THE SALT WALL, A PROBABLE WOODLAND PERIOD EARTHWORK IN GRANVILLE TOWNSHIP, LICKING COUNTY, OHIO

Andrew M. Mickelson

The Ohio State University
Ohio Archaeological Council © 2001

This abstract summarizes recent archaeological investigations at the Salt Wall site (33 LI 1043) located in Granville Township, Licking County, Ohio. The Salt Wall is situated in a topographically unique setting along the bluffs of Salt Run, a tributary of Raccoon Creek (Figure 1). The surviving portion of the earthwork is about 2 m wide, 0.5 m to 1 m high, and about 150 m long. The entire structure may have been three times longer (a section of earthwork to the north exists, but has not been tested). The Salt Wall may have been a semi-circular enclosure similar to the High Banks earthwork located in northern Franklin County, albeit on a smaller scale. Excavation and background research point to an aboriginal origin rather than an Euro-American origin. Unfortunately, no materials were recovered that would allow for earthwork to be more precisely dated. The earthwork's topographic setting and its morphology, however, suggest that it belongs to the Woodland period.

Figures 1 and 2 


In the fall of 1999 (Mickelson 2000), a test trench 0.50 m wide by 5 m long was extended across the earthwork to evaluate its internal structure (Figure 2). This excavation revealed two episodes of deposition (strata A and B). The mound fill appears to have been collected from the up-slope hillside east of the earthwork, resulting in the excavated ditch. Stratum A consisted of a friable loam, moderate in compaction, with a Munsell color of 10YR 6/4 (light yellowish-brown). Stratum B also consisted of a friable loam that was moderate to loose in compaction and was lighter in color, grading from 10 YR 6/4 to 10YR 7/4 (very pale brown). Stratum C consisted of an extremely compact subsoil with a Munsell color of 10 YR 6/4. Several soil samples for flotation and possible radiocarbon dating were collected during excavation but have not been processed. All soil was passed through a 0.25 inch hardware mesh screen in an attempt to maximize recovery of artifacts. Only a single chert (flint) flake of Upper Mercer chert from Coshocton County was found during excavation. No Historic period artifacts were found during excavation. The internal mound structure is consistent with other prehistoric earthworks in the region. This evidence strengthens the conclusion that the Salt Wall is of prehistoric origin.

In the context of the Raccoon Creek valley, the Salt Wall is consistent in placement on the landscape with other such features (Squier and Davis 1848; Bushnell 1889; Dancey 1991; Hooge 1993; Pacheco 1995; Dancey and Pacheco 1997). Steep terrain in the valley is delineated in Figure 1 upon the basis of slope. Woodland period burial mounds are located adjacent to areas with especially precipitous slopes. Several enclosures including the Granville Fort, a square south of Granville, and a circle southeast of Granville are located adjacent to areas of high relief. The location of the Salt Wall corresponds to the location of a deep, incised valley flanked by precipitous slopes and cliffs of sandstone along Salt Run. Undoubtedly numerous similar earthworks have disappeared from the region's landsurface. It is also very likely that other examples may yet be found and improve our understanding of the human use of the land surface during the Woodland period.

References Consulted

Bushnell, H.
 1889  The History of Granville, Licking County, Ohio. Published by a Company for the Purpose. Press of Hann & Adair, Columbus.

Dancey, William S.
 1991  A Middle Woodland Settlement in Central Ohio: A Preliminary Report on the Murphy Site (33LI212). Pennsylvania Archaeologist 61:37-72.

Dancey, William S. and Paul J. Pacheco (editors)
 1997  Ohio Hopewell Community Organization. The Kent State University Press Kent, Ohio.

Hooge, P .
 1993  Preserving the Ancient Past in Licking County, Ohio: A Case Study. Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation, Department of Art Education, Ohio State University, Columbus.

Mickelson, Andrew M.
 2000  The Salt Wall Archaeological Project Interim Report: Results of 1999 Fieldwork. Copy on file at the Ohio Historic Preservation Office, Columbus.

Pacheco, Paul
 1995   Ohio Hopewell Settlement Patterns: An Application of the Vacant Center Model to Middle Woodland Period Intracommunity Settlement Variability in the Upper Licking River Valley. Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation, Department of Anthropology, Ohio State University, Columbus.

Squier, E. G and E. Davis
 1848  Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley. Smithsonian Contributions to Knowledge, Volume 1. Washington, D.C.