Preserving the heritage of native American peoples –
By Patricia Beech –
Serpent Mound Park on Saturday, Aug. 20 hosted its annual Archaeology Day.
As one of the premiere examples of earthen artworks in North America the 1,348 foot serpent has become a major attraction for those interested in the culture of ancient Native American tribes.
“We have a lot of people expressing interest in what we’re doing out here today,” said park Director Tim Goodwin. “We have artifact collectors, speakers who will talk about prehistoric culture, music, and a lot of things for kids to do.”
First-time visitors who climb the park’s century-old viewing tower marvel at the immense serpentine effigy undulating across a bluff overlooking a section
of the Ohio Brush Creek valley. The complex earthwork sculpted from the surrounding land has always inspired more questions than answers. Who built it? Why was it built? What secrets does it hold? Does it have relevance for us today?
More than a century ago, F.W. Putman, conservator and excavator of the mound, wrote of his visit in 1883, “I mused on the probabilities of the past and there seemed to come to me a picture as of a distant time, of people with strange customs, and with it came the demand for an interpretation of this mystery. The unknown must become known.”
Modern day archaeologists have made great strides in unraveling the mound’s mysteries. Archaeology Day allows them to share their discoveries with the public in a family-oriented venue.
Those attending the event had the opportunity to take part in “living history” displays while learning about the daily lives and customs of ancient people who lived in the Ohio valley thousands of years ago.
Living history re-enactors shared demonstrations of ancient tools and techniques such as throwing an atlatl, flint knapping and creating pottery using clay.
Local artifact collectors displayed their collections of arrowheads and stone tools and several visitors brought their own artifact finds for identification.
Professional Archaeologist Bill Pickard, from Ohio History Connections, was on site throughout the day to help visitors identify their prehistoric finds.
Three keynote speakers gave talks on different Archaeological data. Dr. Keith Milam, an Ohio University Professor, presented his findings on the Serpent Mound Disturbance, an eroded meteorite impact crater in Ohio.
Dr. William Kennedy spoke about prehistoric architecture and gave examples of full-scale, rebuilt structures from the late prehistoric period. Dr. Brad Lepper spoke about the Newark Earthworks, the largest set of geometric enclosures in the world.
Two musicians provided entertainment for the event: Steve Free, an internationally acclaimed, award winning, Native American singer/songwriter and recording artist, and John De Boer and the Miami Valley Flute Circle, playing Native American flute music.
Walking tours led by knowledgeable guides were given throughout the day and visitors were invited to walk the half mile nature trails.