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Ohio Archaeology Council Spring Meeting Program, April 29 2022

Columbus Public Library, Main Branch

Meeting Presentations are free and open to the public.


  • 9:00 Welcome and Check-in, light refreshments
  • 9:20 Opening Remarks by Elizabeth Hoag, President Elect
  • 9:30 Bowen - The Schneider Farms North Locality, Pickaway County, Ohio
  • 9:50 Hayfield and Johnson (Presented by Chidester)- Historic Preservation Master Plan, Warrensville West Cemetery, Shaker Heights Ohio
  • 10:10 Green et al. - The Battle of Peckuwe 1780: Ball State University and Wright State University Research 2016-2022
  • 10:30 Hall et al .(- Pre-recorded)Using Human Remains Detection Dogs as an Emerging Method to Find Unmarked Prehistoric and Historic Burials
  • 10:50 Break
  • 11:00 Wanyerka (Remote) - Where the Earth Meets the Sky: Defining Sacred Geography at an Early Woodland Earthwork Complex in Northeast Ohio
  • 11:20 Hubin (Remote) - Pioneers and Pestilence: Social Memory and Historical Narratives at the Harrison Township Cholera Cemetery
  • 11:40 Burks - On-Going Mapping Efforts at the Snake Den Group Hilltop Mound and Enclosure Site in Pickaway County, Ohio
  • 12:00 Lunch
  • 1:30 Heaton - An Astronomical Investigation into the Functionality of Stone Gorgets in the Ohio Region
  • 1:50 Boatman - Additional Find at Indian Hills Site: An Update
  • 2:10 Mahoney - Wesselman Farm: An Archaic Site on the Lower Great Miami River, Hamilton County, Ohio
  • 2:30 Nolan et al. - Comets, Ritual, and Pseudoarchaeology: A Critical Assessment of Tankersley et al.'s (2022) Catastrophism
  • 3:00 Business Meeting
  • 4:00 Adjorn

Meeting Details:

The meeting will take place Friday, April 29, from 9-4 in the Auditorium (Level A) at the Main Branch of the Columbus Public Library, 96 S. Grant Ave. This event is free and open to the public. The business meeting from 3-4 is restricted to OAC members only.

The Main Library’s attached garage, accessible from Library Park North, offers free parking for the first hour. Rates are as follows:

  • 0-1 Hours: Free
  • 1-2 Hours: $.50
  • 2-3 Hours: $1
  • 3-4 Hours: $2
  • 4-5 Hours: $3
  • 5-6 Hours: $4
  • 6-7 Hours: $5
  • 7-8 Hours: $6
  • 8+ Hours: $10

There are other additional lots around the Library.

Lunch break is from 12-1:30PM, allowing attendees ample time to walk or drive to a number of lunch options, additional information will be provided at the meeting. 

There is also a café at the Library serving limited beverages and refreshments. 

The meetings will be live-streamed and recorded. For additional information or questions, please reach out to Elizabeth Hoag

Presenters, Titles and Abstracts, in Program Order

The Schneider Farms North Locality, Pickaway County, Ohio

Jonathan E. Bowen, Clarke-May Museum, Pickaway County Historical Society

For several years during the 1980s, the Schneider Farms North Locality (33 PI 845), on the east bank of the Scioto River north of Circleville, Ohio was cultivated using moldboard plowing. During that period all artifactual materials were intensively collected by members of the Schneider family. They have carefully curated the collection, which includes well over 1000 items. Material diagnostic of all local pre-contact cultural groups from Early Archaic through Madisonville Horizon Fort Ancient was recovered, with Brewerton-like, Riverton-like, Hopewellian, Terminal Late Woodland, and Fort Ancient artifacts being especially abundant. The study of this collection, with the active participation of the Schneider family, is yielding much information regarding ancient peoples in the area and the region. The availability of data regarding numerous other artifact samples makes it possible to study the materials recovered from 33 PI 845 in regional context.

Historic Preservation Master Plan, Warrensville West Cemetery, Shaker Heights Ohio

Prepared by Kate Hayfield and Maura Johnson, Presented by Robert Chidester, Ph.D., The Mannik & Smith Group, Inc.

The City of Shaker Heights received a Certified Local Government Grant from the Ohio History Connection in 2021 to develop a Historic Preservation Master Plan for the Warrensville West Cemetery, located in the Shaker Village National Register Historic District. The purpose of the plan is to provide a framework for improving the landscape and amenities at the cemetery, enhancing its placemaking potential, and preserving the historic features and character of the cemetery.A multidisciplinary team from The Mannik & Smith Group, Inc. (MSG) was contracted to develop the plan. MSG conducted ground penetrating radar to identify the location of unmarked grave sites and completed an inventory of 170 gravestones in the cemetery. On-site workshops instructed community members and public works employees on the care of gravestones. A site/landscape plan was developed, and suggestions for a comprehensive branding program were included to enhance awareness of the cemetery and encourage community engagement.

