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Field School in Ohio Archaeology

The Hudnell Fund

Ohio Archaeological Field School


The Emergence of the Moundbuilders


Field School

The Field School in Ohio Archaeology, established in 1986, has produced a very rich data base on the pre-conquest societies of southeastern Ohio. The research focus has been, and continues to be, excavation of habitation sites rather than burial mounds since it is the living areas where data relating to the domestic life of these past communities will be recovered. The major time period targeted for research is the Woodland period (1500 B.C. - A.D. 1000) as well as those few centuries surrounding this period. This was the time when tribal society was established, evidenced by more sedentary communities, horticulture, pottery, burial mounds and the construction of a large religious center in The Plains. The ultimate goal is to understand what these tribal societies were like and how they compared to other societies elsewhere in the U.S. and beyond.

The Emergence of the MoundbuildersA recent book on the archaeology of the Hocking Valley, The Emergence of the Moundbuilders: The Archaeology of Tribal Societies in Southeastern Ohio, edited by Dr. Elliot Abrams and Dr. AnnCorinne Freter, is based in large part on the field school data. It is dedicated to Dave Hudnell, an Ohio University graduate in anthropology and archaeology who worked on the archaeological field schools, for his significant contribution to the archaeology of this area.



The 2010 Field School initiated excavation of the Patton 3 site in Athens County. Despite the heat, we were able to locate several features that reflect domestic occupation. These were principally postholes and hearths. One of the postholes was radiocarbon dated at 300 B.C. Further excavation of these features may reveal more about this Early Woodland habitation.


We resumed excavation of the Patton site during the summer of 2008. The results of the previous season indicated the presence of a residential site, but the extent of those remains were unknown until we resumed digging. Owing to the unplowed nature of the site, we uncovered perhaps the most intact Middle Woodland house and houselot yet excavated in the state of Ohio. The final phase of this three-phase house was roughly a 5 x 3 meter rectangular house with wattle and daub (dried mud) walls. An interior and exterior heath were used for cooking and economic activity areas, used to make tools and prepare food, were located. This house and associated artifacts clearly indicate an increased commitment to sedentary life.


The 2006 field school excavated the Patton site, a habitation site that spanned several time periods. We focused on recovery of material from about 1100 B.C. through 120 A.D., years that are classified as Early through Middle Woodland. The recovery of pottery, stone tools, and hearths provide us with data reflecting the patterns of increasing sedentism, technological improvement, and intra-regional interaction. Combined with studies of other habitation sites in the area, we expect these analyses from the Patton site to greatly add to our understanding of this important transition from nomadic hunting and gathering communities to more settled horticultural communities.


This research involved the excavation of a rockshelter site north of Nelsonville. This site was used most heavily during the Late Woodland/Late Prehistoric period as a animal processing site. The meat would then be transported to a habitation in the nearby region. Stone tools were also manufactured at the site given the proximity of a lithic outcrop.


The 2002 Field School excavated the Taber Well site. This small site, located along Monday Creek north of Nelsonville, Ohio, yielded a wide range of artifacts including lithics debris and cutting tools, ground stone grinding and pounding tools, and pottery. We also uncovered nearly 20 pit features used for cooking foods. The analysis of the data is ongoing, but preliminary results suggest that the site was used by work groups to process chert obtained from a nearby creek bed, as well as to procure wild food resources from the adjacent area. The added significance of the site is that is was used by these work parties from the Late Archaic (ca. 1500 B.C.) through the Middle Woodland (ca. A.D. 100) periods, demonstrating a continuity in lithic procurement patterns while dramatic changes in settlement patterns by the communities were occurring.


We began excavation of the Taber Wells site, a Late Archaic basecamp. Dated to 2000 B.C., we dug several pit features which hopefully will yield food remains which will allow us to reconstruct seasonality of occupation. Several posts from houses were recovered as well. A nearby quarry of Upper Mercer chert was surveyed and the Taber Wells site may have been also an area where chert was reduced for use throughout the year. We plan to continue excavating this site in 2002.

The Clark site was surveyed and partially excavated. It is located south of Athens and proved to be a chert reduction site. The site was filled with fragments of Brush Creek chert and we expect to analyze this site in concert with the other chert quarrying/processing sites. Finally, we surveyed and collected samples of chert from Vinton County and this chert was different from the above samples. Collectively, this site gives us the comparative samples we need to better understand the patterns of chert procurement by these past societies.


Three sites were dug in the summer of 1998. The Wise site proved to be a Late Archaic hunting and gathering area near Stewart. The Walker site similarly was an area where hunters and gatherers procured wild foods. Located on a ridge top overlooking the Hocking River, this site was repeatedly used from 7000 B.C. through A.D. 200.

The largest site dug in 1998 was the County Home site. This was an Early and Middle Woodland village. Still being analyzed, it appears to have been home to from 15 - 30 people. Very large cooking pits indicate that ritual feasting was occurring here by 1500 B.C. as a site where nomadic hunters and gatherers assembled. On-going research projects include botanical identification and architectural analysis. Once analysis is concluded, this site will represent the only data we have for a Middle Woodland community in the Hocking Valley.

1990 - 1996

These four years of field schools focused intensively on one site - the Allen site. This site was a Late Woodland/Fort Ancient village, occupied from A.D. 600 - 1300. It is currently our best site documenting life during those years. The data have been analyzed and publication is being sought for this work.

1986 and 1988

These two field seasons were devoted to excavating the Boudinot 4 site, an Adena hamlet along Sunday Creek. The site was occupied from 2000 B.C. through 100 B.C. and yielded the first evidence from gardening in the area.


This field school saw the excavation of the Armitage Mound, located in The Plains. Facing imminent destruction, this burial mound yielded a central burial as well as several cremated skeletons.


Department of Sociology & Anthropology
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