Acknowledging Previous Residents Along the Maumee

Archaeological Findings at Forrest Woods Offer Hints at Early Inhabitants

Some of the earliest visitors to Forrest Woods Nature Preserve took part in many of the same activities we do along the Maumee River today: boating, fishing, hunting and camping. But they were here long before us – likely during the Late Woodland Period (400 – 950 AD).

A review of cultural resource records during the planning of the Preserve’s Riverland restoration project indicated that an old survey by the State Historic Preservation Office had identified an archeological site on the property. The Conservancy’s Phase One survey, conducted late in 2018, identified two additional sites, all containing a variety of artifacts, from this time period, scattered throughout the area.

The materials found indicate that this area was used for both hunting and food preparation. The archaeological team believes that the settlement was likely seasonally permanent for early peoples.

Because the area has been farmed for a long time, surveyors had to dig below the plow zone to find artifacts. No human remains were found, but among the items identified on the site were:

  • Shell midden – a heap of discarded mussel shells that would have been a food source
  • Fire cracked rock – indicates the use of earthen ovens (burned animal bone, from cooking, was also found)
  • Pottery fragments – including cord-marked fragments (which could have come from early in that time period)
  • Some stone artifacts, such as slate tools and spherical cobbles

Restoration work had been underway in the 40-acre Riverland area of Forrest Woods, consisting of bottomland along about a mile of the Maumee River. The restoration project is returning the property, which experiences flooding in high water events, to a functioning floodplain with seasonal wetlands. The restoration continues, but, as a result of the archaeological findings, trees will be planted by shovel (to avoid disturbing any artifacts that may remain on the site). In addition, any trails or footpaths that may be developed in the future will not be constructed below the plow line.

The Conservancy will place signage near the area to serve two purposes: to describe the positive effects of wetland restoration on water quality, and to tell the story of the property’s early inhabitants.