Pioneers and Pestilence: Social Memory and Historical Narratives at the Harrison Township Cholera Cemetery

David Hubin, President IRLAB, Lecturer, Anthropology NDSU

This presentation summarizes the ongoing bioarchaeological investigation of the Harrison Township Cholera Cemetery (HTCC) in the village of Lockbourne, Pickaway County, Ohio. Part of a multidisciplinary research team, I focus on the sociohistorical context of the cemetery from its beginnings as a family/community burial grounds, to the supposed site of mass-internment due to the cholera epidemics of the 19th-century, and finally as it exists today - an inactive historic cemetery with an ambiguous past and forgotten ties to the local and descendent community. Historical documents and oral traditions were analyzed for their alignment with, or deviation from, the bioarchaeological record at the cemetery. The result is an interpretation that will continue to be tested and refined as part of the larger research program - as this interpretation becomes part of the ever-changing and context-dependent historical narrative of HTCC.

Using Human Remains Detection Dogs as an Emerging Method to Find Unmarked Prehistoric and Historic Burials

Jennifer Jordan Hall, Cheryl A. Johnston, Kevin R. Schwarz, Andrea D. Crider, and Taylor J. Bryan, YK9 Search and Reunite Services, LLC, Grave Matters Consultancy Group, LLC, and ASC Group, Inc.

Remote sensing techniques, including magnetic survey and ground penetrating radar, are commonly used in archaeology as part of cultural resource management projects. We propose using a complimentary, unconventional remote sensing technique to locate human remains on archaeological sites: human remains detection (HRD) dogs. Dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) have been used with increased frequency to locate human remains in forensic settings, particularly since the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Only recently have they been used to locate ancient human remains. Specialized HRD dogs have been tested on Iron Age sites in Croatia and California. Now we have successfully utilized this modality at a Fort Ancient village site in the Ohio Valley, which dates from AD 1050-AD 1275. The specialized HRD dog has found numerous burials that were not detected by other modalities. Our results suggest that using these specialized HRD dogs in archaeological prospection is uniquely beneficial from a variety of perspectives. We will discuss the benefits of this search modality along with guidelines for proper site preparation.

The Battle of Peckuwe 1780: Ball State University and Wright State University Research 2016-2022 

Lance Greene, Wayne State University, Kevin Nolan, Applied Anthropology Laboratories at Ball State University , Christine Thompson,  Applied Anthropology Laboratories at Ball State University 

Recent Wright State University field schools and Ball State University grant-funded metal detector surveys have resulted in new archaeological information and understanding regarding the 1780 Battle of Peckuwe. In collaboration with the three federally recognized Shawnee tribes and the Clark County Park District, we continue to interpret current archaeological research and move forward with updated interpretation. 

On-Going Mapping Efforts at the Snake Den Group Hilltop Mound and Enclosure Site in Pickaway County, Ohio

Jarrod Burks, PhD, Ohio Valley Archaeology, Inc.

Snake Den Group (33PI5), a hilltop mound and enclosure site located in northeastern Pickaway County, was first published by Warren K. Moorehead in a write up of the 1897 excavations of the Ohio Archaeological and Historical Society. At that time the site was recorded as consisting of three mounds in a line with another probable mound some distance off to the southeast. Two small circular enclosures were identified in close proximity to the mounds, including one in line with the three mounds. The discovery in one of the mounds of walnut-sized silver nuggets with a cremation burial brought the site short-lived national fame, and along with a tubular pipe, suggest the mounds may date to the late Early-early Middle Woodland period (c. AD 200). New mapping work started in 2007, including geophysical survey, LiDAR, and photogrammetry, identified an outer ditch and embankment surrounding the cluster of three mounds and found that the associated small enclosure is a super-ellipse (a “squircle”) rather than a circle. A possible post circle and three notable lines of pit/post-type features also were detected in the magnetic survey data. While excavation has revealed two of these pits to in fact be precontact period in age, the trajectory of these linear pit arrangements showed them to extend beyond the edge of what was assumed to be the site’s “outer” enclosure. Magnetic survey work in the winter/spring of 2021-2022 to the southeast of the site center has encountered a new rectangular enclosure and the extension of the linear pit arrangements, which now measure at least 350 meters long. The pits and the new enclosure now tie together the somewhat distant southeastern mound with the rest of the hilltop enclosure’s features, revealing an earthwork complex that is at least 10 hectares (25 acres) in size.

Where the Earth Meets the Sky: Defining Sacred Geography at an Early Woodland Earthwork Complex in Northeast Ohio

Phil Wanyerka PhD, Cleveland State University

Geophysical and archaeological investigations have been conducted for the past 5 years at site 33CU1 (the Fort Hill Earthwork Complex), the only two known prehistoric earthwork complex located in the Rocky River Metroparks of Northeast Ohio. The site is located at the east end of a 100 foot-high plateau, consisting of three earthen embankments, each with its own external borrow ditch. Our investigations have revealed that the site was constructed during the Early Woodland Period between 360 and 156 BCE. Our investigations have also discovered two previously unreported, small conical mounds located west of the embankments. These mounds likely served as a gateway into the earthwork complex. Due to the site’s prominent location and due to the sparsity of residential debris, we suspect that the earthwork complex not only denoted sacred space but it also likely served as an important astronomical observatory.

