When the first Europeans entered the Ohio valley, they encountered hundreds of mysterious earthen mounds and enclosures.
According to University of Cincinnati architectural historian John Hancock, a primary reason the ancient American earthworks seemed so mysterious was their vast scale and subtle geometries. That made them fundamentally different from traditional Western ideas of what architecture should look like.
Wanting to learn more about these strange and monumental structures, European-American settlers, soldiers and missionaries often asked local American Indians about them. The answers the Indians provided tell us much about what the historic tribes of the eastern Woodlands thought about the earthworks, but they do not appear to cast much light on their original purpose and meaning. Read more.
CHILLICOTHE, Ohio — The ancient people of the Hopewell culture who built earthwork mounds in Ohio 1,600 to 2,000 years ago continue to give up their secrets.
The latest might be a “woodhenge,” a circular enclosure of wooden posts. Imagine Stonehenge, but with timber.
National Park Service archaeologists who are excavating a field at Hopewell Culture National Historical Park near Chillicothe believe they have found evidence of such a wooden-post circle.
It would have been built by the same civilization that constructed the earthwork mounds near Chillicothe, in Heath and Newark, and near Lebanon in southwestern Ohio. Read more.
A geologist studied fossils to confirm that stones used in 19th century Ohio grain mills originated from France. Fossils embedded in these millstones were analyzed to determine that stones known as French buhr were imported from regions near Paris, France, to Ohio in the United States. Dr. Joseph Hannibal, curator of invertebrate paleontology at The Cleveland Museum of Natural History, was lead author on research published in the Society for Sedimentary Geology journal PALAIOS.
The study documents a technique that uses fossils to definitively distinguish French buhr from similar-looking Ohio chert (also known as flint). The most revealing fossil is a one-millimeter wide reproductive structure of a charophyte (a type of algae also known as a stonewort) that occurs in the rocks of the Paris Basin, a geological province centered around Paris, France. Read more.
Archaeologists excavating Ohio Hopewell mounds occasionally come across the remains of people who had been buried with separate human skulls. Hopewell artisans also sculpted representations of decapitated heads and headless human torsos.
Does this mean Ohio’s ancient American Indians were headhunters?
Mark Seeman, professor emeritus at Kent State University, says that these decapitated heads were battle trophies. But Timothy Lloyd, an archaeologist at the University of Albany, points out that some of the bodies and skulls belonged to women, who seldom were warriors in indigenous societies. Read more.
CLEVELAND — The beer was full of bacteria, warm and slightly sour.
By contemporary standards, it would have been a spoiled batch here at Great Lakes Brewing Company, a craft beer maker based in Ohio, where machinery churns out bottle after bottle of dark porters and pale ales.
But lately, Great Lakes has been trying to imitate a bygone era. Enlisting the help of archaeologists at the University of Chicago, the company has been trying for more than year to replicate a 5,000-year-old Sumerian beer using only clay vessels and a wooden spoon.
“How can you be in this business and not want to know from where your forefathers came with their formulas and their technology?” said Pat Conway, a co-owner of the company. Read more.
MARIEMONT — At the village swimming pool, on a bluff high above the Little Miami River, an Ohio Historical Marker recognizes one of the most important archaeological sites in eastern North America.
It’s long been known that American Indians buried more than 1,000 of their dead at this place, which archaeologists call the Madisonville site. The historical marker says it is “the largest and most thoroughly studied” site of the late Fort Ancient culture, which spanned the years from 1450 to 1670.
And yet, since 1879, when physician and archaeologist Charles Metz began excavating the burial grounds and identified an earthwork built by the Indians, major mystery has lingered: Where, exactly, did those people live?
Two weeks ago, on the flood plain below the bluff, students of University of Cincinnati anthropology professor Ken Tankersley dug up what they believe is the answer. Read more.
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Authorities are seeking people they say vandalized an ancient snake-shaped Serpent Mound by burying what may be hundreds of small muffin-like resin objects at the southern Ohio earthworks.
The Columbus Dispatch reports that the objects buried at the 63-acre Native American site in Peebles were embedded with aluminum foil and quartz crystal. Three have been found so far.
The Ohio Historical Society says a YouTube video posted by a group calling itself Unite the Collective shows people running across the earthworks. It includes comments by individuals describing themselves as “light warriors” who say they planted the objects to “help lift the vibration of the earth so we can all rise together.”
Authorities say those responsible face misdemeanors punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a $5,000 fine. (source)
TOLEDO, Ohio — The Toledo Museum of Art says it will return an ancient water jug to Italy that investigators believe was probably illegally dug up from that country years ago.
The 2,500-year-old water vessel, or kalpis, has been on display at the Ohio museum since 1982, when it was purchased from an antiquities dealer out of Switzerland. It will be displayed in the museum’s Libbey Court until it leaves for Rome, probably in late summer.
"The right thing to do is to return this object," museum Director Brian Kennedy told The Blade newspaper. "We knew we’d likely lose this. We’ll miss it."
Italy has pressed an aggressive campaign to win back ancient Roman, Greek and Etruscan vases, bowls, statues and other artifacts prosecutors contend were looted from the country. Read more.