Moorehead Circle Reveals New Secrets

Fort Ancient CERHAS image

Recreation of the Fort Ancient complex.

The ceremonial life of Native American civilizations before the arrival of Europeans was far more complicated than the simplistic notion of powwows and dreamcatchers as presented by countless Hollywood movies. The Moorehead Circle, part of the Fort Ancient complex in Ohio, is one case-in-point. New research has shown that this structure was more than just a circular embankment of earth (which is quite impressive in and of itself.) This research shows the circle was surrounded by a ring of posts (200 in all) aligned with the summer solstice and the earth in the central firepit was brought to the site from some other location.  Special seating or standing areas for specific clans were also thought to be part of this structure. Read more at the article below:

The Moorehead Circle, located at the head of one of the major ravines leading up from the Little Miami River, was a triple ring of large, wooden posts surrounding a central pit filled with red earth. A 40 by 50 ft rectangular structure was located adjacent to this central altar. An arc of alternating trenches and prepared floors on the southern half of the circle may have been something like bleachers, though Riordan doesn’t think it necessarily had wooden seats. In an e-mail, he suggested to me that these floors could have been places where “particular social groups, like members of clans, were supposed to watch the rites that occurred at the Circle’s center.”

Read the full story here: http://ohio-archaeology.blogspot.com/2012/12/the-moorehead-circle-ceremonial-machine.html

Study of pipestone artifacts overturns a century-old assumption

Just because something’s been published by a “scientist” doesn’t mean it’s fact. The story below is one example. For one hundred years archaeologists have been repeating a lie about the origins of the stone used to create pipes found at one Hopewell Culture site in Ohio. The original archaeologist assumed the pipes were made from local stone but didn’t actually test this to make sure it was true. The stone actually was sourced from a quarry in an entirely different state (Illinois) but not one archaeologist ever bothered to question the original assertion and so for one hundred years they all dutifully repeated the same falsehoods as if they were fact. As the principal investigator notes in the article below:

“This is how mythology becomes encased in science…This study really says to the archaeological community, you need to go back to the drawing board….You’ve been telling stories for decades that are based on essentially misinformation.”

How many other archaeological falsehoods based on assumptions and assertions will be overturned in the future? Read the story below for the details:

CHAMPAIGN, lll. — In the early 1900s, an archaeologist, William Mills, dug up a treasure-trove of carved stone pipes that had been buried almost 2,000 years earlier. Mills was the first to dig the Native American site, called Tremper Mound, in southern Ohio. And when he inspected the pipes, he made a reasonable – but untested – assumption. The pipes looked as if they had been carved from local stone, and so he said they were. That assumption, first published in 1916, has been repeated in scientific publications to this day. But according to a new analysis, Mills was wrong.

In a new study, the first to actually test the stone pipes and pipestone from quarries across the upper Midwest, researchers conclude that those who buried the pipes in Tremper Mound got most of their pipestone – and perhaps even the finished, carved pipes – from Illinois.

The researchers spent nearly a decade on the new research. They first collected the mineralogical signatures of stone found in traditional pipestone quarries in Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri and Ohio. Then they compared the material found in those quarries to the mineralogical makeup of the artifacts left behind by the people of Tremper Mound.

Less than 20 percent of the 111 Tremper Mound pipes they tested were made from local Ohio stone. About 65 percent were carved from flint clay found only in northern Illinois and 18 percent were made of a stone called catlinite – from Minnesota.

The researchers are still puzzling over how most of these materials made it to Ohio from Illinois, and are baffled by another new discovery. Pipes from a site only about 40 miles north of Tremper Mound, an elaborate cluster of immense mounds known as Mound City, were carved almost entirely from local stone. Mound City was inhabited at about the same time or shortly after Tremper Mound, and the pipes found there are stylistically very similar to the Tremper pipes.

The researchers describe their findings in a paper in American Antiquity.

