Ohio earthworks: Not a fort but a 2,000-year-old water project

ohio-riverThings aren’t always what they seem. More than 200 years ago, General (and future U.S. President) William Henry Harrison decided that a structure at the confluence of the Ohio and Miami Rivers was a fort. Now University of Cincinnati archaeologists and anthropologists say it’s really an irrigation system built by the Shawnee to deal with long-term drought.

Two points stand out: one is that the engineering expertise required to conceive of such a massive irrigation system must have been far greater than what history has traditionally assigned to Native American groups from that time in history, and the second is that the cultural priority of engaging in such a massive undertaking as building these earthworks by hand was done by this culture not because of military motivations but for a more civil cause.

The builders were probably women, too.

[Photo: Ohio River, Chris Breeze]