SunWatch Indian Village

SunWatch Indian Village / Archaeological Park, previously known as the Incinerator Site, and designated by the Smithsonian trinomial 33-MY-57, is a reconstructed Fort Ancient Native American village next to the Great Miami River on West River Road in Dayton, Ohio. The dwellings and site plan of the 3-acre (1.2 ha) site are based on lengthy archeological excavations sponsored by the Dayton Society of Natural History, which owns and operates the site as an open-air museum. Because of its archaeological value, the site was listed in 1974 on the National Register of Historic Places. Since that time, as the many years of archaeological research at the site have led to important findings about the Fort Ancient culture, SunWatch Indian Village was designated in 1990 as a National Historic Landmark.[2]

SunWatch Site
SunWatch Village
SunWatch Indian Village is located in Ohio
SunWatch Indian Village
SunWatch Indian Village is located in the United States
SunWatch Indian Village
LocationW. River Rd., Dayton, Ohio
Coordinates39°42′59″N 84°13′54″W / 39.71634°N 84.231577°WCoordinates: 39°42′59″N 84°13′54″W / 39.71634°N 84.231577°W
Area3 acres (1.2 ha)
NRHP reference #75001500[1]
Significant dates
Added to NRHPApril 1, 1975
Designated NHLJune 21, 1990


Sunwatch Aerial illustration HRoe 2018 400px
Artist's conception of the SunWatch Indian Village

Amateurs had found some prehistoric materials at the site in the 1960s. Professional excavation began in 1971 as a salvage operation when the city planned a sewage treatment plant. With the discovery of significant artifacts and the remains of a stockaded village, the city changed its plans to preserve the site. Excavations continued through 1988 and are generally completed, although additional small studies have been done. The studies have revealed much about the original people's dwellings, social organization, diets, burial practices and other aspects of their lives at the site. The circular village, surrounded by defensive palisades, was occupied for about 20 years, with a total population of about 250. They depended on farming and hunting.

Scholars have named it Sun Watch because, since studies of the 1980s, they believe that a complex of posts in the plaza related to astronomical measurements. The Fort Ancient culture people, whose society was based on agriculture, would have planned rituals around a solar calendar.

With reconstructed dwellings, a plaza and gardens, and an interpretive center, the village was opened in 1988 to the public as an open-air museum. Interpretive tours are offered as well as a variety of educational programs and special events developed in collaboration with Native American and other groups. Archaeological excavations are ongoing in the area, with special opportunities for school groups, graduate students, and adult learners.

Additional artifacts and exhibits are held in the related Boonshoft Museum of Discovery in Dayton. These help interpret the history and culture of the people, and show more of the artifacts recovered at the site than can be displayed at SunWatch.

See also


  1. ^ National Park Service (2008-04-15). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
  2. ^ "NHL nomination for SunWatch Site". National Park Service. Retrieved 2018-03-27.

Further reading

  • Allman, John C. (1968) "The Incinerator Village Site," Ohio Archaeologist 18 (2): 50-55.
  • Cook, Robert A. (2008) SunWatch: Fort Ancient Development in the Mississippian World, Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press.
  • Heilman, J., Malinda Lileas and Chris Turnbow (editors) (1988) A History of 17 Years of Excavation and Reconstruction: A Chronicle of 12th Century Human Values and the Built Environment Volumes I and II, Dayton Museum of Natural History, Dayton, Ohio.
  • Heilman, James M. and Roger Hoefer (1981) "Possible Astronomical Alignments in a Fort Ancient Settlement at the Incinerator Site in Dayton, Ohio," in Archaeoastronomy in the Americas, ed. Ray Williamson, Los Altos, California: Ballena Press/ Center for Archaeoastronomy.

External links

Media related to Sunwatch village at Wikimedia Commons

Boonshoft Museum of Discovery

The Boonshoft Museum of Discovery is a children's museum, science and technology center and zoo in Dayton, Ohio, United States that focuses on science and natural history. Exhibits include an extensive natural history collection as well as maintaining a collection of live animals native to Ohio and abroad. Educational outreach extends to the community by providing in-school programming and on-site special programs. SunWatch Indian Village and Fort Ancient are the sister sites to the museum.The museum is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM), affiliated with the Association of Children's Museums (ACM), and is a governing member of the Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC). In addition, the museum's indoor Discovery Zoo is fully accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. The museum is the only zoo, aquarium, planetarium or science center in Dayton, and also houses the Apollo Observatory, an astronomical observatory operated by the Miami Valley Astronomical Society.

