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Roots Revealed Blog

First People in the Parks

Posted: 11/20/2013
Posted By: Karen Lakus

Humans have inhabited Northeast Ohio for thousands of years.  In the last 200 years, much of the evidence of earlier people has been disturbed or destroyed by farming, industry, roads, railroads and other progress.  In Cleveland Metroparks, there are places that we know prehistoric people once spent time because evidence of their activity has been found.  Although these places look quite different today, their locations and the resources they provide were of great value to the first people as they still are for us today. 

In 2008, an archaeological site was identified along the Lake to Lake Trail in Big Creek Reservation.  Archaeologists from the Cleveland Museum of Natural History conducted 27 shovel tests of the area and 8 of the tests yielded prehistoric artifacts.  Among those were flint flakes, block shatter, bifaces, a broken drill and scraper and piece of incised rock.  This artifact assemblage suggests an archaic occupation, perhaps a seasonal campsite, was located there between 2500 and 1000 B.C.     

Fort Hill at Rocky River Reservation provides an example of a hilltop site used by prehistoric Native Americans.  Long thought to be built by Late-prehistoric people (1600-1000 A.D.) recent evidence shows that Fort Hill was likely built earlier, during the Early Woodland Period (1000 B.C.-100 B.C.)  The area consists of three earthen walls which provide the fourth “side” for the point of land surrounded by steep cliffs and water on the other 3 sides.  Prehistoric people spent time at similar hilltop sites overlooking rivers and Lake Erie throughout Northeast Ohio.  They may have been chosen as they provided natural fortifications, but most likely these high places were used for ceremonies and rituals. Although much of Fort Hill has been eroded away it is one of the last places of its kind that you can visit in the area.    

In a previous post (May 15, 2013), I wrote about Charles Whittlesey’s Fort #2, a hilltop site overlooking the Cuyahoga River in the Ohio and Erie Canal Reservation in Cuyahoga Heights.  The only evidence that remains of the existence of this site is the map that Whittlesey drew in 1871.  All physical evidence was obliterated by advances in transportation and industry throughout the 20th century.  We do not know anything further about the site because it was destroyed before it could be excavated. 

There is MUCH more to the story of the Native Americans in Northeast Ohio.  If you are interested in learning more please attend the “First People Festival” on November 23, 2013 from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Rocky River Nature Center.  Call 440-734-6660 for more information.

Photo of a sampling of artifacts found along the Lake to Lake Trail by CMNH Archaeologists in 2008.  Taken by author.


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