The Highland County Gist Settlement: Archaeological Investigations at a 19th Century African American Community in Southern Ohio

Jarrod Burks, Ohio Valley Archaeology, Inc.

In 1815 wealthy British plantation owner Samuel Gist died in England, and as stipulated in his will, his 300+ slaves were set free from his plantation in Virginia. But, because of an 1806 law stating that freed slaves had to leave Virginia within a year or suffer re-enslavement, Gist’s estate sought land elsewhere, in Ohio, to establish new communities for the freed families and individuals. The 207-acre Highland County Gist Settlement, established in 1831, was the last settlement to be established and the only one still intact. Today much of the settlement is used for raising crops and growing hay, and it is still home to a few descendants of the original settling families. In this talk I present the results of recent archaeological investigations that seek to locate and document the settlement’s original cabin sites. This work is being done in partnership with high school students from a Research History class at Washington Senior High School in Washington Court House. Shovel testing, geophysical survey, and small-area excavations have already identified many cabin sites. Our main goal in the project is simple: document as much as possible about 19th century life at the settlement before it too disappears.


Newark and High Bank: Different Valleys, Different Architects, Variations on a Theme

Nomi Greber, Cleveland Museum of Natural History

For more than two decades Ray Hively and Robert Horn have studied the early records and maps of the Newark Earthworks.  They have combined this with personal field work at the site and astronomical knowledge and formulated an elegant master design plan that ties the Newark Earthworks into particular hills in the Muskingum Valley and to events the ancient designers could have seen in the sky.  No written records exist to verify that the Hopewell builders did devise such a plan.  Finding evidence of connections between earthwork design and astronomical events at High Bank, the only other earthworks that includes an octagonal enclosure, would support the conclusion that Hopewell architects did use astronomical knowledge in their earthwork designs.  The walls at High Bank, unlike the Circle-Octagon enclosures at Newark, are no longer readily seen on the ground and cannot be surveyed today as Bob and Ray surveyed Newark.   In order to map the walls at the accuracy needed to test possible astronomical connections, we depend upon geophysical surveys, limited test excavations, archived records, and the sometimes frustrating use of global positioning systems (GPS).  Summary results of field work to date at High Bank and variations that differ from the design plan of Newark will be presented.


Preliminary Investigations at the Historic John Brown Tannery, Crawford County PA

Mallory Haas, Student Intern, Cuyahoga Community College

Nearly 30 years before the radical actions at Harpers Ferry, John Brown bought land and moved his family to New Richmond, PA. He built a farm house and tannery, and lived and worked there for ten years before leaving to return to Hudson, NY. Although Brown ultimately failed to make the tannery a success, the building was used for various industries and occupied until the end of the nineteenth century. This paper presents preliminary research into the use of the structure, including limited artifact analysis, geophysical testing, and archival work to piece together the use history of this tannery and catch a glimpse of the life of an important figure in United States history.


The Newark "Holy Stones": The Social Context of an Enduring Scientific Forgery

Bradley T. Lepper, Ohio Historical Society

Jeffrey Gill, docent and interpreter for the Newark Earthworks/Flint Ridge
OHS sites

The Newark "Holy Stones" are one of the most infamous frauds in Ohio archaeology.  Long dismissed by professional archaeologists simply as a crude effort to support the ethnocentric notion that the so-called "Lost Tribes of Israel" built the mounds and earthworks of eastern North America, when examined in their social context, they actually shed light on an historically significant debate in 19th century anthropology.  The champions of polygenesis believed African Blacks and American Indians were separate species and legitimately could be displaced from their homelands and enslaved.  Supporters of monogenesis argued that all humans were descended from Adam and Eve and human slavery was a moral and spiritual outrage.  When viewed in this context, the "Holy Stones" appear to be scientific forgeries designed to refute arguments for polygenesis and to undermine the scientific support for slavery promulgated by the "American School" of Physical Anthropology. 

Early Ohio archaeologist Matthew Canfield Read wrote that frauds "will always in some way represent the ideas of the time of the forgery."  Nevertheless, the "Holy Stones" continue to find support in some contemporary special interest groups, such as some fundamentalist Christian sects and supporters of extreme cultural diffusionism.  What keeps this forgery, seemingly tailor-made to address an arcane 19th century debate, alive and well in the 21st century?  In this presentation, we argue that its ongoing relevance relates to the same deeply held views on "race" that inspired the doctrine of polygenesis, but that did not evaporate with its overthrow.


The King Cervalces: A Stag-Moose from Medina County

Linda Pansing, Ohio Historical Society

In August 2008, a prehistoric Stag-moose (Cervalces scotti) was uncovered during construction activities in Medina County, Ohio.  The Ohio Historical Society was contacted and conducted a one day salvage excavation of the site resulting in one of the more complete specimens recovered in Ohio.  Of deeper interest are clear signs of predation apparent on the bone.


Late Archaic Archaeology at Burrell Orchard: The 2008 CMNH Field School

Brian G. Redmond, Cleveland Museum of Natural History

During June and July 2008, the Department of Archaeology at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History conducted test excavations at the Burrell Orchard site (33Ln15) in Lorain County, Ohio.   Testing at this previously-recorded, multicomponent habitation site revealed extensive Late Archaic period midden deposits and a stone tool assemblage dominated by stemmed lanceolate projectile points.  Numerous thermal features, post molds, and apparent smudge pits indicate a fall-winter base camp occupation focused on the collection of nut resources and the processing of deer and deer hides. 


LiDAR Assessments of Hopewell Earthworks

William F. Romain, Research Affiliate, OSU Newark Earthworks Center

LiDAR is a new remote sensing technology that uses laser light to scan the terrain and generate three-dimensional images of the earth’s surface. LiDAR is similar to RADAR, except that LiDAR uses near-infrared light rather than radio waves. In this presentation, LiDAR data are used to generate very accurate, three-dimensional images of Hopewell earthworks. Previously unseen images and perspectives are shown. Using these new images, various design variables for individual earthworks are considered.


Hill Forts: Dispelling the Myths

Kenneth B. Tankersley, University of Cincinnati

Hilltop earthworks, located in the Ohio Valley, have been previously labeled as Hopewell forts.  Detailed geological analyses demonstrate that these earthworks are not fortifications, but complex gravity-fed hydraulic structures, which channeled spring waters and surface runoff to sites where indigenous plants and cultigens were grown in a highly fertile, but drought prone loess soil.  Drill core sampling, x-ray diffractometry, high-resolution magnetic susceptibility analysis, and radiocarbon dating demonstrate that these earthworks were built during two distinctive periods—by the Hopewell during the Post-Holocene Climatic Optimum and by the Fort Ancient during the Little Ice Age.


The Discovery and Identification of the Bark Cortland

David M. VanZandt, Zin Technologies Inc.

The bark Cortland sank in Lake Erie on 21 June 1868 after a collision with the sidewheel passenger steamer Morning Star off Avon Point, Ohio. Efforts were undertaken to locate this shipwreck using historical locational information. A sidescan sonar search was performed, and on 30 July 2005 a shipwreck was discovered. A preliminary pre-disturbance archaeological survey was conducted, and the information collected was compared to the collected historical data. The comparison yielded no inconsistencies, and the wreck was identified as the bark Cortland.