By William D. Conner
Amateur archaeologist, former professional science writer, newspaper science columnist, public relations staff of Bell Labs, and member of the press gallery, of US House of Representatives and Senate.
The first dig of the Midwestern Epigraphic Society
(This photo appears in black and white in my book on page 88)
The late Beverly Moseley, standing, and Karen Goldman, are working at the author's dig site at the top of rolling terrain in a farm field.
I am a Avocational Archaeologist
(thus I am free to call 'em as I see 'em)
My First Dig With The Midwestern Epigraphic Society (MES) Was Near Mallery's Deer Creek Sites (photo above)
A farmer, David Orr, had uncovered some very unusual debris while planting wheat in a farm field just a mile north of where my mentor, Arlington Mallery, investigated reports of an iron furnace buried in what was thought to be only a prehistoric burial mound along Deer Creek.
Mallery, a registered professional engineer, was interested in archaeology before World War II and worked before the war building steel bridges in Ohio. He supervised the replacement of old wooden covered bridges that often had to be replaced because of floods or vandalism.
A professional archaeologist, Martha Otto, was told about Orr's discovery. Her husband, Frank Otto, was a member of a archaeological club, the Midwestern Epigraphic Society. This led to my investigation of Orr's site in a wheat field in September 1990. We were permitted to only make a shallow dig at this site, but this dig led to our opportunity to complete furnace dig when we were permitted investigate another site in 1992. And by the way, Mrs. Otto knew my kind of archaeology was best supervised by someone who had already gotten his hands dirty at such a furnace site.
Orr and I knew we should find an oval ring cross section. And that is exactly what a farmer found while bulldozing a hillside to create a pond. I don't know if I should attribute all this to destiny, but my entire career as an amateur does seem predestined to me.
A few years before I "fell into" the role of Mallery's successor, I had achieved my goal of joining the public relations staff of a large "high tech" company, Bell Labs in New Jersey in the New York City metropolitan zone. But this, the best and most rewarding job of my entire life, came to an abrupt end as a court order broke up the AT&T monopoly.
Why did this happen to such a world class research institution? The answer is a least in part that the cutting edge of the telecommunications industry was about to depart to the San Francisco area where the personal desk top computer and the internet were being born. Meanwhile, the Labs had gone off in the wrong direction with it's "picture phones." These were found to gobble up way too much bandwidth and weren't conceived as devices that would transmit both data and photos.
Meanwhile, the the internet and personal computers were being invented in the San Francisco bay area. It seems amazing to me now that such an esteemed research facility could be lost in an anti-monopoly federal court case. The lab's staff of talented scientists was broken up. I am reluctant to attribute my return to Ohio from to destiny or fate, but it seems like it because I found myself out in the field working at an archaeological dig.
A story about a new archaeology club, the Midwestern Epigraphic Society, appeared in the Columbus Dispatch shortly after I moved in to Columbus, my wife's hometown.
A story about a new archaeology club, the Midwestern Epigraphic Society, appeared in the Columbus Dispatch shortly after I moved in to Columbus, my wife's hometown.
So I was out on a limb with my employment problems in the Washington, DC area, such as my job as editor of a newsletter the government drafting its laws to cover the new telecommunications satellite industry. It came to an end after the FCC established the regulations. Looking back on how fate propelled me back to Ohio and almost immediately to the field digging at a newly found furnace site, still seems a bit "spooky." If the labs had somehow been saved from the breakup I would have never moved back to Ohio.
But, there's more to my spooky destiny! Shortly after arriving back in Ohio, there was a news story in the Columbus newspaper, The Dispatch, about a newly formed archaeology club that even mentioned where it's next meeting wuld be and when!
So archaeology came back into my life just when I came back to Ohio! So what had first been involved in as a high school student in Ohio, returned.
As a professional science writer of decades of experience, I recall that I was very interested in science even before I met Mallery while a high school boy. Mallery, a licensed professional engineer, became familiar with the Chillicothe area just prior to WW2 while supervising construction of steel bridges in the area to replace wooden covered bridges that were too often burned down by vandals.
Solecki made a whirlwind inspection of several archaeological sites in Ross County, Ohio and dismissed what he saw as mere "lime kilns." Obviously, Solecki had never seen anything like these before and just as obviously thought Mallery was an old fool. Or, he knew Mallery's findings were very "hot" and chose the easy way out of getting involved with controversy!
