Office workers will someday sit at desks in buildings along the Emerald Parkway extension east of Riverside Drive where prehistoric workers once sat turning rocks into tools. In a way, they weren't too different from us, Jules Angel said. "They wanted a home, food to eat, and to be safe." Around her, 14 Ohio State University students in her archaeology class sat in a field cataloging and bagging 400 or more "flecks" of rocks amid a sea of red flags where each had been found.
Office workers will someday sit at desks in buildings along the Emerald Parkway extension east of Riverside Drive where prehistoric workers once sat turning rocks into tools.
In a way, they weren’t too different from us, Jules Angel said. “They wanted a home, food to eat, and to be safe.”
Around her, 14 Ohio State University students in her archaeology class sat in a field cataloging and bagging 400 or more “flecks” of rocks amid a sea of red flags where each had been found.
“This is essentially prehistoric trash from making tools,” said Logan Miller, Angel’s rock specialist and a doctoral graduate student who was sporting the trademark Indiana Jones fedora. “I’m waiting to get my bullwhip,” he joked.
The field that will become an office park in a few years slopes north from the roadway construction toward tree-lined Wright’s Run, a tributary of the Scioto River. The parkway extension is to be completed by the end of November.
Earlier in the day, the students had lined up shoulder to shoulder and slowly walked the length of the field looking for tiny rocks with telltale sharp edges and signs of cleaving that indicate tool-making. Dublin city workers had plowed the field, bringing to the surface flint and chert quartz rocks, which have a dense, crystalline composition that breaks predictably and were favored by ancient tool-makers.
The oldest item — 13,000 years — was found last year, the first year that Angel brought students there for a field study. This year, they have found a couple of items perhaps as old as 500 years. The age is determined by comparing each find with a similar item found elsewhere that has been dated.
Where there is a cluster of flags, the students will dig 6-by-6-foot “square holes” in hopes of finding finished tools and other evidence that people lived there, said Angel, a native of Essex, England, who came to Ohio State in 2001.
On the other side of Wright’s Run, the city is to transform the Holder-Wright farm into an interpretive park that has remnants of several Hopewell earthworks and an 1840s farmhouse. The Hopewell culture included many Indian tribes present in Ohio between 500 B.C. and A.D. 500.
Josephine Holder, the matriarch of the Holder family, had wanted the land to be preserved, and her descendants sold it to the city five years ago after her death.
Dublin Parks Director Fred Hahn said representatives of Indian nations such as the Ojibwa and Cherokee have visited the site for spiritual reasons, and one performed a cleansing ceremony there last year. The mounds have been reduced in size by farming, but grasses will be planted to represent their heights, Hahn said.
“You think of it as their church up there,” Miller said of the ancient burial mounds. The proximity of the mounds to the field strewn with the debris of toolmakers means tribes might have called the area home, Angel said.
“What we would like to see is if the prehistoric people were clearly living here, maybe with the foundation of a home,” she said.
Because of the elevation of the field, the students won’t have to dig too deeply, Miller said. “ All of prehistory is in about this,” he said, holding one palm about a foot above the other.
In addition to plowing the field, Dublin dug trenches so students could study the strata of dirt and rock underground.
“He dug us these lovely trenches,” Angel said, extolling the handiwork of city employee Larry Nicol as only a person who spends much of her career digging through dirt can. “Look at this fabulous clay, and here we got this wonderful sand, which clearly came from that stream moving over the land and meandering around.
“One thing I want to teach the kids is, it’s not just dirt,” Angel said. “It’s the history of the land, the history of the people who lived here.”
The message seems to have taken with Amanda O’Brien, an OSU senior from Hilliard with a combined archaeology-anthropology major.
“I want to write the history of people who could not write it for themselves,” she said.