6123 St. Rt. 350
Please note: Fort Ancient will be closed for the Thanksgiving holiday and will reopen during normal hours of operation the following business day.
Managed on behalf of the Ohio History Connection
History of Fort Ancient State Memorial
In Warren County, Ohio, an isolated peninsula rises 80 meters (about 260 feet) above the muddy banks of the Little Miami River. There exists an immense monument to the dedication and technological savvy of the original inhabitants of prehistoric North America. This vast 51 hectare (about 126 acres) plateau is enclosed by embankment walls that stand 1.5 to 7 meters (about 5 to 23 feet) high, constructed by repeatedly dumping baskets loaded with soil upon one another. The Hopewell, known for their engineering expertise, built these walls and many other features both within the enclosure and on the steep valleys that surround the site: conical and crescent-shaped mounds, limestone pavements and circles, and many subsurface elements that are currently coming to light. Today, the Fort Ancient State Memorial is listed on the National Register of Historic Places because of its importance to Ohio prehistory.
Early investigations at Fort Ancient were conducted in the form of mapping expeditions in the early 1800s and expanded towards the end of the century to surface collecting and full-scale excavations by William King Moorehead, a local man from Xenia, Ohio. Moorehead, along with others, was convinced that the impressive bluff-top embankment walls were created to defend against invaders. Later research showed, however, that Fort Ancient represents an embankment of ceremonial space rather than a fortress. Archaeological investigations have been nearly continuous at Fort Ancient since Moorehead, but the techniques used and the information gained have drastically changed how the site is viewed.
In 2005, Dr. Jarrod Burks performed remote sensing, a method for detecting what is below the ground without actually digging, in areas that had not been previously excavated. These tests revealed a mysterious feature never seen before in Hopewell archaeology, a circular arrangement of posts nearly 60 meters (about 200 feet) in diameter. The Ohio Historical Society asked Dr. Robert Riordan, Professor and Chair of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio to conduct an archaeological investigation in this newly discovered area with the help of his Field School in Archaeology. He began excavations in 2006 and has continued each summer since. At the center of this ring of posts, now referred to as the Moorehead Circle, there lays a shallow basin filled with presumably burned red clay. Currently, there are several research projects based on the work being done at the Moorehead Circle in hopes that we might gain insight into how it was used and, potentially, how Fort Ancient itself was used in prehistory.
On August 1st, 2009, the Dayton Society of Natural History (DSNH), parent organization of the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery and SunWatch Indian Village/Archaeological Park, assumed management of the day-to-day operations at the Fort Ancient State Memorial. This partnership between the Ohio Historical Society and DSNH assures that Fort Ancient will remain a protected piece of American prehistory that is available for the public to enjoy.
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