These results should remind archaeologists that things are not as simple as they sometimes appear, said Thomas Emerson, the principal investigator on the study and the director of the Illinois State Archaeological Survey (ISAS) at the University of Illinois.

“This is how mythology becomes encased in science,” he said.

The study also confirms that the people who produced these pipestone artifacts, known today as members of the Hopewell tradition, were more diverse and varied in their cultural practices than scientists once appreciated, Emerson said.

Read the full story here: http://news.illinois.edu/news/12/1218pipestone_ThomasEmerson.html

Shawnee Lookout Oldest Hilltop Settlement?

“Shawnee Lookout (2005),” Oil on Canvas by Mary Louise Holt. Click image to purchase at NatureArtists.com.

The Shawnee are one of the most important Native American groups in North America due to their long standing and far flung trade networks. They had trading outposts throughout eastern North America from the Great Lakes to Florida. One site known as Shawnee Lookout in Ohio appears to have been continuously occupied by the Shawnee for over 2,000 years. It is also much larger than the original 1960 archaeological investigations revealed. Read an excerpt from the news report here:

The discoveries continue to surprise for a team of UC students digging in Shawnee Lookout Park, with a major new mound being located and a rare kiln used to fire pottery excavated in recent weeks, along with even more evidence emerging to support the theory that the site could be the largest continuously occupied hilltop Native American site in the United States.

But perhaps most importantly from this year’s work, evidence was also found to bolster the theory that Shawnee Lookout was the largest continuously occupied hilltop settlement established by any Native American group. The dating of recent evidence found argues for cultural continuity at the site, meaning the Hopewell who lived at Shawnee Lookout up to 2,000 years ago are showing direct links to the Shawnee people who were living on the site less than 300 years ago.

Work this summer was conducted by a group of more than 20 students working in the Hamilton County Park District property in southwestern Ohio as part of UC’s Ohio Valley Archaeology Field School. Much of the summer was devoted to excavating the remains of structures, dwellings about the size of a modern-day ranch house, says UC Assistant Professor of Anthropology Ken Tankersley, who oversaw work at the site this summer.

“The site we were working at had been previously looked at back in the 1960s and was considered a small village site,” Tankersley says. “This summer we did an extensive survey of the site, and it is so densely vegetated, you can understand how there were features that were missed. We found a number of mounds at other sites around the park. While it had always been thought that there were about 40 archaeological sites in Shawnee Lookout, it now looks like there are many, many more.”

Read the full article here: ANCIENT CONNECTION: NEW EVIDENCE POINTS TO SHAWNEE LOOKOUT AS OLDEST CONTINUOUSLY OCCUPIED SITE

Large Hopewell site unearthed in Ohio

A huge archaeological site has been unearthed in Ohio dating to the Hopewell time period. From the news report:

Five weeks of digging this summer by professional and amateur archaeologists from the Cleveland Museum and the Firelands Archaeological Research Center, guided by the magnetic readings, have confirmed the presence of a major occupation, and have begun to reveal some tantalizing details about the encampment and its inhabitants.

It’s one of the earliest, largest and most sophisticated Native American settlements in northern Ohio, Redmond said.

Artifacts such as sherds of pottery and razor-sharp flint tools called bladelets indicate that three distinct prehistoric groups occupied the settlement off and on, beginning as early as 2,500 years ago, at the same time the Roman Republic was rising. They remained until shortly before European explorers arrived in the area in the 1600s.

Evidence suggests the site may have, over time, served multiple purposes: a ceremonial spot, a wintering shelter, a defensible village and a trading hub. Its plentiful artifacts are in the same style as those made by the mound-building Hopewell people in southern and central Ohio, but it’s not clear whether those items were imported, or crafted by locals imitating the Hopewell traditions.

