historic and prehistoric sites in the State of Ohio.
Here is a link to my column in the Dispatch:
Here is a link to a previous blog post on the discovery of the large collection of musketballs at Fort Laurens:
"Ft Laurens Musketball Concentration: evidence of a fight or fiasco?"
Here is a link to a previous blog post on Serpent Mound project:
"New discoveries at Serpent Mound"
Here is a link to a previous blog post on Fort Ancient's Moorehead Circle:
"Secrets of the Moorehead Circle"
Friday, January 20, 2012
Our conversation was recorded and has been posted as part of the January 19th "Wild Ideas" podcast.
Serpent Mound, at more than 1400 feet long, is the largest effigy mound in the world whereas "Alligator" Mound is a much smaller 200 feet long. Radiocarbon dating and other evidence situate both of these effigies in the Late Prehistoric era (circa AD 1000-1650), which not coincidentally overlaps the time period when all of the hundreds (or even thousands) of effigy mounds were being built in the Upper Midwest.
My sense is that the Serpent and the "Alligator" mounds represent the Great Serpent and Underwater Panther, masters of the Beneath World in the traditions of many Native American cultures. The folklorist George Lankford, in his book Reachable Stars, argues that the Serpent and Underwater Panther actually are manifestations of one supernatural being: "…the Native view, rooted in shape-shifting and symbolic imagery, seems to find much less distinction between the two."
These mounds, then, may have been monumental shrines dedicated to this potent spirit.
If you're interested in learning more, here is a link to the Wilderness Center webpage:
Here are links to a few related blog entries:
The Serpent and the "Alligator": Ohio's ancient effigy mounds
The Snake's Tale: How Old Is Serpent Mound?
New Discoveries at Serpent Mound
And for even more information about Ohio's effigy mounds, check out my articles in Timeline:
Lepper, Bradley T.
1998 Great Serpent. Timeline Vol. 15, Number 5, pages 30-45.
2001 Ohio's "Alligator." Timeline Vol. 18, Number 2, pages 18-25.
Thursday, January 19, 2012
On Sunday, February 5th from 2-3 pm, I will talk about the latest theories concerning the origins and purposes of Ohio’s amazing earthworks as well as the status of the effort to nominate eight of Ohio's earthworks to the UNESCO World Heritage List. Those sites include four Ohio Historical Society sites, the Newark Earthworks, Fort Ancient, Seip Mound and Serpent Mound, along with the several sites belonging to Hopewell Culture National Historical Park.
The remarkable mounds and earthen enclosures were built by a number of ancient American Indian cultures over many centuries and for a variety of purposes, but there remain many unanswered questions: Why are many of the earthworks so enormous? Why are many aligned to the rising and setting of the sun and moon? Were the earthworks centers for a vast network of trade and commerce?
For my views on these and whatever other questions you bring with you, join me at the Ohio Historical Society's Discovery Theater on Sunday February 5th at 2 pm.
After the "Small Talk," if there's any interest, I'll lead a guided tour of our new archaeology exhibit in the Museum of the Ohio History Center -- Following in Ancient Footsteps, where you can see some of the most spectacular works of art ever produced by Ohio's mound-building cultures. Those remarkable objects will speak louder than any words you'll hear from me!
I will hope to see you there!
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Monday, January 16, 2012
Now the OHS membership newsletter Echoes, the title evoked the sounds within a then fifteen year old building, now known as Sullivant Hall on High Street, but built in 1913 as the Ohio State Museum. The structure, its collections and archaeological archive, and the growth of the OAHS as a strong and vibrant institution is due in no small part to the work of William C. Mills.
Mills' Archeological Atlas of Ohio, published in 1914 and well known to scholars as his masterwork, probably would have come out a few years earlier were it not for the priority of the Museum Building; like much of Mills’ efforts, he built on work begun by others, but those labors were made complete and brought into public view and wider understanding through the managerial skill and political adeptness of this nearly accidental archaeologist.
