From the Editor, Mark
As I write this, I have
just returned from my first trip to England.
I was fortunate to receive an
invitation to attend a conference sponsored by
the Council of Europe and the Royal Commission
on the Historical Monuments of England. The conference
theme was archaeological survey and data recording
standards, and was attended by archaeologists from
all over Europe, plus delegates from South Africa,
Brazil and the United States. It was truly fascinating
to learn about the survey and data recording programs
used by archaeologists in other nations.
To my great pleasure, the conference also included
a tour to visit important sites in Wessex and
Devon. This included a stop at Stonehenge, which
is a World Heritage Site for obvious reasons.
Stonehenge must be among the five most famous
archaeological sites in the world, and it is
indeed impressive. What you learn from visiting
the site is that Stonehenge was built in three
stages, and is just a small part of an extensive
prehistoric landscape that includes ceremonial
roads, megaliths, earthworks, a woodhenge, and
numerous barrows (burial mounds). The preservation
of these features is excellent, and I couldn't
help but think that this is how the Chillicothe
area must have looked in Squier and Davis' time
(1840s). What an opportunity that was to view
the whole cultural landscape, rather than simply
see the isolated remnants that have been preserved
in most of southern Ohio.
Avebury is equally, if not more, impressive.
This immense earthwork is also part of a fantastic
bronze age landscape. The earthwork itself is
massive beyond simple description, even larger
than the features at Newark, Ohio. Associated
with the earthworks are megalithic formations,
lines of stones, ceremonial roadways, barrows,
and Silbury Hill. The latter is a huge earthen
mound that dominates the landscape. It is comparable
in size to Monk's Mound at Cahokia, and is equally
as impressive. What I found most impressive about
my brief visit to Avebury is the way the English
have managed to live with these monuments without
totally destroying them. For example, the roadway
through the earthwork was built through gateways
included by the original builders, and shops,
restaurants, and residences are nestled carefully
within or outside the massive earthwork and ditchworks.
I must also admit that the sheep that graze throughout
the site are picturesque and add to the atmosphere
of the place.
However, for someone that still considers himself
a research archaeologist, the visit to Dartmoor
National Park was the highlight of the trip.
This rugged and lonely area is all in private
ownership, and has been impacted by mining and
other modern activities, but the archaeology
is unbelievable. The area is literally covered
with Bronze Age settlements and field boundaries.
There are also numerous megaliths, stone circles,
stone rows, cairns and burial cysts. After spending
nearly two hours exploring the features at Merrivale,
I am certain that I now have some small sense
of how the Wetherills must have felt in their
early exploration of Mesa Verde. Everywhere I
turned there was some new, different and exciting
feature in a remarkable state of preservation.
And remember, this represents one of the more
visited sites at Dartmoor. I can't even begin
to comprehend what the more remote and less visited
sites must be like.
On the long flight home from England, I spent
quite a bit of time thinking about our cultural
heritage. While many of my new friends in Great
Britain tell me that their society is development
oriented, and not everyone respects the archaeological
record, I was very impressed with their societal
effort to preserve their heritage. Restoration
work has been necessary at both Stonehenge and
Avebury to bring them to their current states
of preservation. In the United States, we haven't
done nearly as well. This is particularly true
of the eastern United States, where we have cultivated
nearly every square yard of flat ground east
of the Mississippi River. When Squire and Davis
conducted their landmark survey of Ross County,
Ohio in the 1840s, the earthworks and mounds
they recorded must have been nearly as impressive
as sites I saw in England. Somehow the English
have found a way to preserve much of their archeological
heritage, while we have destroyed most of the
sites that Squier and Davis so carefully mapped.
It saddens me to think that we can never appreciate
the awesomeness of the Hopewell culture in the
way that I experienced the Bronze Age features
surrounding Stonehenge and Avebury.
The value of cultural landscapes cannot be
over estimated. The appreciation that visitors
feel for George Washington's home at Mount Vernon
is in great part due to the fact that much of
the grounds surrounding the house has been preserved.
If parking lots and apartment buildings had been
constructed next to the structure, visitors would
have a far less satisfying experience. The same
can be said for Abraham Lincoln's Home in Springfield,
Illinois. The Home itself would be far less impressive
if the neighborhood and adjacent houses were
not preserved. In prehistoric contexts, the preservation
of the Anasazi landscape in Chaco Canyon makes
the sites really come to life. For those of you
familiar with the Hopewell sites in the Chillicothe
area, consider the Story Mound. While it is laudable
that the mound has been preserved, it exists
totally in a twentieth century context. Houses
and roads surround the site and have disturbed
everything right up to the foot of the mound.
It is impossible to imagine Woodland Indians
building a mound in this setting.
I am convinced that as archeologists, we must
view the archeological record as a cultural landscape.
The Hopewellian earthworks, mounds, and habitation
sites of Ross County were not built as isolated
components, and we cannot appreciate their contribution
to the prehistory of North America unless we
study individual sites as part of a system. This
places great urgency on our research and preservation
efforts. Much has already been lost, and the
opportunity to study and understand the Hopewell
Culture in southern Ohio will not last forever.
We need to make the commitment to study as much
as possible of that record before it is lost.