| 7 May 2007
American 'Woodhenge' raises interest in ritual past
During a remote-sensing survey of the Fort Ancient Earthworks in 2005, Jarrod Burks of Ohio Valley Archaeological Consultants discovered a circular pattern in the soil that stretched nearly 200 feet in diameter. Fort Ancient is a massive earthwork in Warren County (Ohio, USA) that was built more than 2,000 years ago by the Hopewell culture.
Robert Riordan, an anthropology professor at Wright State University, directed excavations there in 2006 and last month completed a report on his initial explorations of the circles. Dubbed the 'Moorehead Circle' by Riordan in honor of pioneering archaeologist Warren K. Moorehead, the area was a 'woodhenge,' defined by a double ring of posts. The outer ring consisted of large posts about 9 inches in diameter set about 30 inches apart in slip trenches filled with rock. The inner ring had similar-size posts set about 15 feet inside the outer ring. Riordan estimates that the outer ring would have held more than 200 posts, each 10 to 15 feet tall. Inner posts likely were shorter.
At the center of the circle was a 2.5-foot-deep pit that was 15 feet long by 13 feet wide and filled with red, burned soil. The pit was ringed by a shallow trough in which large timbers of red oak had been burned. Excavators found little ash, so the burned soil must have been brought in.
A radiocarbon date on charcoal from a remnant trace of a post suggests it was built between 40 BCE and 130 CE. Burned timber fragments from the pit were dated 250 CE to 420 CE. The different ages suggest to Riordan that a "sequence of ceremonial events" took place at this location. The two rings of posts and the pit might be related, or they might represent three separate rituals. With less than 5 percent of the circle investigated, Riordan warns, our understanding of it remains tentative.
More information about the excavation of the Moorehead Circle can be found on the Ohio Historical Society's archaeology blog: www.ohio-archaeology.blogspot.com
Source: The Columbus Dispatch (1 May 2007)
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