Status: Original release 2005

The Ancient Ohio Art Series is a collection of original artworks that depict American Indian lifeway scenes from the six major archaeological periods in Ohio. Voyageur initiated the development of the art series in collaboration with scholars from numerous archaeological institutions. Martha Potter Otto, Curator of Archaeology, The Ohio Historical Society, served as the project director for the art series, which was created by artist Susan A. Walton, SA Walton Studios, Florida. An advisory panel composed of archaeologists and Native American scholars selected six scenes in order to show the broad range of ancient cultural sites and activities in Ohio.

Susan Walton completed the six, 4’ x 3’ acrylic panels in 2004. Each panel is based on extensive archaeological research, as well as site visits, actual artifacts and the regalia of American Indian tribes with historic ties to the central Ohio Valley. Some panels (Paleoindian caribou camp) are based on scientific data from several archaeological sites. Others such as SunWatch Indian Village are based on research from one site. The artwork has become a valuable resource for scholars, teachers and students, providing a human face for a remarkable story. The Ancient Ohio Arts Series was curated and photographed by The Ohio Historical Society, which hold copyright to the artwork. Low resolution images are available on Voyageur’s website, and from the Ohio Historical Society for personal research or educational use.



The Paleoindian Period, ca., 14,000 – 10,000 BP (1 of 6)

A group of Paleoindian hunters successfully ambushed a herd of caribou migrating through the till plains of western Ohio.  Now one family has butchered an animal, hanging strips of meat on a rack to dry both to preserve it and make it easier to pack and carry to their next camp.  The animal also provides hides, which, after stretching, scraping, and tanning, can be made into clothing or thrown over a wood frame for a temporary shelter.  All the tools required for these tasks are chipped from flint, sometimes even using heavy caribou bones as the chipping tool. This artwork is based on archaeological research from such Paleoindian sites as Paleo Crossing, Nobles Pond, and Sheriden Cave in Ohio, and Vail site in Maine.


The Archaic Period, ca., 10,000 – 2,500 BP (2 of 6)

The Archaic people took particular advantage of the wide range of resources – food and raw materials – available in different seasons within their territories.  At this riverside camp in northwestern Ohio, several families have banded together to prepare for the coming winter season.  Men and boys fish in the river, and hollow out a log with their stone axes and fire to build dugouts in which they can travel long distances via the river systems.  Some of the women grind nuts into meal and store it in baskets for food during the winter.  Later, the group may split up with each family traveling to its own winter hunting camp. This artwork is based on archaeological research from such Archaic sites such as the Dupont, Raisch-Smith, and Weilnau.  The size and configuration of the dugout is based on the Ringler dugout, discovered in a glacial bog near Ashland, Ohio.  The use of stone axes, adzes and fire to hollow out the log for the dugout is based on archaeological evidence from the Ringler dugout and practices of American Indian tribes of the 17th and 18th centuries.


The Early Woodland Period, ca., 2,800 – 2,000 BP (3 of 6)

All human societies have ceremonies to mark important events in their lives and to express their beliefs.  The Adena people occasionally constructed circular earthen enclosures to serve as the locations for ceremonies and social events.  In this scene, several people are wearing wolf skins and appear to be mimicking wolf behavior, perhaps as they are enacting a clan legend or invoking the spirit of the wolf for comfort and protection.  A hunter, judging from his spears and atlatl, is watching the proceedings, but the feather bustle he is wearing suggests that he will likely be joining in the events within the circle.  Beyond the opening of the enclosure is the temporary encampment where the people are living.  After the ceremonies and other events are concluded, they will return to their settlements scattered through the river valley. This circular enclosure is patterned after a series of such earthworks near the town of The Plains along the Hocking River in Athens County, Ohio.  Technical assistance was provided by Dr. Elliot Abrams, Ohio University, who has intensively studied the Adena occupation of the Hocking River Valley.


The Middle Woodland Period, ca., 2,200 – 1,500 BP (4 of 6)

The Stubbs Earthworks is the backdrop for this scene in which a Hopewell shaman is combining his practical knowledge as an herbalist and his connections with the spirit world to cure the illness of his patient lying on the bench.  His bearskin regalia is based on the details of the Wray figurine from the Newark Earthworks, while the clothing and hair styles of the other people in the scene are taken from terra cotta figurines found at Hopewell sites in Illinois.  The Stubbs Earthworks, situated along the Little Miami River in Warren County, is portrayed as it appeared in 19th century maps.  The site was damaged over the years by farming, gravel quarrying, and the construction of a high school. However, archaeologists were able to investigate portions of the site before the school was built.  In the process, they discovered Ohio’s only known “Woodhenge” the remains of a circular arrangement of large wooden posts that may have been used as a type of calendar. This artwork is based on technical information provided by Dr. Frank Cowan, Cowan and Associates, Cincinnati, Ohio.


The Late Woodland Period, ca., 1,500 – 1,100 BP (5 of 6)

The lives of the Late Woodland people revolved around their villages such as this one situated along the Scioto River in central Ohio.  There the people raised crops such as squash, sunflowers, and other seed-bearing plants.  Hunting was still an important occupation for the men and boys, although they were now shifting from spears to the bow and arrow as their main weapon.  For the women and girls, making pottery and weaving were probably frequent tasks. Unlike the pottery, woven textiles, baskets, and mats have not been preserved, however, they were probably important commodities for clothing, containers, and household furnishings.  Dogs, such as the one here, probably accompanied the Paleoindians, the Archaic people, and Early and Middle Woodland societies as well.  Besides assisting in hunting and providing security, the animals were likely also appreciated for their companionship. This artwork is based on evidence from the Water Plant and Zencor/Scioto Trail sites in Franklin County and the Lichliter site in Montgomery County.


The Late Prehistoric Period, ca., 1,100 – 400 BP (6 of 6)

Growing crops, specifically corn, beans, and squash, provided a predictable food supply that allowed Late Prehistoric people to settle in fairly permanent villages.  This village, patterned after the SunWatch village site along the Great Miami River south of Dayton, Ohio, illustrates the variety of activities typical of mid-summer.  The crops are well established just outside the stockade.  From time to time rotted posts in the stockade had to be replaced, although fire-hardening the ends helped slow the process of decay.  Bundles of prairie grass made good roofing material, although it, too, had to be replaced periodically.  With more people living together for extended periods of time, the community had to find ways to deal with common concerns and to resolve disputes peacefully.  No doubt such problems were presented to the elders of the community who determined the final outcome by consensus.  Such a group has convened on the village plaza. The village plan and activities are based on research from Sandy Yee, Site Archaeologist, Sunwatch Indian Village, which is located along the Great Miami River just south of Dayton in Montgomery County, Ohio.


Ancient Ohio Art Series general article

High-resolution images are available by contacting the Ohio Historical Society, Digital Collections and Services. See Rights and Reproductions.

Lower resolution images are available at Ohio Memory, (search Ancient Ohio).

The artwork is also featured in Voyageur’s book Ohio Archaeology: An Illustrated Chronicle of Ohio’s Ancient American Indian Cultures, which is published by Orange Frazer Press.

Ohio Archaeology book


The Ancient Ohio Art Series was made possible with support from the Ohio Arts Council, Ohio Historical Society, Wohlgemuth Herschede Foundation, and Voyageur Media Group, Inc.