The biggest discovery at Fort Ancient in recent memory is a giant “woodhenge” in the North Fort, now called The Moorehead Circle. In summer, you may see members of a field school continuing the dig, across the road west of the museum. Jack Blosser explains how this ancient stone and timber work was first discovered:

We received a Save America’s Treasures grant in two-thousand-five: they were able to pick out stains in the soil that picked up a two-hundred foot in diameter circle.

Archaeologist Bob Riordan has been excavating here with his students every summer since then. He describes what was found, beginning with the ring of timber posts:

Very substantial posts set as deep as a meter in the ground, actually more than a meter because that’s a meter below the subsoil that we’ve started from. Some of them were set in place using ramps, so there would be shallow ramps. They would have to go out, cut trees, trim them, carry them in, set them in the ramps, and walk them upright. And then they filled the ramps with limestones, and chinked the posts with limestones as well.

At the center of this ring, Dr. Riordan found a pit containing a mound of astonishingly bright colored soil, perhaps the pulsing heartbeat of Fort Ancient:

So there’s this shallow pit, and in the middle of the shallow pit, a deeper pit, to the extent of about 70 centimeters below the surface: A red soil fills that pit. We’ve been presuming that this is a burned soil that was burned somewhere else; we’re not seeing lots of charcoal around it, under it, in it. It’s very, very clean, sterile red soil. So other people are thinking that it may be a more ancient soil that is naturally red that’s been brought in.

A set of parallel, stone-faced walks and gravel-filledtrenches gather around this central feature, evoking some ancient theater. We know of nothing else like it in the Hopewell World. More mysteries are uncovered every year.

At the center of the circle of timber posts, a shallow pit contained bright red-orange, sterile, burned soil.

Fort Ancient



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