THE ALLEN SITE (33AT653): A LATE PREHISTORIC VILLAGE IN THE HOCKING VALLEY

Elliot Abrams

Ohio University
Ohio Archaeological Council © 2002

The Allen site is located on a high terrace overlooking Margaret Creek, a tributary of the Hocking River, southeastern Ohio. My field school and I surveyed and excavated this site for four field seasons beginning in 1990. The suite of radiocarbon dates of wood charcoal and other botanicals from pit features indicated primary occupation of the site between A.D. 600 - 1300, with the heaviest occupation from A.D. 900 - 1000. The site is predominantly, then, associated with the late Late Woodland or emergent Fort Ancient culture. Since we inferred very few institutional changes from A.D. 700 on, the site is simply classified as "Late Prehistoric."

A systematic random shovel-test survey of the 3 ha site yielded artifacts across the entire terrace, but also revealed the presence of four distinct clusters of artifacts. This indicated that the terrace was not equally used by the past population. The Allen 1 and 2 areas were large and small village areas, respectively. The Allen 3 area was an activity area devoted to pottery manufacture. The Allen 4 area was very disturbed and function cannot be assigned.

The total size of the Allen 1 and Allen 2 residential areas was 0.66 ha and 0.2 ha, indicating that actual village space was far smaller than the total distribution of artifacts. This pattern is paralleled at many other regional sites including those in the Hocking Valley.

We intensively excavated the Allen 1 village, recovering a wide range of artifact types as well as 126 pit features. Several scholars were involved in the analysis of artifacts, ecofacts and features from this village, leading to several conclusions.

The Allen 1 village was composed of eight or so houses, each about 4 - 5 meters by 3 meters. This size house is consistent with those found in many other Late Prehistoric sites. Using a normative figure of five to six people per house, population at the site was from 40 - 60 people. Certainly the Allen site, even post- A.D. 1000, did not contain the hundreds of people estimated for many Fort Ancient villages elsewhere and matches village sizes estimated for sites such as the Muir site in Kentucky.

It is suggested that villages were abandoned, burned, and rebuilt within a restricted territory. Several residential areas were located on this terrace (Allen 1, 2 and perhaps 4) as well as across Margaret Creek. Rather than infer that all were simultaneously occupied, I suggest a sequential occupation. This too is a very common pattern reflected in the archaeological as well as the ethnographic record.

Maize remains were recovered from the site. An AMS date of A.D. 700 placed the adoption of maize within the Late Woodland. Presumably maize expanded as a component of the economy and diet, and we estimate that 30 - 40% of the diet would have been represented by maize at the peak of population at the site.

Finally, the Allen site is located about two miles on either side from other Late Prehistoric sites. From the research data at hand in the context of this pattern of settlement, we have been able to paint a general picture of life in a small Late Prehistoric village in the Hocking Valley.