Read the full article here: Cleveland Museum of Natural History researchers uncovering prehistoric American Indian settlement in Huron County

Virtual First Ohioans

The Ohio Historical Society has a new online exhibit entitled Virtual First Ohioans which includes videos and photos of artifacts found at many of Ohio’s most important archaeological sites. The site covers every archaeological period in Ohio from the Archaic to the Woodland to the Mississippian. The exhibit includes extensive information on the most important cultures to have lived in Ohio including the Adena, Hopewell, and Mississippian cultures.

Visit the Virtual First Ohioans exhibit.

Researchers unearth glimpse of Adena hunter-to-farmer shift

Ohio’s Adena culture represents a turning point in state history. Situated between the nomadic hunting and gathering cultures of the Archaic period and the more settled farming cultures of the later Woodland period, the Adena culture represented the dawn of a new way of life for Ohio’s ancient people.

Archaeologists now are fleshing out the details of the daily lives of Ohio’s first farmers, who were known mostly for their mortuary and ritual sites, such as Chillicothe’s Adena Mound, for which the culture is named.

Archaeologists Craig Keener and Kevin Nye, with the Professional Archaeological Services Team in Plain City, investigated three Adena encampments in central Ohio that show strong continuities with the earlier hunting and gathering way of life as well as hints of the changes that, in Asia, are described as the Neolithic Revolution.

Their results are reported in the current issue of the Midcontinental Journal of Archaeology.

The three sites are situated in the uplands and likely represent autumn camps focused on gathering and processing nuts — especially hickory nuts. Before this work, most known Adena habitation sites and camps were located along rivers. The upland setting and the focus on nut collecting are more what we would expect for Archaic period camps.

New developments are revealed by the presence of broken pots and, in one pit, a handful of seeds representing the earliest domesticated plants in Ohio: goosefoot, sumpweed and maygrass.

The pottery suggests a less nomadic way of life, because the large pots of the Adena were both heavy and fragile. The seeds indicate an increasing commitment to food production rather than simply collection of Ohio’s natural bounty.

The sites that Keener and Nye studied capture a glimpse of groups on the cusp of change — no longer simply hunter-gatherers and not yet fully committed farmers. Such sites will provide the clues to understanding how small steps led to a giant leap for humankind.

Read the story here.

Researchers unearth glimpse of Adena hunter-to-farmer shift

Ohio’s Adena culture represents a turning point in state history. Situated between the nomadic hunting and gathering cultures of the Archaic period and the more settled farming cultures of the later Woodland period, the Adena culture represented the dawn of a new way of life for Ohio’s ancient people.

Archaeologists now are fleshing out the details of the daily lives of Ohio’s first farmers, who were known mostly for their mortuary and ritual sites, such as Chillicothe’s Adena Mound, for which the culture is named.

Archaeologists Craig Keener and Kevin Nye, with the Professional Archaeological Services Team in Plain City, investigated three Adena encampments in central Ohio that show strong continuities with the earlier hunting and gathering way of life as well as hints of the changes that, in Asia, are described as the Neolithic Revolution.

Their results are reported in the current issue of the Midcontinental Journal of Archaeology.

The three sites are situated in the uplands and likely represent autumn camps focused on gathering and processing nuts — especially hickory nuts. Before this work, most known Adena habitation sites and camps were located along rivers. The upland setting and the focus on nut collecting are more what we would expect for Archaic period camps.

New developments are revealed by the presence of broken pots and, in one pit, a handful of seeds representing the earliest domesticated plants in Ohio: goosefoot, sumpweed and maygrass.

The pottery suggests a less nomadic way of life, because the large pots of the Adena were both heavy and fragile. The seeds indicate an increasing commitment to food production rather than simply collection of Ohio’s natural bounty.

The sites that Keener and Nye studied capture a glimpse of groups on the cusp of change — no longer simply hunter-gatherers and not yet fully committed farmers. Such sites will provide the clues to understanding how small steps led to a giant leap for humankind.