And, Solecki was very fresh from getting his degree in archaeology and he must have quickly decided the safe way for himself was to handle Mallery as just an old fool with delusions of grandeur. The accepted story of America's discovery by Columbus was and still is upheld by American archaeologists who wish to keep their jobs!
Mallery was however, still fresh from being a cargo ship captain who sailed the submarine infested Atlantic Ocean during WW2. He had to have an excellent knowledge of metallurgy to be a licensed bridge builder and certainly was not anybody's fool! But the "none before Columbus" still obstructs the fact that professional archaeology in North America fails to be an objective, fact-seeking science.
Instead of being fiist and foremost a science, it is hobbled with an orthodoxy that no Europeans reached North America prior to Columbus in 1492.
With the brashness of youth, Solecki must have been quick to characterize Mallery as an old fool with delusions of grandeur. And his haste in examining Mallery's work seems to have motivated by Solecki's attitude of contempt that warped his evaluation of Mallery's evidence. But it also seems that Solecki was wise to flee from Mallery's dangerous discovery! Indeed, hereturned to Chillicothe and took a evening train that day back to Washingon.
However, Mallery's mentor at the Smithsonian, Matthew Sterling, certainly knew how "hot" a subject as evidence of European contact with North America prior to 1492 was then (and still is). So his alliance to Mallery had to be set aside.
Currently, as I add more content to this blog (1-1-14), a Canadian archaeologist, Dr. Patricia Sutherland, has lost her job because of finding further evidence of preColumbian Old World contact! (more to come in this blog about this!) Is there some sinester unknown power or organization that keeps North America bound to its "none before Columbus" stance from deviating? Well maybe not, but certainly seems like it!
There certainly is a prehistoric past of North America other than that of the native America folks, the "Indians" themselves once knew of white people residing in what we now call "Kentucky" and certainly in my own home state, Ohio, where they must have realized the boggy terrain of unglacated central Ohio was like the same terrain as found Europe. And thus they could anticipate finding deposits of bog ore in glaciated Ohio. My hometown, Chillicothe, lies in a geologic area where experienced bog ore users, such as the Norse, could anticipate finding bog ore in this marshy terrain.
So to complete this chain of events which seems to follow resorces necessary for the existence both bog ore and users of bog ore, we have the legendy "Az Gens," who in the oral history of the Shawnee Indians, once lived in prehistoric Kentucky!
None of this seems to put even much of a dent in the wall of censorship that has locked up a real science based archaeology in both the US in Canada. However, one archaeologist who sees some merit in the case for prehistoric iron furnaces in Ohio, is Bret Ruby, archaeologist at the Mound City National Park in my hometown, Chillicothe,Ohio.
"Iron Age America: Before Columbus," my book which is sold by online book stores, has front and back covers in color. Restoration of this web site is intended to provide color photos to supplement Also, additional photos that do not appear elsewhere in my book or other my other web sites appear here. So I will get things posted first and then try to refine my work later. More color photos of Ohio's prehistoric iron artifacts will be added.
From 1977 to 1989 I resided first in the New Jersey suburbs near New York City while first working in the Public Relations unit of AT&T's Bell Laboratories at Murray Hill and then as editor of a telecommunications news letter in Washington, DC. While I am a scientific person who does not necessarily believe in fate, it is hard for me to dismiss the fact that I arrived back in Ohio in Columbus at the very time when a local archaeology club needed an archaeologist. Well, I wasn't just any amateur archaeologist, but the exact, precise person they needed.
The "Midwestern Epigraphic Society," (MES) name reflects their first venture in the field. This involved visits to Kentucky's cave shelters where prehistoric symbols are carved on the walls, and which resemble those of prehistoric Europe. Hence the "epigraphic" of the club's name.
In 1990 there was a meeting of an organization of professional archaeologists, "Eastern States Archaeological Society" held at the Southern Hotel in Columbus. I was permitted to show a table full of my artifacts and some of these were collected from this1990 dig at a wheat field site I named "Glacial Kame" for the small wheat field kame David Orr was plowing when he uncovered some glazed artifacts and other unusual rocks and debris.
