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Cincinnati Museum Center and Village of Newtown discover rare Native American artifact

CINCINNATI – The Village of Newtown and Cincinnati Museum Center announced the discovery of a rare Native American artifact. A shell gorget dating back to the early fifth century is currently being conserved and studied by archaeologists at Cincinnati Museum Center in hopes of learning more about the early late Woodland period and the Native American people who once called Newtown home. The artifact is one of only eight gorgets of this style that have been discovered in the United States.

shell gorgetHuman remains and artifacts were discovered as crews were in the process of doing utility work. Bob Genheimer, George Rieveschl Curator of Archaeology at Cincinnati Museum Center, arrived to the excavation site where he found a shell gorget and a slate gorget amongst human bones. The shell gorget, a decorative piece worn around one’s neck, is engraved with an unidentified animal that may be a composite animal, typical of Native American mythology. Artwork was previously found in Newtown depicting one such mythological animal, a serpent monster with the body of a rattlesnake and a head with prominent horns, and is on display at the Newtown American Indian Education Center . Genheimer hopes to be able to identify the animal depicted on the gorget after further analysis.

“A find of this nature is really exciting and to find one with an animal depiction is extremely rare,” says Genheimer. “There are only approximately eight gorgets of this style and period in the United States and the discovery of another gorget is truly amazing.”

Dated around 400 AD, the gorget comes from the late Woodland period and the Newtown Native American culture that inhabited the Little Miami River Valley. Of the less than ten gorgets of this style in the United States, this would be the third in Cincinnati Museum Center’s and the Village of Newtown’s possession. The other two gorgets are also engraved with animals – an opossum and a mountain lion. That a third has now been discovered in Newtown and that all three depict different animals is incredibly rare, Genheimer says.

Since the discovery, Genheimer and his team have spent considerable time examining the shell gorget, photographing it and electronically preparing accurate line drawing illustrations of the engraving. They are also in the process of cleaning and stabilizing the gorget and are exploring having it scanned and 3D printed to produce replicas for display.

“We have been fortunate to work with Cincinnati Museum Center on several digs here and in the creation of the American Indian Education Center,” says Curt Tiettmeyer, Village of Newtown councilmember. “The successful partnership between the Village of Newtown and the Museum Center allows us to properly care for these incredible artifacts and to tell the stories of the Native Americans who once called this region home.”