Ohio college and university students taking part in field schools aided ongoing archaeological research at two Ohio Historical Society sites this summer: Fort Ancient Earthworks and Nature Preserve in Warren County, and Pickawillany, site of an 18th-century Miami Indian town and English traders’ compound that’s part of Johnston Farm and Indian Agency Historic Site in Miami County.
Students Investigate Ancient Moorehead Circle
For the eighth consecutive summer, Dr. Robert Riordan of Wright State University directed a field school of students in investigating the construction methods used to build the Moorehead Circle, a feature of Fort Ancient. The Moorehead Circle is a ceremonial plaza of interlocking limestone pavements once surrounded by a woodhenge, or circle, of very large wooden posts. The entire structure was more than 200 feet in diameter.
Discovered in 2005 during an Ohio Historical Society erosion-control project at Fort Ancient, the Moorehead Circle is named in honor of Warren K. Moorehead (1866–1939), an early explorer of Fort Ancient who served as the Ohio Historical Society’s first curator of archaeology from 1894–1897.
This year’s field school focused on examining a gateway opening along the south edge of the circle, which features an extensive pavement of large limestone slabs. Excavations there revealed at least two major construction episodes, with the original pavement buried beneath a layer of sand, in turn covered with an entirely new layer of stone slabs. The ultimate purpose of the Moorehead Circle is not well understood yet, but what is plainly evident is that a tremendous amount of thought and effort went into construction of this very special feature.
Fort Ancient is one of a number of Ohio sites collectively known as the Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks that are on the United States Department of the Interior’s Tentative List of sites to be considered for nomination to UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
Learn more about Fort Ancient Earthworks and Nature Preserve and read more about the proposed World Heritage List nomination in these stories from the Oct. 2, 2013, issue of Ohio Histore-news.
A Miami Indian and English Traders’ Compound of 1748–1752
Pickawillany was a Miami Indian town located along the Great Miami River north of Piqua from 1748–1752 that included an English traders’ compound. In 1752, French forces attacked Pickawillany, destroying it and driving away the English traders.
This summer, Hocking College students under direction of Dr. Annette Ericksen investigated two large features there, Features 60 and 61. Both appear to have been storage pits that eventually became refuse dumps related to the English traders’ occupation at the site. Both contained mostly animal bone fragments and a few European trade items. Interestingly, Feature 61 also contained a large fragment of a decorated stone pipe bowl, possibly the unfinished work of a Miami Indian resident of Pickawillany.
In conjunction with Hocking College, Ohio Historical Society staff archaeologists conducted investigations designed to locate remnants of the stockade that surrounded the English traders’ compound at the time of the French attack. Although they didn’t find a typical 18th-century stockade line, they did identify the remains of a large squared wooden post.
“While one post doesn’t make a stockade, it may prove valuable in determining just exactly how the Pickawillany stockade was constructed and, more importantly, where it stood on the site,” says Ohio Historical Society Archaeologist Bill Pickard.
Partnerships Provide Benefits
“The partnerships with Wright State University and Hocking College provide great benefits not only to the institutions and students who have a unique opportunity to work at these important sites but to us all, since the information they uncover reveals more about Ohio’s past,” he adds.