Deer Creek, about 12 miles from my hometown of Chillicothe, Ohio, is a very interesting stream whose banks once were used for iron furnace pits. The Deer Creek valley is quite boggy where the furnace remains were found. The creek cuts through a layer clay soil that seems to be perfect for iron furnace bowl and air tunnels. More to come...visit here again.
By A Strange Twist of Fate, A Coin Of Pure Gold
Was Found Near Deer Creek Furnaces
This Photo Was Not Included In "Iron Age America: Before Columbus"
However, the coin is discussed in Appendix O of my book.
A coin dealer told the finder this coin could be worth $100,000 "to the right buyer." The presence of this coin near the iron furnace mound is quite mysterious. It adds strength to the mystery of the Indian tale of the "Az Gens," the "white people from the Eastern sea," who the Shawnee said once lived in Kentucky. The coin came a very long way to reach the Deer Creek valley and it adds a very deep mystery to the creek valley with its multiple preshistoric iron furnace sites Arledge, Deer Creek No. 1, Deer Creek No. 2, Haskins No 1 and 2,
April 1995 Conference of the Archaeo-Pyrogenics Society
Meeting in David Orr's farm house dining room, members of the former Archaeo-Piro Graphics Society discuss an assembly of prehistoric artifacts collected from iron furnace sites. Seated is Don Thomas and standing, left to right are Gerald Parker, David Orr and archaeologist Scott Troy. Parker was an important member of our team. His hobby was "point hunting."
This refers to a searching for prehistoric artifacts, and the best hunting season for this is in the spring when fields have just been plowed.
Outline Of Prehistoric Iron Furnace Pit Emerged After A Flood (Below);
A flood during the winter of 1949-50 washed away enough of the bank of Deer Creek in Ross County, Ohio to explose the remains of an iron furnace pit. Arlington Mallery, second from left, created quite a stir in the newspapers of Ohio with his discovery of what he insisted were iron furnaces that resemble those last used in Europe before Columbus discovered America. The bisection of this furnace made by floodwater. This furnace is listed as "Deer Creek No. 1
This photo was taken by photographer for the local newspaper, the Chillicothe Gazette. The publicity led Mallery to investigate reports of other possible furnace sites. As an amateur archaeologist, Mallery had short comings that aroused the disap-proval of professional archaeologists. Howver, the professionals themselves have faults of their own which include fear of losing their jobs for straying from the rigid "none before Columbus" orthodoxy.
Also the strange artifacts, such as glass covered stones, that Mallery found in his furnace sites puzzled the professional archaeologists who had never seen anything like these. In 1963 I was asked to assist the elderly Mallery, who at age 86 returned to Ohio in an attempt to obtain charcoal for carbon dating from one of his furnace sites. Mallery wanted photos taken of his dig to obtain charcoal, so I asked a local photographer, Jim Leisure, to take the photo take the photo that now appears on the cover of my book. The ancients who constructed and used these prehistoric seems to have used any type of existing elevation as furnace sites, and these include prehistoric Indian burial mounds.
Bog Ore Deposit Found On Flank Of Ohio's Mysterious Spruce Hill
This fragment of red banded Pebbles dolomite, in center below, may have once been squared off and is at least a suggestion of prehistoric stone masonry at the hill. I have found other examples that also suggest stone masonry. On left Craig Hulman and Don Thomas examine a patch of heavy red soil which seems to be bog ore. Spruce Hill seems to be the reason Paint Creek got its colorful name. name. The deposits of the red soil just uphill from Paint Creek below certainly suggest the site was the source of the pigment in prehistoric times .
Bits and pieces of red rock crown the top edges of the Spruce Hill plateau. And the red banded sandstone, like this piece, seems to be the source of the red soil after crumbling and weathering from rock chunks to crumbled fragments to just red dirt.
The large copper object below, called a "celt" by professional archaeologists, is said to have been made by "cold working" by professional archaeologists. Mallery scoffed at this and said large copper artifacts such as this could only have been made by melting and casting.
The on the right is a mold shaped object was found during one of my many visits there, I believe the case was closed that metallurgical furnaces were once in operation at Spruce Hill. One expert I consulted was a member of Arch Metals, an email discussion group heavily concentrated in England. Other people interested in the archaeology of metals told me this could have been a mold. Weathering would have had centuries to erase clues that could settled the question one way or another.