An Astronomical Investigation into the Functionality of Stone Gorgets in the Ohio Region 

Jason Heaton, Director of Astronomy, Dayton Society of Natural History

The Hopewell culture has many well-documented cases of earthwork building in association with astronomical alignments.  The Hopewell and earlier cultures of the Ohio Valley also left behind many stone artifacts with unknown functions, such as gorgets and pendants.  While certain examples of these artifacts are often linked with ceremonial function, others exist with purposeful indentations, tally marks, and engravings, suggesting a more utilitarian role.  This presentation focuses on the theory that early gorgets (as well as other artifact types) served as portable time keeping, calendric devices.  For this preliminary study, I created replicas of gorgets and pendants housed at the Dayton Society of Natural History to test the action that one can find direction, time of day, and time of year utilizing these objects.  Results indicate that a number of items may have served as solstice marking devices in combination with a gnomon.  Hourly timekeeping may have also served as a function of these early devices.  Through this presentation, I hope to expand my overall dataset to further support this theory.   

Additional Finds at Indian Hills Site: An Update

Glenwood Boatman, Vice President of the Sandusky Bay Chapter/ASO

The Indian Hills site is in Rossford, Ohio and was a large 1600 A.D. Late Prehistoric Algonquin Village of the Sandusky Tradition. The Indian Hills phase may represent the enigmatic Assistaeronon who are reported to have been at war with the Neutral Indians during the protohistoric period. The site is reported in the Masters Dissertation of James Graves at the University of Toledo. Later recovery of items stolen from Ossuary No. 1 has provided a radiocarbon date for the ossuary. Cleaning of artifacts from Area S Unit 2, midden layer, provided a copper tinkling cone, a small copper bead, pipe stems, and Sandusky Tradition Indian Hills Stamped rimsherds and Cord Wrapped Stick rimsherds of the Western Basin Tradition type. Radiocarbon dates have also been obtained from bone samples in features with significant pipe parts verifying earlier radiocarbon results from charcoal. Finally a radiocarbon date from the Lasalle ossuary site provides a date for the ossuary.

Wesselman Farm, An Archaic Site on the Lower Great Miami River, Hamilton County, Ohio

Leeanne Mahoney, Graduate student at the University of Maryland and Senior Archaeologist at SEARCH Inc.

Wesselman Farm is a previously unidentified precontact site in Hamilton County, Ohio. The site is an early Late Archaic period (4330 ± 30 to 4080 ± 30 BP [4959-4462 cal BP]) habitation site with dense midden development situated on a summit over the junction of the Great Miami River and Taylors Creek. This research was inspired by a small box of stone tools that a family had collected since the 1940s as they noticed the artifacts when plowing the fields on their 15.38-hectare (38 acre) historic farmstead. The thesis project focused on an area of the farmstead where the landowner had discovered most of the artifacts. The landowner’s collection, archival research, geophysical survey, archaeological excavations, and radiocarbon dating each contributed valuable information in locating and interpreting this archaeological site. The data also allows an understanding of the role this site had within the larger Archaic settlement system of extreme southwest Ohio.

Comets, ritual, and pseudoarchaeology: A Critical Assessment of Tankersley et al.'s (2022) Catastrophism

Kevin C. Nolan, Bradley T. Lepper, Bret J. Ruby, Kevin Schwarz, Matthew Davidson, Andrew Weiland, Dee Anne Wymer, Timothy Everhart, Jenifer Aultman, Laura Murphy, and Tony Krus

A popular pseudoarchaeology trend is to claim comet airbursts are responsible for destroying various ancient cultures. Since it is difficult to prove or disprove an airburst at any given time in the past, proponents cherry-pick data to stitched together neo-catastrophist click-bait. Tankersley et al (2022) bring this trend to the Middle Ohio River Valley (MORV) with the claim of a cosmic airburst making the Hopewell culture the latest victims of this pseudoscientific trend. The rich Hopewell archaeological record paints a different picture. None of the hundreds of previous archaeological investigations in the MORV encountered evidence of a widespread cataclysm. While charcoal and burned soils are found on virtually all excavated archaeological sites in the region, these generally relate to everyday heating and cooking. Further, many of the burned surfaces discussed are prepared surfaces for ceremonial fires and crematory basins; not the burned “habitation surfaces” claimed. The evidence Tankersley and colleagues review and present simply does not support their conclusion. The Woodland period literature gives no indication of dramatic “social decline”. Tankersley et al. conflate multiple discrete deposits to create an artificial narrative of a single event. The evidence from Tankersley’s fieldwork does not match the descriptions in the article text or the supplementary material. Tankersley and colleagues misinterpret and quote mine primary sources, thus painting an erroneous picture of the Hopewell archaeological record. In sum, there is no support in the literature to justify the question supposedly addressed by Tankersley et al.’s research design, their new evidence is poorly presented, the reasoning from evidence to conclusion does not follow (non sequitur), and critical details on data collection and analysis are lacking. Nothing in the article or the extant literature supports the conclusion that a comet exploded over Cincinnati in the 3rd or 4th century AD.

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