| 2 December 2007
Prehistoric remains unearthed in Ohio
On the site beside the Scioto River (Ohio, USA), archaeologists had found fire pits dating to about 550 BCE, shards of pottery, even traces of an ancient building. This week, Ryan Weller and his team found something more: a human skeleton, buried on the riverbank as long as 2,500 years ago. What's more, the skeleton might have company.
The archaeologists said that they have uncovered a prehistoric burial site. Only one burial has been confirmed so far, with a skeleton that appears to be largely intact, Weller said. Another spot appears to be the remains of a cremated person, and clues in the soil suggest that other people might have been buried nearby. "Possibly up to nine," Weller said.
Weller had been assessing the property's historical value before Columbus builds a pumping station there. "A lot of times, we're out digging empty holes," he said. Weller focused on the latest site while walking along the Scioto. He noticed discolorations in the eroded bank that appeared, to his experienced eye, to be the cross-section of a pit of some kind. In the two months since then, the team has uncovered five fire pits, which served as heat sources and ovens for those who lived there. The spot wasn't rich in artifacts, so crew members were stunned when they began digging in another pit and found the skeleton.
The site appears to have been a seasonal encampment for people who lived during the Early Woodland time period, Weller said. They likely were drawn there for a variety of reasons, ranging from good hunting or fishing grounds to bountiful nut supplies. The team hasn't dated the human remains, but the nearby fire pits found at the same depth date to about 550 BCE. "What makes this period so interesting is, it is the first farmers in the Ohio Valley. They were still hunting, gathering and fishing, but they had begun the process of settling down into villages and growing crops," said Bradley T. Lepper, curator of archaeology at the Ohio Historical Society. Weller said he found no evidence that the burials on the site involved mounds seen at other sites. "This may be something that predated the Mound Builders," he said.
The team will spend the next several weeks excavating the site. What will happen to the human remains is unclear. Weller said myriad agencies determine where they end up, whether in museums or with a particular American Indian group. The negotiations are complex and sensitive, he said.
Source: The Columbus Dispatch (1 December 2007)
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