When Mills met Warren Moorehead, OAHS’ first Curator of archaeology, the new assistant curator was six years older than his superior, having been trained as a pharmacist with a smattering of medical training, working in Kansas and a number of small towns around Ohio. The work of a druggist didn’t look like a real calling for him, but he did serve as secretary of the Newcomerstown archaeological society, where his reports on local discoveries came to the attention of A. A. Graham, secretary of the OAHS.
Shortly afterwards, in 1897, Mills came back to the Ohio State University where he had begun a course of study sixteen years before, interrupted by his decision to try pharmacy college in Cincinnati, and marriage to Olive Buxton in 1885. In 1898, 38 years old, Mills received his Bachelor of Science in horticulture and forestry, began working in Orton Hall with Moorehead as assistant curator, and quickly found himself in charge of the nascent collections and operations as Moorehead went to the desert southwest on an extended leave to treat his pulmonary tuberculosis.
This period of leave ended with Moorehead’s resignation, and the executive committee of the society offered the job to Mills, which he accepted. Three years later, at the excavation of the Adena Mound in Chillicothe, Mills would be responsible for discovering the Adena Effigy Pipe, a rare piece of figurative and functional art which is one of the great treasures of Ohio, and was a symbol to Mills of the importance of his work in archaeology for the rest of his life. In 1902, Mills earned a Master of Science degree from Ohio State, and directed the moving of the collections and archives to Page Hall in the following year.
But through the remaining decades of William Corless Mills’ life, he would not restrict himself to any one subject. He established the Department of Natural History of the OAHS, and was well known for his skill in ornithology and horticulture, active in a number of professional societies including the American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Anthropological Society, American Ethnological Society and the American Ornithological Union (among many other awards & memberships). All this, while supervising digs at sites as varied as Tremper Mound, with its famous cache of effigy pipes, and Seip Conjoined Mound. His work at those sites, as well as the Harness and Baum Works, were always quickly and fully published in the pages of the OAHS quarterly and annual reports.
For both Moorehead and Mills, the major part of their salary was actually through Ohio State as both teacher of classes and curator for collections on OSU’s behalf, a tangled set of loyalties and obligations that began to be unwound with the 1921 creation of the position Director of the Museum for OAHS, with the executive committee stepping back into a more traditional role as a governing board of trustees. Mills was the first Director of the OAHS, leaving the original position of Curator of Archaeology open for his assistant, as he had succeeded Moorehead, and Henry Shetrone became the third holder of that post.
An intriguing footnote is that apparently, during his early days holding multiple roles both on behalf of the society and with the university, he was president and treasurer of the Ohio State Athletic Association. When he showed that the program was operating in a major deficit situation, the association asked Mills to fix things, which he answered could only be done if “he be given complete management of all athletics - football, basket-ball, baseball and track work.” They did so, and in one year this early athletic director of Ohio State sports turned a $3,000 deficit into a $8,500 surplus!
It had to be that same kind of astute understanding of people and processes that worked for Mills to get both the State legislature and legendary OSU President William Oxley Thompson to work together to build the Museum Building on High Street, starting in 1913, with the next major wing added in 1926. (In 1970, OHS moved to their current home near the fairgrounds, and the building was given to OSU and renamed Sullivant Hall.) I find myself sorry that the Museum was never named Mills Hall before the handover, because in many ways, that’s who built both the building itself and the collections within it – as well as shaping the early outline of the OAHS as an organization. Those departments still serve the same scientific and educational purposes today which so caught the interest and attention of William Corless Mills in the 1890s.
The Columbus Dispatch rightly wrote in their pages the day after Mills’ passing: “Nothing in nature or in the life of man was without its interest for him.”
For more information about Mills, check out a tribute published after his death in the Ohio Archaeological and Historical Quaterly Vol. 38, 1928; page 205-219:
You also could read the following short essay in Timeline:
Lepper, Bradley T.2010 William C. Mills: “Tracer of Lost Civilizations.” Timeline Vol. 27, Number 1, 2010; page 8.
