6123 St. Rt. 350
Managed on behalf of the Ohio History Connection
Support Fort Ancient... Make a Donation Today!
Fort Ancient Ongoing Research and Programs
The embankment walls at the Fort Ancient earthworks in Warren County, Ohio, have been under siege by erosion since their construction nearly 2,000 years ago. In an attempt to repair damage already done and prevent further harm, the Ohio Historical Society (OHS) began a mitigation campaign with the help of Save America’s Treasures, a public-private partnership between the National Park Service and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Prior to the movement of heavy machinery across the interior of the North Fort, remote sensing was performed by Dr. Jarrod Burks of Ohio Valley Archaeology, Inc. (now Ohio Valley Archaeological Consultants, Ltd., OVAC) in 2005 at the request of OHS. Burks’ surveys, both magnetometry and electrical resistance, revealed several subsurface anomalies that necessitated ground-truthing in the form of archaeological investigations before work on the embankment walls could begin. The magnetometry indicated a circular feature, 60 meters in diameter, southwest of the maintenance road / main entrance road intersection. Roughly at the center of the circular anomaly was a strong magnetic feature that, upon testing, proved to contain burned soil and charcoal. Additionally, Burks interpreted two rectangular anomalies within the circle, and two outside it, as the footprints of prehistoric structures.
Dr. Robert Riordan, Professor and Chair of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Wright State University, was contacted by OHS to conduct excavations of the areas in question. Riordan and the Wright State University Field School in Archaeology began work in the summer of 2006. Excavations began on two tracts that cut across the perimeter of the circular anomaly and an area containing the central feature. Due to Fort Ancient’s relatively early protection, the interior plateau was never subjected to mechanized cultivation, as is an issue with many archaeological sites in the Ohio Valley Region. As such, the movement of artifacts and cultural features from their original contexts is not nearly as severe. Acknowledging the contributions of the first professional archaeologist to dig at Fort Ancient, Riordan coined the name “Moorehead Circle” to refer to the circular anomaly in the North Fort.
Dr. Riordan and the Wright State field crew came back to the Moorehead Circle at Fort Ancient in 2007, 2008, 2009, with plans to continue this arrangement in future seasons as well. During excavation, they found post molds in the areas that were excavated around the Circle’s perimeter. These posts would have been set at least one meter (about three feet) below ground and stood up to five meters (about 15 feet) tall, making a ring of tall wooden posts around the Circle. At the center, excavations revealed a large pile of red soil where the remote sensing recorded the magnetic anomaly. Hundreds of broken bits of pottery and charcoal ringed the red earth. Native American groups expressed concerns regarding the red soil because it likely had a ceremonial significance to the builders of the site. Out of respect for those concerns, any burned red soil that had been removed was returned to the central feature once excavations in that area ceased. Currently, research is being conducted on the artifacts, plant remains, and soils that came from the Moorehead Circle in hopes that we may gain new insight into the builders of Fort Ancient and how they lived.
©2013 Fort Ancient. All Rights Reserved.