Boots on the ground and shovels in hand!

By Alicia Gonzales

It’s your friendly neighborhood archaeologist writing in from Ohio again, with some updates on some very exciting work at Cuyahoga Valley National Park.  Inadvertent discoveries is the topic of today, so let’s get into it. Inadvertent discoveries are just that, inadvertent, unexpected and with good management often times a catalyst for innovative thought and efficient action.  Archaeological monitoring and discovery plans are guided and executed both at the Federal and State level when it comes to any ground disturbing activity (especially in areas with cultural resources and natural resources). The intent of having these strategies/plans in place are to anticipate the unexpected and ultimately reduce the potential effect on resources.  Here at CUVA I got to see and participate in these plans burst into action and protect a piece of history that was previously lost in historic documentation. The locally loved and frequently used Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail, in my time here has been undergoing some much needed improvements and routine maintenance.  Improvements and routine maintenance, what could go wrong? So far the Towpath Trail has been under construction in various locations which need the love and attention, but from this writers perspective it has become a bit of a sore spot for visitors whose usual recreational activities must detour around these zones. The voice of the people have been heard, I’ve seen Park staff and partner agencies work tirelessly to address the needs of visitors while trying to complete these projects thoroughly and efficiently.

Damaged handworked sandstone block

But again, this is where inadvertent discovery comes into play.  Included in this endeavor was the replacement of four bridges, and at one of these construction sites an inadvertent discovery was…you guessed it discovered, or in this case rediscovered.  During routine excavating activity within the project guidance, an top-notch operator noticed soil change and very rectangular stone. The crew immediately stopped work per the plan and our cultural resource management team of 2: Big Bad Bill and I got to spring into action.  With Bills extensive knowledge of the geography and canal history, my familiarity with archaeological investigation it became apparent that the crew had inadvertently rediscovered the original 1825 Historic hand worked sandstone canal culvert.  What a find, what a challenge and inevitably what do we do?!  Creativity and collaboration were the answer.

Making a soil profile

The cultural resource management team, engineers, renowned regional and state archaeologist, the contract crew, maintenance division and engineers all put their heads together to find a solution. This process took a bit of time given the slow pace in which projects such as this become bureaucraztized.   However, the initial emergency archaeological investigation phase was the first step to see what exactly was in the ground and how the project as a whole could move forward.  Luckily, I got to learn and work as the right hand to a much respected archaeologist in the Ohio region. I thank him for his willingness to educate me some on old-school techniques. With the archaeological investigation phase and extent of the resource analyzed, the cross-divisional and cross agency team were able to get the rehabilitation project back on track. Much to the delight of visitors and staff alike, the Towpath trail will be up and running in the foreseeable future.

Taking measurements and making a map.

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