Tuesday, September 7, 2004

Mariemont mulls fate of Indian artifacts

By Steve Kemme
Enquirer staff writer

MARIEMONT - Mayor Dan Policastro will wait until the middle of next year to decide who gets permanent custody of thousands of Indian artifacts discovered three months ago at a village site where a sewer project is planned.

When the sewer project is completed in April or May, Policastro will meet with representatives of the Museum of Natural History and Science in Cincinnati, the Mariemont Preservation Foundation, American Indians and other interested parties to discuss the artifacts and where they should go.

The human bones that were found will be reburied.

"We definitely want to show respect," Policastro said.

The Museum of Natural History and Science has a large collection of Indian artifacts excavated since the 1870s in the Mariemont-Madisonville area. Indians lived continuously at the Mariemont site from about A.D. 1000 to 1625.

"We would love to have the newest artifacts here," said Robert Genheimer, the museum's Rieveschl curator of archaeology.

The artifacts include tools, arrowheads, pieces of clay pots, corn and an old fishhook. They were found two to three feet underground near the Mariemont Pool at the western end of Mariemont Avenue.

The Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati plans to install sewer lines in that area to replace deteriorating ones in Dogwood Park. The work will take place in the spring.

The archeology dig began in April to determine whether there were any Indian artifacts in the sewer project site. Indians roamed Mariemont and its surrounding area for thousands of years, making the village a fertile archaeology site.

Some have suggested that the Indians who last lived at Mariemont may have been Shawnee. But no one knows for sure, Genheimer said.

"It's really an open question," he said. "It's extremely difficult to trace tribal identity back in time. These sites were abandoned when Europeans first arrived here."

Gray & Pape Inc., a Cincinnati archaeology firm, conducted the excavation and is holding the artifacts until Policastro decides what to do with them. Legally, the artifacts belong to Mariemont.

Thomas Burke, a historical researcher in Columbus and an American Indian, met recently with Policastro to view the excavation site and to talk about the artifacts.

Burke said he is satisfied with the process Policastro has set up for determining where the artifacts should go. He also said the sewer district "took great care to make sure nothing was destroyed."

Matt Purtill, a principal investigator and archaeologist with Gray & Pape, said not all the bones found at the site have been positively identified as human remains.

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