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Archaeologists Are Re-Excavating And Reconnecting Descendants Of Anderson Township Site

people use tools to sift through dirt in a rectangle dig site covered by a canopy as other watch.
Ann Thompson
For possibly as long as a decade, researchers will be digging at two sites on this property. This one is where Native Americans are believed to have settled in a small four meter by five meter house. The Miami and Shawnee tribes arrived 1,000 years ago. The Turpins settled here in the 1700s.

Under a tent in the middle of an Anderson Township field, archaeologists are dredging up the past with hopes of learning more about the people who once lived here: Native Americans and Europeans.

It’s believed members of the Miami and Shawnee tribes migrated to this area 1,000 years ago and settled in villages.They are thought to have been the first to farm corn in the eastern U.S.

Their existence intersects with the Turpin family. The Turpins were given the property after the American Revolution and moved there in the 1700s.

As early as 1880, the area was attracting attention from people who wanted to study it. Dr. Charles Metz, a Mariemont physician, wrote about his efforts as an amateur archaeologist, attracting the attention of Harvard University.

Harvard researchers visited the area and excavated the site, saving, however, just one percent of what scientists today would save. Nonetheless, the Harvard dig is seen as the beginning of professional American archaeology.

Robert Cook, an Ohio State archaeologist and Cincinnati native, wanted to re-excavate the site. He started the project in conjunction with the Cincinnati Museum Center, Algonquin Consultants, Anderson Township, Harvard, Indiana University, and the New York Galaxy Research Institute.

Ann and Robert.jpg
Ann Thompson
WVXU's Ann Thompson and Ohio State's Robert Cook look at a map of the site

They will dig every weekend for possibly the next ten years.

Cook says archaeologists don’t really know anything yet about the people who lived here. “But that’s a critical question to see how they interacted, what they learned from each other as well as sort of the negative stories that we know too well in terms of removal.”

Connecting Descendants To The Site

Cook is working with the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma and the Turpin family to connect living descendants to the site. He says this is important because nothing is written about their ancestors.

What Have They Found?

Cook points out two foundations on the Turpin family site. One may have been the original house, which may later have been turned into a barn.

“This would have been way too substantial for just a corn crib... like many things, it was recycled.”

They have found broken bits of ceramics, nails and glass objects related to the structure, and pieces of farm equipment related to the use as a barn.

Turpin barn.jpg
Ann Thompson
This is one of two foundations on the Turpin site.

Across a field, researchers dug up animal bones including a possum jaw, and pieces of wood which may indicate Native American inhabitants.

Eventually visitors might be able to picture life back then. One researcher is creating an augmented reality experience where people can walk into the village and use a tablet to look into houses and see wildlife.

With more than 30 years of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market, Ann Thompson brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting. She has reported for WKRC, WCKY, WHIO-TV, Metro Networks and CBS/ABC Radio. Her work has been recognized by the Associated Press and the Society of Professional Journalists. In 2019 and 2011 A-P named her “Best Reporter” for large market radio in Ohio. She has won awards from the Association of Women in Communications and the Alliance for Women in Media. Ann reports regularly on science and technology in Focus on Technology.