Contributed by Jeff Gill, Newark Earthworks Center, the Ohio State University
Friday, January 13, 2012
He was born in Millersport in 1876 and served in Cuba during the Spanish American War. He came back to Ohio and eventually became a reporter. He wrote stories on archaeology and became good friends with William C. Mills, then Curator of Archaeology at the Ohio Historical Society. In 1913, Mills offered him a job as a staff archaeologist.
Shetrone conducted archaeological investigations across the state and made many contributions to our understanding of Ohio's ancient cultures. He unearthed many of the most extraordinary artifacts displayed in the Ohio History Center's new exhibit "Following in Ancient Footsteps," but he did more than excavate sites. He also took the lead in preserving sites for future generations. A partial list of the sites acquired by the Ohio Historical Society during Shetrone's tenure as director includes Fort Hill, Leo Petroglyph, Flint Ridge, the Newark Earthworks, Seip Mound, Shrum Mound, and Williams Mound.
Shetrone was the last of the great self-educated professional archaeologists. He never graduated from college, yet he was one of the most prolific archaeologists of his generation. Although flawed by today's standards, many of his contemporaries regarded his field techniques as superlative. Clark Wissler, one of America's foremost early anthropologists, wrote that "Shetrone does not dig a mound, he dissects it as carefully and intelligently as a surgeon approaches a complicated internal structure."
Shetrone published many articles on his research, but his greatest published work was his 1930 book entitled The Mound-Builders. A few years ago, the University of Alabama Press reprinted this book as part of their "Classics in Southeastern Archaeology" series, so it's widely available again. I contributed the introductory essay on Shetrone's life and work.
Although Shetrone's views on mound-builder archaeology certainly are dated, The Mound-Builders remains an historically important synthesis of the state of the art as of 1930. It is extensively illustrated and his descriptions of excavating at some of Ohio's most famous archaeological sites are well worth reading.
Shetrone dedicated the book to "the average man and woman who, … lack the time and opportunity for digesting the rather extensive but often unavailable literature on the subject." The Mound-Builders is a fitting testament to Shetrone's contributions to archaeology and to the ancient people whose achievements he worked so hard to understand, preserve and share with the world.
Wednesday, January 11, 2012
Out of about 400,000 votes cast, the "Newark Mounds" came in 27th with 763 votes and "Serpent Mound" came in 30th with 642 votes.
The big winner was the state motto – "With God All Things Are Possible" with 286,159 votes.
"The Heart of It All" came in 3rd with 7,501 votes.
Thanks to all of you that cast votes for Ohio's earthworks!
For more information about the results of the survey, check out this article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer:
Monday, January 09, 2012
A presentation on The War of 1812 Double Horse Burial at Ft Meigs to kick off winter lecture series at SunWatch Village
The “Archaeology of Conflict” series is free and open to the public. The SunWatch Village and Museum is located at 2301 W. River Road in Dayton, Ohio off I-75, exit #51, south of downtown Dayton (the exit for Welcome Stadium and Edwin Moses Boulevard). See the attached link.
Friday, January 06, 2012
Ohioans have a new and important way to demonstrate their support for history and historic preservation in Ohio.
For the first time, taxpayers will be able to donate a portion of their state income tax refund to the Ohio Historical Society. The Society will use the funds to create a new grant program to support history-related projects throughout Ohio. From the fund, matching grants will be awarded for projects including exhibits and public programs, repair and rehabilitation of historic properties, care for historic objects and documents, education initiatives and much more, in communities across the state. The new grant program will be open to the hundreds of history-related organizations, academic institutions and local governments looking for support of their local history-related initiatives.
Now an Ohio tax refund can MAKE HISTORY! when a portion is donated to the Ohio Historical Society for the new History Grants Fund. Questions? Give us a call at 614-297-2341