Archaeological discovery in Ohio is believed to be more than 12,000 years old

March 15, 1992|By Jim Carney | Jim Carney,Knight-Ridder News Service

AKRON, Ohio -- Evidence of what is being described as the oldest structure ever found in North America has been discovered in Sharon Township, Ohio, according to David Brose, the chief curator of archaeology at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.

Results from a carbon-dating study received last month placed the remains of the structure at about 10,200 B.C. -- 7,000 years before the Pharaohs of Egypt.

The structure's inhabitants would have been hunters and gatherers in what Mr. Brose described as a "lush" environment.

A nearby bog would have lured mastodons to drink, providing the inhabitants with both vegetation and meat for food.

Mr. Brose said the archaeological discovery -- named Paleo Crossing Site -- is a job for detectives as they attempt to piece together what might have happened nearly 120 centuries ago.

Three post holes and two pits were discovered in an area covering about 150 square feet, Mr. Brose said. A contractor who was developing the site stopped work so archaeologists could study the find, beginning in fall 1990.

Mr. Brose said that the structure existed in a location that was below a ridge and above an area that was once a bog. The bog now is wet farmland.

Charcoal found in the post holes indicates that the structure might have burned.

Carbon-dating of charcoal found in a pit area near the structure revealed vegetation dating as far back as 13,120 years ago. The area was probably free from glacial ice for several hundred years around that time. Because of the lush environment, these people might have spent the winter at the Medina County site and moved north during warmer months.

Sharp stones, known as Clovis points, also have been found. Similar specimens, first discovered in Clovis, N.M., date back 12,000 years.

The points found are 2- to 3-inches long, and probably were attached to shafts and used as weapons, he said.

A similar find of Clovis points has been made at the Nobles Pond site in Ohio's Jackson Township.

Mr. Brose said he could not be more specific about the location of the site other than to say that it is in Sharon Township. The township is about five miles west of Akron, just inside Medina County.

The land is owned by John King, owner of Terri-Jon Management and Construction Co., Mr. Brose said. Mr. King has delayed development on the property for more than a year so that the museum could continue its investigation, Mr. Brose said. The museum is working with Mr. King and his attorneys to determine the best disposition of the property where the excavation is located, Mr. Brose said.

Until this discovery, the oldest structure uncovered in North America was found in the Illinois River Valley in the 1960s. Uncovered there was a series of post holes that dated back 6,200 years.

When work on the site resumes this spring, Mr. Brose said, he hopes to find the floor well-preserved.

He said core samples from what used to be the bog will be taken, and silica particles found on the site will be examined to help determine what type of vegetation existed in the area at the time.

"It's like a detective game," he said.

It is hoped that scientists can learn how many people lived in the group that occupied the structure.

"How did people move into the area? How movable were they?" he asked.

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