Glazed Hand Axe Found By Mallery In Arledge Mound
This stone hand axe is one of the most amazing artifacts found in Ohio's prehistoric iron furnaces first excavated by Arlington Mallery in 1949-50.
This artifact, and others like it, suggests that those who built the furnaces were in the early stages of smelting wrought iron in furnace pits like those used in the early iron age in Europe. The use of stone hand tools at iron furnace sites suggests those who dug and used the pit furnaces did so beause of their lack iron and steel tools.
Only this side of the artifact is glazed. The dark object on the lower right side olf the axe is a droplet of glass that formed
after the furnace cooled. Mallery gave this artifact to my sister, the late Phyllis Conner Shoemaker. This tool is just one example of similar stone hand tools found at other pit furnace sites by Mallery and others.
Freshly dug bog ore becomes rock hard after it dries out and this suggests ore would be broken into smaller pieces for smelting while still soft. Hand tools such as this one have been found by the author and his associates at other sites. The very use of stone hand tools to make iron certainly fits into the conclusion that iron and steel hand tools were in very short supply among the furnace workers.
Glass coated stones are found in abundance at the Garrett Site near Chillicothe. The author is shown below holding a stone taken from the pile behind the date stamp .
Evidence suggests two or more pit iron furnaces existed at the Garrett site west of the author's home town, Chillicothe, Ohio. This site is where I found a cast iron hand axe still in its mold. The axe seems to be sufficent to indicate the furnaces were created and used by pre-Columbian people who had to make their iron tools using a primitive technology. This was last used in Europe before Columbus sailed to discover America.
Although the Garrett site is now on public park land, and since the professional archies are having nothing to do with it, the site is endangered by being washed away in some future flood. It is in my opinion one of the most important sites in North America, because the artifacts found there are those of a preindustrial age when small amount of iron ore was smelted in tiny bowl furnaces.
Shovel Remains Found In Lynn Acres Iron Furnace Dig In 1992
After excavating the Lynn Acres Furnace, we decided to do some digging in the work area in the level ground in front of the furnace bowl. We worked our way further and further out from the furnace and were about to quit when we struck something hard. This was a highly corroded nest of iron shovel blades shown below. This was the only iron artifact found at the site, except for 30 hand made nails found as we dug.
These nested shovel blades find provided us some additional evidence for our conclusion that this artifact underscores the furnaces and iron artifacts are indeed prehistoric. In historic times around this location, there would be not only be no reason why people would make iron tools so laboriously and then leave them behind buried out of sight. Also tools found buried at other sites agree with this conclusion as I explain in detail in my book.
Professional archaeologists in the USA are incredibly reluctant to even admit the furnaces were used to make wrought iron and cast iron. My discovery of a cast iron hand axe as told in detail in book "Iron Age America: Before Columbus." The very fact that someone in prehistoric times in Ohio would bury such useful tools should prod the professionals to realize that no early settlers would discard such useful and expensive tools.
There were no nearby hardware stores to provide them with replacement tools! We named this site "glacial kame" because it is located at the top of a long rolling ridge. The details of this dig are told in Chapter 8 of my book "Iron Age America." We were allowed only to make a shallow dig at this site by the owner of the farm.
But we hit the jackpot in 1992 when we were found the oval outline of a prehistoric furnace in southwestern Pickaway County, Ohio. The story of how this came about is told in my book and again this seemed to happen as though guided by strange luck, almost as though we were meant to find another prehistoric furnace site and one that we could excavate.
So here are David Orr, on left, and Ned Boldozer measuring the width of the furnace bowl in January 1992. In August of that year we excavated this site and found a completely buried iron furnace of a design last used in Europe prior to 1492. I am still amazed the a man named "Bolddozer" found this site while using a bulldozer to dig a farm pond. We found furnace artifacts scattered all along the earthen dam he built.
The Lynn Acres prehistoric furnace prior to excavation in 1992
David Orr on left and Ned Boldozer on right measure the width of the yet to be excavated buried iron furnace. A total of 35 prehistoric furnace sites were found where the slag glazed stones, the diagnostic artifact were found.