LOWER SCIOTO VALLEY
THE "OLD FORT" EARTHWORKS
Across the river in South Portsmouth, Kentucky, the Old Fort Earthworks have recently been preserved with help from the Archaeological Conservancy. On private land (permission is available, inquire locally), they lie about 1½ miles west of the Route 23 Ohio River bridge, down a narrow lane on the right. The beautiful square enclosure is well preserved among a handful of small houses, its ancient orientation perfectly diagonal to the cardinal points. Archaeologist Gwynn Henderson:
One thing I found interesting is that the square is oriented north-south, so that one of the points is totally north. The folks who built this earthwork were going to put it there, irrespective of what kind of topography was on that spot. They filled in ditches, and they cut away certain topographic features, to ensure that the square was oriented the way they wanted it to orient.
Processions to the square for ceremonies probably followed the wide passageways. Even centuries after the earthwork building culture faded, the square’s interior remained clean – no debris from either settlements or workshops! Archaeologist Gwynn Henderson:
I think we might infer that the reason why there are not materials from subsequent peoples living right there is that they appreciated, understood, respected, feared, what had gone on. Or maybe there had been stories passed down through the generations, across the centuries, such that they knew sort of generally, what it had been used for, what its purpose was, the kinds of things that went on there, and so, out of respect for the folks who had been long ago, they didn’t live there in a domestic situation.
Today the square is still impressive, preserved by caring landowners and the privately funded Archaeological Conservancy.