Indiana News

Ancient Indian Settlement Found near Clarksville

7/27/2004

Archaeologists have found the remains of an ancient American Indian settlement along the Ohio River shoreline near where a road collapsed this winter.

The Army Corps of Engineers plans a full excavation of the site, believed to be 700 to 900 years old.

Similar artifacts from the same Mississippian period have turned up in recent years at a park in Louisville, Ky., at Shippingport Island in the Ohio River and near the Caesars Indiana riverboat casino southwest of Louisville.

Keith Keeney, a staff archaeologist with the Army Corps of Engineers, said the Clarksville site could prove to be one of a handful of locations to yield clues about how the Mississippians lived, and ultimately died, in the Falls of the Ohio area.

"Normally you do not see this kind of concentrated habitation in one location," said Keeney, who specializes in the period. "It's probably the remnants of a village."

Workers so far have found about two dozen artifacts, from pottery shards to stone tools, at the site. Keeney said a full excavation by a private contractor might uncover hundreds of items, such as stone hammers, scrapers and copper decorations.

Anne Bader, president of the Falls of the Ohio Archaeological Society, said work would likely reveal a connection between what appears to be a village in Clarksville and the artifacts found at Shippingport Island starting in late 2002.

If that's the case, she said, it will add to a growing body of evidence that a sort of regional settlement existed in the Louisville area, not unlike that of the Angel Mounds State Historic Site near Evansville.

According to Keeney and others, the road collapse in January uncovered many artifacts just below the earth's surface along the entire 250-foot stretch of eroded riverbank.

Keeney said most of the land was federal property, belonging to the Falls of the Ohio National Wildlife Conservation Area.

Corps officials said they did not expect the excavation to cause a major delay to the shoreline repairs.

A contract is expected to be signed in August as part of a roughly $1 million stabilization effort. Plans call for a 14-foot trench in the bottom of the Ohio River, which would be filled with limestone boulders.

The collapsed shoreline is slated to become part of the Ohio River Greenway, a planned seven-mile recreation corridor linking Jeffersonville, Clarksville and New Albany.

Rick Jones, Indiana's state archaeologist, said the erosion was unfortunate but perhaps also historical.

"It's in some ways serendipitous," he said, "because there is some exposure of artifacts from a culture that we don't know much about."

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