Boyd Mounds Site

The Boyd Mounds Site (22MD512) is an archaeological site from the Late Woodland and Early Mississippian period located in Madison County, Mississippi near Ridgeland. Many of the mounds were excavated by The National Park Service in 1964. It is located at mile 106.9 on the old Natchez Trace, now the Natchez Trace Parkway. It was added to the NRHP on July 14, 1989 as NRIS number 89000784.

Cayson Mound and Village Site

The Cayson Mound and Village Site (8CA3) is a prehistoric archaeological site located near Blountstown, Florida. It is located three miles southeast of Blountstown, on the Apalachicola River. The site was occupied by peoples of the Fort Walton Culture (a regional variation of the Mississippian culture). On March 15, 1976, it was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.

Cole culture

The Cole Culture (800-1300 CE) is a Late Woodland Period culture of Native American people from central Ohio.

Cole Culture people made flint tools and pottery. They were agrarian and cultivated beans, maize, squash, and tobacco. Cole people buried their dead in subterranean graves instead of mounds. They shared many traits with the Hopewell tradition and might be descended from them. A major Cole Culture site is the Ufferman Site in Delaware County, Ohio. Another is the Highbank Park Works, also in Delaware County, built between 800 and 1300 CE.

Earth/fertility cult

The Earth/fertility Mississippian cult was associated with earthen platform mounds.The act of rebuilding the mounds, of adding additional layers of earth over burials, served as a symbol of renewal, which renewed the earthwork as much as human life. The earthen platform served as the earth, a symbolism which endured into historic times. There are historically documented connections between additions to platforms mounds and the communal "Green Corn Ceremony", which celebrated the new harvest and the fertility of the earth. The quadrilateral, flat-topped design of many platform mounds may represent the Southeastern American Indian belief that the earth was a flat surface oriented towards four quarters of the world.

Fort Ancient

Fort Ancient is a name for a Native American culture that flourished from Ca. 1000-1750 CE and predominantly inhabited land near the Ohio River valley in the areas of modern-day southern Ohio, northern Kentucky, southeastern Indiana and western West Virginia. Although a contemporary of the Mississippian Culture, they are often considered a "sister culture" and distinguished from the Mississippian Culture. Although far from agreed upon, there is evidence to suggest that the Fort Ancient Culture were not the direct descendants of the Hopewellian Culture]. It is suspected that the Fort Ancient Culture introduced maize agriculture to Ohio. The Fort Ancient Culture were most likely the builders of the Great Serpent Mound.

Gahagan Mounds Site

The Gahagan Mounds Site (16RR1) is an Early Caddoan Mississippian culture archaeological site in Red River Parish, Louisiana. It is located in the Red River Valley. The site is famous for the three shaft burials and exotic grave goods excavated there in the early twentieth century.

Julice Mound

Julice Mound is an archaeological site in East Carroll Parish, Louisiana with a Plaquemine culture component dating to 1200–1541 CE and located less than one mile from Transylvania Mounds.

Larson Site

The Larson Site is a prehistoric archaeological site in Fulton County, Illinois, near the city of Lewistown. The site was the location of a Mississippian town and was occupied during the 13th and 14th centuries. The town was one of seven major town sites in the central Illinois River valley and served as a social and economic center for surrounding villages and farms. The artifacts uncovered at the site have been well-preserved and include both organic remains and intact homes, providing significant archaeological evidence regarding the Mississippian way of life.The site was added to the National Register of Historic Places on November 21, 1978.

Leo Petroglyph

The Leo Petroglyph is a sandstone petroglyph containing 37 images of humans and other animals as well as footprints of each. The petroglyph is located near the small village of Leo, Ohio (in Jackson County, Ohio) and is thought to have been created by the Fort Ancient peoples (possibly AD 1000–1650). The area in which the sandstone petroglyph was found is on the edge of an unglaciated Mississippian sandstone cliff 20–65 feet high. To this day, the meanings of the drawings are unknown. On November 10, 1970, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places. The site is maintained by the Ohio History Connection.

