Madisonville Focus Revisited: Reexcavating Fort Ancient from Museum Collections

TitleMadisonville Focus Revisited: Reexcavating Fort Ancient from Museum Collections
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2000
AuthorsDrooker, PB
EditorGenheimer, R
Book TitleCultures Before Contact: The Late Prehistory of Ohio and Surrounding Regions
PublisherThe Ohio Archaeological Council
CityColumbus, Ohio
KeywordsFort Ancient, Madisonville, Northeastern North American archaeology

A half century ago, James B. Griffin defined the Madisonville Focus of Fort Ancient, including over a dozen sites in southeastern Indians, southwestern Ohio, and northern Kentucky. His work drew heavily on museum and private collections excavated during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, focusing to a large extent on geographical distributions of archaeological traits—types of ceramics, non-pottery artifacts, and features such as burial mounds. Since publication of Griffin's The Fort Ancient Aspect, his southwestern Ohio data have been supplemented ny at least two regional survys, a number of small-scale but stratigraphically well-controlled excavations, and one large-scale project, at the Turpin site. These data, along with the development of new techniques such as seriation, radiocarbon dating, flotation, and trace element analysis, and new theory to tackle research questions on topics such as subsistence, health, settlement patterns, socioeconomic organization, and interregional exchange, pave the way for a fruitful reexamination of the collections with which Griffin worked in his original formulation of the Madisonville Focus. After a brief summary of Fort Ancient excavation history in southwestern Ohio, this paper focuses on three topics that were not emphasized by Griffin: chronological relationships, settlement patterns, and social organization. Recent projects that made use of museum-curated materials from Madisonville, Hahn's Field, Turpin, Sand Ridge, Campbell Island, and Anderson Village (Anderson Focus) site are highlighted, illustrating the potential for furhter research with existing collections.