Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Spruce Hill--Hopewell Hilltop enclosure

By Geophile
Received this today with the request to pass it along. It is of interest because unlike most or all other hilltop enclosures in Ohio, this one had stone walls instead of earthwork walls. Apparently there were also rock piles in connection with the walls. See the Spruce Hill preservation site for full information. Text and typefaces below are from the email. Sorry it's so long.
Spruce Hill is located in the Paint Creek Valley between Bainbridge and Chillicothe, Ohio and was within visual distance from two other important Hopewell geometric earthwork sites – The Baum Earthworks and the Seip Mound Earthworks:
The Spruce Hill Works, listed on the National Historic Register since 1972 (site #72001039), is in immediate danger from potential development or outright destruction due to the site going up for sale in an auction June 14, 2007.
The Spruce Hill Works is one of Ohio’s last remaining, intact “hilltop enclosures” which is considered by archaeologists to have been built by peoples of the Hopewell culture nearly 2,000 years ago. This ancient, sacred, ceremonial enclosure site is similar to other, more well-known hilltop enclosures such as Fort Ancient, Fort Hill, and others, but Spruce Hill is especially unique, and perhaps the most important of this type of Hopewellian construction because its’ walls were built primarily with stone, rather than earth, and its’ enclosure space is greater than that of the immense Fort Ancient enclosure.
There appears to be] evidence of industrial activity with at least 30 metal-working ‘furnaces’ which was first reported on in 1811 by James Foster, editor of the Scioto Gazette (an early Chillicothe, Ohio newspaper), Squier and Davis in 1847 reported seeing “strong traces of fire” and that many stone mounds along the wall exhibited marks of intense heat which vitrified the surfaces of the stones, and more recently, tangible evidence for metal casting was discovered by John Cahoon in 1993 in the form of a vitrified clay mold located at the “isthmus”, or narrow SW entranceway into the Spruce Hill Works which may have been used to cast a +20 lbs. copper ‘celt’ found in excavations of the nearby Seip Mound earthworks. Limited ‘test’ excavations were conducted by archaeologists from the National Park Service in 1995-96 which found Hopewellian-culture related artifacts, vast quantities of burned, fused, or glazed sandstones and vitrified soils, and also confirmed that the stone walls were artificially constructed and not natural as some skeptics had asserted.

This monumental construction is incredibly (!) still primarily preserved, and has never undergone development by having been a part of the historic Spruce Hill farm, thereby remaining intact through private ownership – UNTIL NOW. On June 14, 2007, the historic Spruce Hill farm is going up for auction and is being divided into three tracts -- one of those tracts includes the earthworks in their entirety.

Why is there a danger to this site? Because the area up for auction (all three tracts of the farm) includes several hundred acres of prime forest timber that Mead Paper Corp., a paper mill located in nearby Chillicothe, or many other nearby lumber companies would be eager to strip cut, and that developers are eager to obtain. Unfortunately, Congressional funding is perhaps years away, so the National Park Service cannot obtain the funds in time to secure the protection of the site.

How can you help? Three organizations are spearheading the effort to save this important site: the Arc of Appalachia Preserve System (Highland Sanctuary), Wilderness East, and Ross County Parks are all working together to raise the funds necessary to buy and protect this valuable cultural resource, with the goal of having the National Park Service eventually take administration/ownership of the site. This consortium of preservation groups believe that they need to raise at least $1.2 million dollars to acquire the site in the auction. PLEASE consider making a contribution – however large or small - to this worthy effort! Details can be found at their website “Saving Spruce Hill”-- http://www.highlandssanctuary.org/Hopewell/sprucehill.htm Other organizations and individuals are desperately needed to join this cooperative effort by lending their voice and financial support.

Please do all you can as the window of opportunity (only about one month away) is rapidly closing! Please forward this notice to your contact e-mail lists, and give it to anyone you feel may be able to help. We will be extending this notification to representatives in the Ohio Legislature, Congress, various archaeological and nature preserve organizations, as well as several news organizations. We urge you to also contact as many as you can to voice your support. Only a large collective effort will be able to accomplish saving Spruce Hill in this short window of time!

Thank you for your consideration, and any assistance you might contribute!
Jeffrey and Delsey Wilson,

Friends of the Serpent Mound, Adams County, Ohio

For more information on Spruce Hill visit these sites:

Saving Spruce Hill: http://www.highlandssanctuary.org/Hopewell/sprucehill.htm

National Park Service Hopewell Archaeology Newsletter: http://www.cr.nps.gov/mwac/hopewell/v2n2/one.htm

Ohio’s Prehistoric Furnaces: http://www.iwaynet.net/~wdc/prehist.htm


Anonymous said...

I would hope that the Archaeological Conservancy gets involved, since this is the kind of site they try to preserve. We'll see. Unfortunately, my pockets are empty.


Geophile said...

I posted it partly just because it is stone. There's always a possibility of some kind of connection between the eastern sites and the Hopewell sites, with something like this as a sort of missing link.

pwax said...

I think not all rock pile can be recent so some must come from the Middle Woodland period which is the mound builder period in general, whatever form it took here in the east.