Saturday, May 15, 2004

Items left behind by ancients found



By Jennifer Edwards
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[photo]
In a dig that could cost $55,000 or more, Asa Helm looks for artifacts in a pit. At upper left is volunteer Jon Dickison; upper right, archaeologist Matthew Purtill.
Photos by TONY JONES/The Cincinnati Enquirer
MARIEMONT - An archaeological dig in this eastern Hamilton County village, where a major sewer project is expected to start later this year, has turned up thousands of Indian artifacts.

The items were found in the project area by the pool in Dogwood Park off Wooster Pike. They include clay pot pieces, an old fish hook, corn, broken arrowheads, tools and a few human bones, said Matt Purtill, a principal investigator and archaeologist with Gray & Pape Inc., of downtown Cincinnati.

Mariemont officials have asked the curator of archaeology with the Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal to help them find the appropriate Native Americangroup to preserve the items, which were discovered two to three feet deep.

The dig began four weeks ago to make sure there weren't items in the sewer project area.

"Thank God we didn't run into any real burial sites, but we ran into a little bit and we want to make sure that is given as much respect as possible," Mariemont Mayor Dan Policastro said.

The items were buried in storage or trash pits that were probably missed or avoided in a previous archaeological dig in the area, Purtill said.

His office is temporarily storing the artifacts.

"We were getting in there to salvage anything left but there was a lot more than we thought there was going to be," Purtill said Friday. "It really is a very important site. The information we are getting off it now will be used for years to come to answer new questions about the last part of prehistory in Southwestern Ohio."

Mariemont and surrounding neighborhoods such as Madisonville are rich with Indian artifacts from days when Indians roamed the land, using the Miami Bluffs as a lookout, Purtill said.

For 10,000 years, he said, Indians used the lands "very intensely and this is just one of many sites out here."

Archaeologists aren't sure which Indians used the land but believe the tribes may have ties to the Shawnee, he added.

The dig wrapped up Friday, in time for the pool season.

It isn't known, however, when the sewer project will start, said Bob Campbell, deputy director of the Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati.

The 25-month sewer project was scheduled to begin in June to reduce basement backups and other sewer problems.

The sewer district is required by a federal order to install a 5,800-foot-long sewer pipe in the area to fix leaks by July 31, 2006.

But the project was delayed earlier this year so the sewer district could come up with a new plan that would save most of the old tall lace bark trees in the median of Wooster Pike.

Mariemont Councilman Doug Adams and some residents objected to a previous proposal that would have taken out most of the 20 trees during the project and replaced them with smaller ones.

Now, Mariemont and sewer officials hope to firm up the new plan over the next month with the sewer district. A public meeting will be held sometime in June so work can begin later this year, perhaps in the fall.

The Wooster section in Mariemont is crucial and must be replaced soon, especially to stop overflows in Dogwood Park, Campbell noted.

The sewer district is footing the bill for the $7 million project and the archaeological dig, which could cost $55,000 or more.

"We are trying to meet a deadline and if we don't meet the deadline there are some pretty good penalties to us for not meeting it," Campbell said.

E-mail jedwards@enquirer.com.




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