SunWatch presents new archaeology series
By Emily Kaiser
As I was driving down the long road to SunWatch Indian Village and Archaeological Park, I thought to myself, “Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore.” I felt that I was no longer in Dayton, the city of which I thought I knew every square inch.
As Andy Sawyer, SunWatch’s Site Manager and Site Anthropologist opened the door with his daughter, I suddenly had a glimpse of memory rush through my head. It looked a little different, but images started popping up as I searched through the Indian village. I had been here before. I remember running through SunWatch when I was in second or third grade, along with my elementary school classmates. Looking through the glass window at what seemed to be huts, Sawyer explained to me that it is actually part of a reconstructed village. I wished I were able to go outside, but they did look beautiful with snow blanketing the small houses.
Sawyer has been at SunWatch for about ten years now, having studied Archeology at Miami University and the University of Denver.
Embarrassed enough as he may be, he shyly admits that it was Indiana Jones who sparked his interest in archeology, that mixed with the fact he grew up in southern Ohio. Most people don’t realize that in Ohio, we have Newark Earthworks, Mound City Group and the Serpent Mound, all of which are rich is archeological history.
SunWatch hosts field trips by many schools, Boy and Girl Scout troops, and has annual events. This year’s lecture series is their seventh, and is titled “2013 Myths and Mysteries in Archaeology Presentation Series.” Each event in the series concentrates on different aspects of archeological finds and the guest speakers are certainly experts on each topic.
“It became clear pretty quickly that if we were going to do these every year, we were going to have to branch out of Ohio archeology,” said Sawyer. “We want to address not just local archeology, but national archeology.”
The first event, “Amorous Astronauts, Inkblots and A low Opinion of Our Ancestors: The Ancient Aliens Fantasy” will be held on Saturday, Jan. 19 at 10:30 a.m.
Andy had been keeping up with “Ancient Aliens” on the History Channel, and for him it is like a train wreck, but he can’t stop watching.
“I’m not denying the existence of aliens. They may be out there, I don’t know,” said Sawyer. “But if we go back on that show in particular, they kind of pick out selective things, and since they don’t know the background of it they say ‘the aliens must have done this’ because they have no other answer.”
Some one who does know the answer though, is Dr. Ken Feder from Central Connecticut State University. He will not only be presenting but also debunking these myths with archeological evidence.
“We basically have human activity going back tens of thousands of years,” said Sawyer.
Sawyer knows that people may be skeptical, because so often what is seen on television claims to be true. He believes that people need to actually be more skeptical and that a certain amount of skepticism is healthy.
The second event of the series is called, “The Newark ‘Holy Stones’: Science, Politics and Religion in 19th century Ohio,” and will be held on Saturday, Feb. 16 at 10:30 a.m. This is event is also proving yet another myth to be wrong.
This event will be presented by Dr. Brad Lepper from the Ohio Historical Society.
“These were a couple of stones found in Newark, just east of Columbus, and they had Hebrew inscriptions on them. They were supposed to be evidence that one of the lost tribes of Israel were the mound builders as opposed to the American Indians,” Sawyer said. “It was quickly determined that they were fake.”
Through the examining of the writing and archeological research, there is now evidence that this is, in fact, a myth.
The third event, which is part of the mystery part of the series, is called “Assessing the Historicity of the Trojan War: Excavations at Troy 1988-2010” and will be presented by AIA National Lecturer Dr. C. Brian Rose from the University of Pennsylvania on Saturday, March 2. Rose spent the last 20 to 30 years excavating Troy.
“If there’s an expert on Troy, it’s him,” said Sawyer. He explains that when most people think of the Trojan War, they get a picture in their mind of the Trojan Horse, but there is actually much more than just that. Rose is going to talk about the years of excavation and what has been learned about the city and the war, making some mysteries more clear.
The final event of the series is “Sacred Spaces and Human Sacrifice: The Nazca Lines in the Cultural and Religious Context,” which takes place Saturday, April 20. This is also within the mystery part of the series and will be presented by AIA National Lecturer Dr. Christina Conlee from Texas State University at San Marcos.
“These Nazca Lines are basically large geoglyphs. They’re kind of like animal figures carved into the side of a hill and they might be 100 to 200 feet,” said Sawyer. He also explained that the “Ancient Aliens” television show claims that you can only see them from the sky, so they have to be communicating with people from outer space.
Conlee has been working in the Nazca Desert of Peru and with the history of its culture and what it means to its people. She found that the geoglyphs located there actually had ritual significance to the people of Nazca. She will be explaining the mystery behind these Nazca Lines and clarifying the truth behind this mystery.
Sawyer believes it is important for the people of Dayton to open their minds and be interested in the true history behind these topics.
“I’m concerned that people are buying whatever they see on TV as ‘it must be true,’” said Sawyer. He wants the people in his community to explore the amazing truth behind history and appreciate it, because it all has an amazing story to tell.
This series is free and all are welcome. Bring a cup of coffee or hot chocolate and doughnuts will be provided. Why not broaden your horizons and learn something valuable on a Saturday morning? You never know what lies beneath these myths and mysteries.
SunWatch Indian Village and Archaeological Park is located at 2301 W. River Road. The park is open Tuesdays-Saturdays 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sunday noon-5 p.m. For more information, visit www.sunwatch.org.