In the Scioto River drainage of south-central, Ohio, during the Middle Woodland Period (50 B.C. to A.D. 350), Hopewellian people constructed monumental earthen embankments in various geometric shapes. At these earthwork centers, people from diverse areas were connected through the repetitive process of constructing earthen embankments. This proposal seeks to identify the construction techniques, understand the structural stability of ancient embankment design, and understand the social organization behind embankment construction. The embankments found in the Scioto region were not simply constructed by piling up basket loads of soil; instead, they were complex earthen structures, which were constructed during a period of environmental instability and remained standing for nearly two millennia. The techniques of construction used to build these structures arose from a long history of earthwork construction in the Eastern Woodlands, dating back at least five thousand years. During this time, particular rules and styles of construction were developed that addressed particular cultural, structural, and environmental requirements. Ancient construction technologies may differ from our own due to variation in the particular histories, motivations, and values behind construction. Therefore, this project seeks to identify the formula of construction that was used to build the ancient earthen embankments. Identifying the structural properties of ancient embankments not only has implications for understanding the past but also for the future. As the embankments have survived environmental changes over thousands of years, their structural properties may yield insight for sustainable design of modern earthen structures.

Ultimate Goal

Two approaches will be used identify embankment construction techniques: (1) establish a detailed chronology of construction using optically stimulated luminescence for each embankment stratum and (2) identify the physical, structural, and mechanical properties of the soil using geotechnical engineering methodologies. Funding is requested to collect and process soil samples in order to determine the rate of earthwork construction, identify the material properties essential in their construction, model the original dimensions of the embankments, evaluate the effects of environmental factors on the embankments’ stability, and identify ancient engineering techniques (see http://prezi.com/ezyu-kgdm2dr/rediscovering-lost-engineering-techniques/). This interdisciplinary research provides a unique perspective by considering soil as not a product of natural processes but as a construction material, which is an artifact of human activity. From this perspective, patterns of soil use reveal ancient design decisions that may shed light on sustainable design of modern earthen structures. Additionally, the results of this analysis will be useful in the continued maintenance, preservation, and reconstruction of the earthworks (see earthworkreconstruction.blogspot.com). Therefore, the proposed research intends to reveal the stunning technological skill used to construct the ancient earthworks and preserve these structures for future generations. see: buytechstuff.com