As part of their educational commitments in the wake of a controversy over a “Trail of Tears” banner displayed at a Greenfield-Hillsboro football game, the Greenfield McClain football cheerleaders and McClain High School Principal Jason Potts were joined Saturday by Dr. Paul Gardner, Midwest regional director of The Archaeological Conservancy at the Fort Salem Indian Mound on Certier Road near Lynchburg.
According to Destiny Bryson, director of the Highland County Visitors Bureau, “The students were there on their own time to visit the mound and learn the history of this local and well-preserved Native American site.”
Bryson said the education the students received “will prove valuable, as they begin their work to create an informational brochure for Fort Salem earthwork. This brochure will be used at the Highland County Visitors Bureau and distributed to visitors interested in Highland county’s Native American history.”
The Fort Salem Earthwork was purchased by The Archaeological Conservancy using privately-raised funding and is maintained as an archaeological research preserve.
The day began with a tour of the earthwork led by Dr. Gardner. He explained that the Fort Salem earthwork was created by a group of Ohio Valley Indians (with both Adena and Hopewell cultural influence) sometime between 50 B.C. to AD 500. It is a circular enclosure about 450 feet in diameter that surrounds a conjoined mound. The larger mound of the conjoined pair was about 6-feet high and 60 feet in diameter, while the smaller one was about 4-feet high and 40 feet in diameter.
The wall that surrounded the enclosure was about 3-feet high and was paralleled for much of its 700-foot plus length by an exterior ditch. Today, both mounds are about 2-feet lower and the wall is only 1 to 2-feet high.
The group them assembled at the Welcome Center in Hillsboro, where Dr. Gardner continued to educate the group on the few known facts about the site, including:
• The walls and mounds remain prominent and the possibility that the site was never plowed makes it especially desirable as a research preserve.
• The site’s location is in between two great Hopewell population concentrations: those along the Little Miami River Northeast of Cincinnati and those along the Scioto River and Paint Creek near Chillicothe. The site may hold clues to how these two populations interacted.
• The site is not confidently assigned to any particular culture, as it has attributes of both Adena and Hopewell constructions. While the structure of the site – a wall enclosing a bluff-top – resembles the much larger and complex Old Fort and Fort Ancient Hopewell ceremonial centers, the placement of the ditch outside the enclosure wall is associated with earlier Adena Culture earthworks.
Dr. Gardner describes Fort Salem as “one of the best preserved earthworks remaining in private ownership in America.”
“Thanks to the restoration work completed by a local resident to Highland County, William ‘Bill’ Bear, we are all able to experience and enjoy this beautiful earthwork,” said Bryson.
The meeting was orchestrated by Bryson, who said she recognized that this experience “would be a great opportunity to seize a teaching moment that would expose the students to a variety of educational experience and benefit our county and the many visitors that come through from around the world.” Bryson said she is looking forward to sharing the brochure at her office.