RECENT EXCAVATIONS AT THE OEC 1 SITE (33CU462), A WHITTLESEY TRADITION SETTLEMENT IN NORTHEAST OHIO

Brian G. Redmond

The Cleveland Museum of Natural History
Ohio Archaeological Council © 2001

The most recent research project of the CMNH Department of Archaeology was the investigation of a Late Prehistoric period village called the OEC 1 site. "OEC" stands for the "Outdoor Education Center" of the Independence Board of Education. This wooded nature preserve is located along the Cuyahoga River in Independence, Ohio. The OEC 1 site was discovered during a field survey in the fall of 1999 by Supervisor of Archaeology Field Programs, Mark Kollecker. During systematic shovel-testing of the property, significant quantities of prehistoric cultural material were found across a wide area. Among the artifacts discovered were decorated pottery sherds, stone tools and animal bones. The pottery (Tuttle Hill Notched and related types) and stone tools (Madison points) most closely resemble materials belonging to the late prehistoric Whittlesey Tradition of northeast Ohio (Brose 2000). These village-dwelling, maize-farming societies occupied the main river valleys of northeast Ohio between about AD 1200 and A.D. 1600.

Figure 1. Plan of 2000 excavations and feature distribution
Figure 1. Plan of 2000 excavations and feature distribution
 


More extensive test excavations of the OEC 1 site took place in April and May 2000 in conjunction with the Museum's Archaeology Field Experience program, directed by Mark Kollecker. Testing involved the excavation of twenty-eight, one by one meter square units spaced at five to ten meter intervals (Figure 1). This investigation exposed nine prehistoric cooking and storage pits and several post molds. One of the pit features (Fea. 00-10) contained numerous fragments of an Early Woodland period, Leimbach Cordmarked vessel that is believed to date to around 500 B.C. This discovery revealed that the site had been occupied as long as 2,000 years before the Whittlesey Tradition settlement was constructed.

During the summer of 2000, six weeks of intensive excavations took place at the OEC 1 site in conjunction with the Department of Archeology's Summer Field School, directed by the author. These investigations exposed and sampled additional storage/trash pits, thermal/cooking features, post molds, and a possible semi-subterranean sweat-lodge as well as abundant pottery and stone tool remains. One particularly large maize storage pit (Fea. 00-9) measured 1.66 m in diameter and 1.56 m deep. Butchered animal bone found in these pit features demonstrated the hunting of elk, deer, wild turkey, raccoon, and other small game animals. The discovery of fish bones and freshwater mollusk shell indicated that the village residents also harvested the acquatic resources of the Cuyahoga River. Among the most unusual items found was an engraved slate gorget and a portion of a dog skull that had been cut, ground, and drilled with 14 symmetrically-place holes. The significance of these last items remains uncertain, but they may have been used in ceremonial or ritual contexts. Work continued at the site with the fall session of the Field Experience program. Test excavation units placed to the north and west of the area investigated in the summer uncovered additional Whittlesey Tradition artifacts and pit features. These results suggest that the OEC1 village site was originally between two and four acres (0.75 to 1.5 ha) in size. Testing of the spatial extent of the site will resume in April 2001.

References Cited

Brose, David S.
 2000  Late Prehistoric Societies of Northeastern Ohio and Adjacent Portions of the South Shore of Lake Erie: A Review. In Cultures Before Contact: The Late Prehistory of Ohio and Surrounding Regions, edited by R. A. Genheimer, pp. 96-122. The Ohio Archaeological Council, Columbus.