Madisonville Site

The Madisonville Site is a prehistoric archaeological site near Mariemont, Ohio, United States. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on October 16, 1974 as the "Mariemont Embankment and Village Site".

Madisonville is the type site for the Madisonville phase of Fort Ancient pottery. The 5-acre site is located on a bluff above the Little Miami River about 5 miles upstream from the Ohio River. While occupied over hundreds of years, it was settled most intensively in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, and is the most excavated Fort Ancient site of this time period. Early twentieth-century excavations were carried out by staff of the Peabody Museum at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Since 1990, the Cincinnati Museum of Natural History has done additional studies, with findings increased by the use of current technology and professional practices. The village site had two or more small plazas, rather than just one central site as seen at the earlier SunWatch Indian Village.

This is believed to be the only Fort Ancient site whose people consumed bison as part of the game hunted to supplement their diet of maize. They may have hunted the animals in areas to the west of this site. Elk and deer were also valuable for their meat, and the people put to use their bones and hides for tools, musical instruments and ornaments.Researchers found a large amount of goods of non-local materials and design, indicating the villagers were connected to a large exchange network, with items identified as from the St. Lawrence River region, eastern present-day Iowa, and northern Alabama, as well as Tennessee. The size and limited range of European goods indicated they came from an indirect network at this time, rather than in direct trading. People at Madisonville made distinctive snake-shaped ornaments, which have been found at other sites as distant as Iroquois settlements in Ontario, Canada and western present-day New York.

Owl Creek Mounds

The Owl Creek Mounds are a Native American Ceremonial Complex located in Mississippi's Tombigbee National Forest. The mounds are believed to have been built between 800 and 900 years ago during the Mississippian era. Archaeological excavations from 1991-1992 by crews from Mississippi State University led by Janet Rafferty revealed structural remains on three of the mounds at the site.

Routh Mounds

Routh Mounds is a Plaquemine culture archaeological site in Tensas Parish, Louisiana. It is the type site for the Routh Phase(1200 to 1350 CE) of the Tensas Basin Plaquemine Mississippian chronology. It is located approximately 2 miles (3.2 km) northwest of the Winter Quarters State Historic Site.

Rucker's Bottom Site

Rucker's Bottom Site (9EB91) is an archaeological site in located on the Upper Savannah River in Elbert County, Georgia.

Sacred bundle

A sacred bundle or a medicine bundle is a wrapped collection of sacred items, held by a designated carrier, used in Indigenous American ceremonial cultures.

According to Patricia Deveraux, a member of the Blackfoot Confederacy in Alberta, "These are holy bundles given to us by the Creator to hold our people together... They're the same as the relics from the Catholic Church. They are a demonstration of the holy spirit. They can heal people."

Sleeth Site

The Sleeth Site is an archaeological site located near Liverpool in Fulton County, Illinois. The side encompasses a 10-acre (4.0 ha) village area including a sizable midden. The site was occupied by people of the Spoon River Culture, a local culture within the Middle Mississippian culture; it is the only known site within the Sleeth Phase of the culture and has been dated to 1500 A.D. Cultural artifacts recovered from the site include a large number of projectile points and pottery shards from jars, plates, and bowls.The site was added to the National Register of Historic Places on May 17, 1979.

Stephen Carter (architect)

Stephen J. Carter, AIA, NCARB, LF'82 (born 1945 in Cincinnati, Ohio) is an American architect.

Upper Mississippian culture

Upper Mississippian culture, sometimes referred to as Upper Mississippian cultures (plural), is the archaeological designation for certain late prehistoric cultures of the indigenous peoples of eastern North America, located in the present day Midwestern United States region.

Included are:

the Oneota tradition or culture - in the Mississippian culture, it flourished in the area around Lake Michigan and over into Iowa, Minnesota and Missouri

the Fort Ancient culture - in parts of Indiana, Kentucky, and Ohio

Velda Mound

Velda Mound (8LE44) is a Native American archaeological site located in northern Tallahassee, Leon County, Florida, United States. The site was first occupied by peoples of the Fort Walton Culture (a regional variation of the Mississippian culture) in the late prehistoric period and during the protohistoric period was part of the extensive Apalachee Province of the panhandle. The site is now owned by the State of Florida and managed as a park.

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