‘Woodhenge’ at Fort Ancient raises interest in ritual past

Tuesday, May 1, 2007 3:25 AM
BY BRADLEY T. LEPPER

During a remote-sensing survey of the Fort Ancient Earthworks in 2005,
Jarrod Burks of Ohio Valley Archaeological Consultants discovered a
circular pattern in the soil that stretched nearly 200 feet in diameter.
Fort Ancient is a massive earthwork in Warren County that was built more
than 2,000 years ago by the Hopewell culture. Robert Riordan, an
anthropology professor at Wright State University, directed excavations
there in 2006 and last month completed a report on his initial
explorations of the circles. Dubbed the “Moorehead Circle” by Riordan in
honor of pioneering archaeologist Warren K. Moorehead, the area was a
“woodhenge,” defined by a double ring of posts.
The outer ring consisted of large posts about 9 inches in diameter set
about 30 inches apart in slip trenches filled with rock. The inner ring
had similar-size posts set about 15 feet inside the outer ring.
Riordan estimates that the outer ring would have held more than 200
posts, each 10 to 15 feet tall. Inner posts likely were shorter. At the
center of the circle was a
2.5-foot-deep pit that was 15 feet long by 13 feet wide and filled with
red, burned soil. The pit was ringed by a shallow trough in which large
timbers of red oak had been burned. Excavators found little ash, so the
burned soil must have been brought in. A radiocarbon date on charcoal
from a remnant trace of a post suggests it was built between 40 BC and
AD 130. Burned timber fragments from the pit were dated AD 250 to AD
420. The different ages suggest to Riordan that a “sequence of
ceremonial events” took place at this location. The two rings of posts
and the pit might be related, or they might represent three separate
rituals. With less than 5 percent of the circle investigated, Riordan
warns, our understanding of it remains tentative. “We avidly look
forward to subsequent field seasons, new data and altered perspectives,”
he wrote.
More information about the
excavation of the Moorehead Circle can be found on the Ohio Historical
Society’s archaeology blog:

www.ohio-archaeology.blogspot.com/.

Bradley T. Lepper is curator of archaeology at the Ohio Historical
Society.

Octagon Earthworks’ alignment with moon likely is no accident

February 13, 2007
BRADLEY T. LEPPER
Columbus Dispatch
The Octagon Earthworks in Newark is one remnant of the Newark
Earthworks, recently listed by The Dispatch as one of the Seven Wonders
of Ohio. Earlham College professors Ray Hively and Robert Horn demonstrated in
1982 that the walls of this 2,000-yearold circle and octagon were aligned to the points on the horizon, marking the limits of the rising and setting of the moon during an 18.6-year cycle. The implications of this argument for our understanding of the knowledge and abilities of the ancient American Indian builders of the earthworks are astounding. But how can we know whether they deliberately lined the walls up with the moon or whether the series of alignments is just an odd coincidence?

In the current issue of the Midcontinental Journal of Archaeology, Hively and Horn use statistics to address this question.

And while they acknowledge that they cannot provide a definitive answer, their analyses certainly offer compelling evidence to support their idea that the sites are among the world?s earliest astronomical observatories.

Hively and Horn focused on five alignments. These are the main axis of the site, which points toward the maximum northerly rise point of the moon, and the orientation of four of the octagon?s eight walls, which align variously with the moon?s maximum southern rise point, the minimum northern rise point, the maximum northern set point and the minimum southern set point.

They performed a “Monte Carlo” analysis in which a computer randomly generates more than 10 billion equilateral octagons, randomly aligned them to a compass bearing and then checked how many astronomically significant alignments resulted.

They determined that, even “making the most generous plausible combination of assumptions favoring chance alignments,” the odds that the alignments at Newark are merely accidental are about one in a thousand. Using more reasonable assumptions, the odds are more like one in 40 million.

[Read the full article here: http://www.dispatch.com/live/contentbe/dispatch/2007/02/13/20070213-D7-04.html]