Archaeological site distribution by geomorphic setting in the southern lower Cuyahoga River Valley, northeastern Ohio: Initial observations from a GIS database

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Winter 12-2004


In this study, we compiled unpublished archival documentation of archaeological site locations from the southern part of the Cuyahoga River Valley in northeastern Ohio, USA, registered at the State of Ohio Historic Preservation Office into a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) database. Using digitized soil shapefiles to generate a geomorphic data layer, we assessed the spatial and temporal distribution of 79 known archaeological sites by landform association. This digital compilation indicates that Woodland period, Late Prehistoric, and Historic sites occur in most geomorphic settings along the river valley. In contrast, Paleoindian and Archaic sites only occur on Wisconsinan cut terraces and in upland interfluve settings, indicating that most of these documented sites are in primary contexts and have not been reworked. We discuss the distribution of archaeological sites in the study region as a function of various factors, including cultural activities, taphonomic processes, landform development, and the nature and extent of the original archaeological surveys. Observed spatial patterns of known sites clearly reflect local geomorphological controls; artifactual contexts from the earlier prehistoric periods are underrepresented in the database. We conclude that additional site surveys, as well as the excavation and documentation of new sites in this part of Ohio, are required to understand local prehistoric economies and to ascertain patterns of culturally mediated land use.

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