The History Buffs: Ken Tankersley

Literally digging Cincinnati’s history.

Ken Tankersley
Associate Professor of Anthropology, UC

Illustration by Adam Howling

Cincinnati is world-class in its archaeological resources. Pre-history here goes back at least 13,500 years, and there’s evidence of a continuous occupation. [But] because a lot of the sites aren’t spectacular monuments as you see elsewhere in the world, they are virtually forgotten. The paleontology of the area as well: You can go to any natural history museum anywhere in the world and you’ll see the word Cincinnati. It’s because of the Upper Ordovician rocks that are exposed in the Cincinnati area—almost half a billion years old. They are exemplary. It was a time of an ocean when there were no fish on the planet, in terms of evolutionary sequence.

There are remarkable treasures here, but a lot of the sites are underneath the ground. There are so many archaeological sites in the Little Miami River Valley alone, it’s comparable to the Valley of the Kings in the Nile River Valley, except there you have visual monuments, and here you don’t. In terms of the concentration of sites, it’s every bit as dense. Hopefully we’re at a turning point where we recognize that these are important locations that need to be preserved.

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