Nature’s calls

Fort Ancient honors Hopewell culture in this summer’s activities

Photo: Experience the view at Fort Ancient, tucked away in Washington Township, this summer

By Joyell Nevins

Experience history, nature, and Native American culture at Fort Ancient, east of Dayton in Washington Township, this summer.

Fort Ancient is actually not a fort at all, although it is designated a national historic site and is in consideration for a World Heritage designation by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization.

Program Coordinator Pam Hall pointed out that when Europeans settled here, they saw walls and immediately thought “fort.”

“It’s actually an exquisite astronomical calendar,” Hall says.

She notes that it took the Hopewell Native American tribe 19 generations to build. It was originally 36 feet tall, with notches to indicate intricate moonrises and other planetary movements. Archaeological excavations have now revealed 18,000 feet of well-preserved earthen embankment walls.

Around those embankment walls, Fort Ancient has a host of special events geared toward exposing the public to its centuries-old history and connecting them with Mother Earth. Fort Ancient is also part of the Ohio History Connection network, in collaboration with Boonshoft Museum and SunWatch Village.

On Saturday, July 8, Hall is hosting a Mask Making Workshop from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

“My whole intention is to take people through a process to see themselves as a part of nature,” Hall says. “It’s to let people of all ages to connect with nature and the presence of nature.”

In many native cultures, masks represent animals from which a specific clan descended. Masks could also represent status in the tribe, with the chief, for example, wearing the mask of an eagle to represent his strength. Colors and materials also connote different meanings.

Mask makers will think about what qualities of animals, birds, and trees they embody. What do they personally identify with? Then they can put those elements into a mask using natural objects.

“It takes people into places they’ve not gone before,” Hall says. “So many of us have gotten disconnected from the natural world.”

This workshop is a variation of a project Hall used to do with her art students. Before working at Fort Ancient, Hall worked in art education in public schools for 26 years, and wholistic art at Cincinnati Waldorf for three years.

Upon her retirement, Hall started volunteering at the Fort. When her current position opened up, she jumped at the chance.

“I feel very, very drawn to ancient Native American culture,” Hall says. “For me, this position brings together everything I love.”

Since working here, she has helped quadruple the number of events, hosting several workshops and both adult and children’s programs, which continue honoring native culture and nature throughout the summer.

On July 8, Dave Woehr, certified Ohio Volunteer Naturalist, will take guests through the woods to talk about the flora and fauna surrounding Fort Ancient.

On July 15, Jack Blosser leads Archaeology Day. Blosser has a bachelor’s degree in history and museology, a master’s in anthropology, and a specialty in Hopewell archaeology. He has worked with Fort Ancient for 29 years, with almost 20 of those hosting the Archaeology Days.

This event focuses on the archaeological history of Fort Ancient. Guests can participate in a tour of the grounds, which includes a special discussion of the 200-foot round Moorehead Circle. They can throw a spear or play a game of double ball, a game played by several Indian tribes.

Later in the month, the Fort offers summer camp, with varying themes. To start the week of July 17–21, the camp activities and discussions will focus on Native American history. Explorations in pioneer life, archaeology, and science follow. Some of the activities include spear throwing, games, crafts, and hiking.

As the summer heats up, on August 12, Blosser again shares his archaeology background in Mapping and Interpretation, a class geared toward students from fourth to eighth grade.

The class is a basic run-down of archaeology: participants map artifacts from various cultures and place them in an excavation box. Once these artifacts are “excavated,” students will interpret them using research materials on site. They will discover the culture, age, and function of the artificats. Spear throwing and double ball will also be featured at this event.

For the full feature on Archaeology Day, please pick up Dayton City Paper the week of July 11.

Fort Ancient is located at 6123 St. Rt. 350 in Warren County. To register for events or for more information, please call 513.932.4421 or visit


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Joyell believes in the power of the written word, a good cup of coffee, and sometimes, the need for a hug (please, no Tommy Boy references). Follow her on her blog “Small World, Big God” at or reach her at

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