Lynn Simonelli

Bill Kennedy

Dayton Society of Natural History
Ohio Archaeological Council © 2002

The Wegerzyn Garden Center Site (33 My 127) is a Fort Ancient culture site in Dayton, Ohio that has been a subject of investigation since 1993. It is a small Anderson phase (Griffin 1943; Prufer and Shane 1970) habitation that was occupied sometime in the twelfth or thirteenth centuries.

The features, artifacts, and ecofacts from the Wegerzyn site are very similar to those of the nearby SunWatch/Incinerator site (33 My 57). SunWatch includes dozens of structures, three hundred storage/trash pit features, numerous hearths, cooking features, sweat lodges, a stockade, and a central plaza with a large central pole. The features and structures are arranged in concentric circles around the plaza and their placement suggests that astronomical alignments were being observed to schedule maize planting and harvesting dates (Goss 1988).

In contrast, the Wegerzyn site is smaller, possibly slightly earlier in time, and does not appear to have been as rigidly planned. The site has yielded the remains of two structures, fifteen pit features, three cooking features, and six human burials. It is not likely that this site was a nucleated, circular village; the absence of such a layout implies that the inhabitants did not use astronomical alignments such as those found at SunWatch. A sizable collection of ceramics, lithics, and animal bone has been recovered from Wegerzyn.

The temporal placement of Wegerzyn is early (A.D. 1000 - 1200), or middle Fort Ancient (A.D. 1200 - 1400). The ceramics are grit-tempered Anderson Cord-marked, indicative of an early or middle occupation (Figure 1). Less than 0.1 percent of the ceramics recovered so far have been shell-tempered, which is not a common temper in southwestern Ohio until the middle period (Drooker 1997). Diagnostic lithics are few in number, but are consistent with an early or middle period occupation as are two radiocarbon dates. An additional five samples have been submitted for dating.

Figure 1: Grit-tempered lug handle with incised and punctate decoration and human-effigy face node at center (max. width is 6.0 cm).
Figure 1: Grit-tempered lug handle with incised and punctate decoration and human-effigy face node at center (max. width is 6.0 cm).


One of the questions being explored at Wegerzyn is the function of different pit features. Of the fifteen pit features discovered, there may be at least three classes. These include: deep bell-shaped traditional storage/trash pits; spherical shallow storage/trash pits; and deep bowl-shaped pit features with minimal artifact assemblages. This last class is difficult to understand and includes at least three of the pit features. It has been speculated that these pits may represent prehistoric privies due to: a potential similarity to an Oneota privy (Hiorns 2001), the paucity of artifacts that would otherwise suggest a trash pit, and the bowl-like shape which makes them ineffective for storage. We are presently considering how to demonstrate the function of these pits. If results show that they do appear to be privies, they would be the first prehistoric examples identified in Ohio to our knowledge.

Our findings from Wegerzyn are helping to refine our understanding of early/middle Fort Ancient habitations. Due to its small size, Wegerzyn may represent an under-examined form of settlement. Its unusual features and layout may indicate that early sites may exhibit more diverse traits than previously considered.

We will continue our work at Wegerzyn in the summer of 2002 and we are beginning formal analyses of the recovered assemblages. We are also attempting to relocate the nearby Steele Dam site (33 My 1) to explore a possible relationship between these two sites. Questions, comments, and visits are welcome.

References Cited

Drooker, Penelope B.
 1997  The View from Madisonville. Memoirs of the Museum of Anthropology, No. 31, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Goss, Arthur F.
 1988  Astronomical Alignments at the Incinerator Site. In A History of 17 Years of Excavation and Reconstruction - A Chronicle of 12th Century Human Values and the Built Environment, vol. I, edited by James M. Heilman, Malinda C. Lileas, and Christopher A. Turnbow, pp. 314-355. Dayton Museum of Natural History, Dayton, Ohio.

Griffin, James B.
 1943  The Fort Ancient Aspect: Its Cultural and Chronological Position in Mississippi Valley Archaeology. University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor.

Hiorns, Keith
 2001  Interpretation of Soil Chemistry at Krause Site, 47LC41, Feature 181. Manuscript on file, Mississippi Valley Archaeology Center, La Crosse, Wisconsin.

Prufer, Olaf H. and Orrin C. Shane, III
 1970  Blain Village and the Fort Ancient Tradition in Ohio. The Kent State University Press, Kent, Ohio.

Latest News

by Kevin Schwarz on May 10, 2021
by Eric Olson on April 30, 2021