Archaic village discovered on SR 232

On the way to eliminating one of the most dangerous intersections in Clermont County, the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) has discovered an ancient Indian village.

The Oberschlake property on the northeast corner of state Route 232 and Swings Corner-Point Isabel Road in Tate Township, less than one mile southwest of Bethel, was being marked for a much safer approach to the intersection when evidence of a very old camp/village was discovered.

Pat Trader, Field Director for Gray and Pater, Inc., architectural studies consultants, said that fire hearths, storage pits, and fire-burned rock were uncovered along with stained soil.

“The initial material found at the site was about 3,000 years old,” said Trader.

This site was occupied by a prehistorical culture that is known as the Archaic people who were hunters and gatherers who lived in the area before the mound builders (8,000-500 B.C.). The first discovery of these people in Ohio was on the hillside overlooking Bullskin Creek and the village of Utopia in Franklin Township in Clermont County.

The University of Cincinnati archaeology and geology departments explored and researched that area in the 1970s and much of what was uncovered is on display at the Ohio Historical Society Museum in Columbus.

This discovery is almost exactly the type made last summer on the east side of state Route 222 when it was being straightened along the East Fork of the Little Miami River just a couple of miles west of Batavia near Possum Hollow Road.

The Archaic people, like their descendants, chose to build many of their villages or camps at or near the confluence of waterways. The site currently being studied is at the confluence of Poplar Creek and Guest Run. There is evidence of glaciers having been here. The Archaic shelters were made from wooden poles covered with bark or animal hides. This camp was most probably temporary and was established due to the availability of food resources during certain seasons of the year. The Archaic depended on hunting, fishing, and collecting a large variety of plant foods.

Tom and Tammy Oberschlake have been the owners of the property for 10 years. It was once owned by their grandfather, Thomas Gardner, who is now 91 years old. He owned the land for 60 years. As far as he can recall the field was never plowed and served only as a hayfield and on the northern stretch of the field along the tree line was once the track of the Cincinnati, Georgetown, and Portsmouth Railroad (CG&P). The CG&P first arrived in Bethel on July 1, 1880, and the last train left town on Dec. 10, 1935, and shortly after the track was taken up.

“There have been mostly flakes, and fire rock has been found on this site,” Katie Destefano, environmental specialist for Division Eight of ODOT said.

“The rocks will be washed and studied and analyzed,” Bruce Aument, staff archaeologist of ODOT Division Eight, said. “The tools will be sent to California to be studied and analyzed. A scraper and cutting tools and spear and knife points and edges have been found.”

The Archaic made sturdy axes from hard stone which were used to chop down trees and shape the wood into canoes and other useful items. They also carved and polished slate for decorations and other purposes.

“This is a rare find to be able to work in a field that has never been plowed,” Destefano said.