Fort Ancient

Fort Ancient


:This article is about the Fort Ancient culture, for the National Historic Landmark in Warren County, Ohio, see Fort Ancient (Lebanon, Ohio)Fort Ancient is a name for a Native American culture that flourished from 1000-1650 among a people who predominantly inhabited land along the Ohio River in areas of southern modern day Ohio, northern Kentucky and western West Virginia. The Fort Ancient culture was once thought to be an expansion of the Mississippian cultures, but is now accepted as an independently developed culture that was descended from the Hopewell culture (100 BCE-CE 500), who were also a Mound Builder people.


The name of the culture originates from the Fort Ancient, Ohio site. The Fort Ancient Site is now thought to have been built by the Hopewell, and then later merely occupied by the Fort Ancient culture. The fort is located on a hill above the Little Miami River, close to Lebanon, Ohio. Despite its name, most archaeologists do not believe that Fort Ancient was used primarily as a fortress by either the Ohio Hopewell culture or the Fort Ancient culture, it was more likely to have been a ceremonial location. [cite web |url = | title = Spanish Hill-The Builders of the Mounds | acces date = 2008-09-12 ]

Archaeological record

The Fort Ancient culture emerges around A.D. 1400 as local Late Woodland populations in the Middle Ohio region begin relying more on agriculture. A rise in socio-political complexity may indicate influences from the Middle Mississippian culture area down the Ohio River from the Fort Ancient culture. Although the differences in ceramics show they were a distinct culture from Middle Mississippian peoples. [cite web |url = | title = Mississippian and Late Prehistoric Period |acces date = 2008-09-12 ] Fort Ancient villages were located along terraces that overlooked rivers and sometimes were located on flood plains. Settlements were composed of circular and/or rectangular homes facing an oval shaped plaza. During the Early and Middle Fort Ancient period the houses were designed as single-family dwellings, however later Fort Ancient buildings are large multi-family dwellings. The arrangement of buildings in Fort Ancient settlements is thought to have served as a sort of solar calendar, marking the positions of the solstices and other significant dates. [cite web | url =| title = Ohio Archaeoloy Blog| accessdate = 2008-09-11 ] Settlements were rarely permanent, usually being shifted to a new location after one or two generations when the resources surrounding the old village were exhausted. The plaza was the center of village life and was a place where ceremonies, games ( such as chunkey) [cite web |url = | title = Middle to Late Fort Ancient Society |acces date = 2008-09-12 ] , and other social events were held. During late Fort Ancient times, villages were enclosed by stockades, which may show an increase in the level of conflict; which may account for the eventual decline of Fort Ancient culture. [cite web |url = | title = A Fort Ancient Village |acces date = 2008-09-12 ] The Fort Ancient people may have built the largest effigy mound in the United States, Serpent Mound, according to new carbon dating of charcoal found underneath the mound. [cite web | url = | title = Redating Serpent Mound| journal-Archaeology, Volume 49, number 6| accessdate = 2008-09-12 ] [cite web | url = | title = Serpent Mound | acces date = 2008-09-12 ] The Fort Ancient were primarily a farming and hunting people. Their diet was composed mainly of the three sisters -- maize, squash, and beans -- supplemented with hunting and fishing in nearby forests and rivers. The Fort Ancient people are noted for their earthen structures, triangular arrow points and pentagonal flint knives.

ocial hierarchy

Fort Ancient settlements lacked political centralization and elite social structures. Although individuals might have risen to the status of leader, Fort Ancient culture appears to have been egalitarian. Grave goods rarely vary between individuals, which shows that social levels were weakly defined. It is thought that their societies were organized into groups (maybe tribes) based on kinship. If social organization was based on kinship, then it is likely that one's status was the result of personal qualities such as sharing/giving, being a good hunter or food provider, charisma, etc. Sometimes, one person might achieve high status. Such high-status people were probably leaders of communities and were potentially responsible for organizing trade, for settling disputes among other members of the village, and for presiding over ceremonies (Pollack and Henderson 1992). [cite web |url = | title = Middle to Late Fort Ancient Society |acces date = 2008-09-12 ]


Uncertainty surrounds the eventual fate of the Fort Ancient people. Most likely their society, like the Mississippian culture to the south, was severely disrupted by waves of epidemics from the very first Spanish explorers in the 16th century. [ cite book | last = Peregrine | first = Peter N. | title = Encyclopedia of Prehistory | publisher = Springer | date = 2001 |page - 175 | isbn - 0306462605, 9780306462603 ] There is a gap in the archaeological record between the most recent Fort Ancient sites and the oldest sites of the Shawnee, who occupied the area at the time of later European (French and English) explorers. However, it is generally accepted that similarities in material culture, art, mythology, and Shawnee oral history linking them to the Fort Ancients can be used to establish the shift of Fort Ancient society into historical Shawnee society. [cite web | url =| title = Tenn. Encyc. of Hist. and Cult.-Shawnees| accessdate = 2008-09-11 ]


External links

* [ Ohio History Teachers' page on Fort Ancient]
* [ SunWatch, a restored Fort Ancient village]
* [ Fort Ancient Culture]

ee also

* Fort Ancient (Lebanon, Ohio)
* SunWatch Indian Village
* Serpent Mound
* Mississippian culture
* platform mound
* effigy mound

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