By Charlie Campbell
SunWatch Indian Village/Archaeological Park, 2301 W. River Road, Dayton, OH 45418, (937) 268-8199
If you have wondered what was going on in Dayton when the Magna Carta in England was being signed (1215AD) then head into the SunWatch Indian Village/Archaeological Park.
The Mission of SunWatch is to protect, preserve and research the cultural remains of the SunWatch National Historic Landmark archaeological site.
They provide a short film that really helps you understand what the Fort Ancient Indians were doing. I encourage to see it because when you are outside at the site you will have a much better sense of their life and culture.
You need to head into the actual museum and you will get a good idea of what these Native Americans were doing. You will get the layout of the entire village, where the homes were, and where the dead were buried. You also can see some of the arrowheads and the pottery they were making and you can see what their homes were like.
SunWatch provides an enhanced audio guide tour which allows you to explore the grounds while listening to commentary on the history and significance of key features of the site.
When you actually go into the village you see how they built the walls which were around the entire place. It is amazing to think how many trees and branches were needed and how long it would take to construct this whole thing.
The SunWatch house frames are made of "rigid" posts and beams. They are similar in style to those of the southeastern United States. These types of houses had thatched roofs (often composed of river cane) and wattle-and-daub walls. ?You can see the various layers they used for the walls.
You will quickly see the tall pole and it was used for recognizing the solstices.
In the summer and fall, the sun appears slightly further south on the horizon each day until it reaches its extreme southernmost point, which is the Winter Solstice (December 21-22). After the Winter Solstice, the shift reverses with the sun appearing slightly further to the north each morning until it reaches the northern extreme, the Summer Solstice (June 21-22). The sun reaches the midpoint twice each year, on or around March 22nd and September 22nd. The pole would cast shadows into the main lodge and helped the natives determine proper planting and harvesting times.
For example, human burials close to the Cedar Lodge include only males and children. Furthermore, the proximity of this lodge to dog and wolf remains may reflect symbolic associations with warfare rituals and exclusively male activities that may have taken place within this structure.
By the 1400’s the Fort Ancient Indians were gone. Some say the use of the farms for corn and other food was now depleted so they departed and built another village further south near the Ohio River.
As you are leaving you will realize that while our Dayton history is 250 years ago, in many ways the land, and the river have not changed much. It looks like it was 1,000 years ago with the Fort Ancient Indians.
I encourage you to take a trip back in time and visit SunWatch Indian Village. It really is fascinating.
Please Note: The Dayton CVB has compensated me for my thoughts on SunWatch Archaeological Park.