The Dave Gillilan Cache

Pickaway County, Ohio

In 2005 Dave Gillilan, a house builder and farmer, contacted this author to report finding artifact material like that shown elsewhere on this website.  The fact that he was seeing the same morphology and incorporated imagery in his lithic material was interesting but not surprising or remarkable considering the many photos of this that had already been contributed by other visitors.  In October 2005 Dave took some of his finds to Columbia, South Carolina, where this author was attending the "Clovis in the Southeast" conference (including Topper, etc.).  Close inspection revealed that the morphology and imagery in these were indeed essentially the same as in the Day's Knob (33GU218) artifacts, although generally of more refined workmanship.

In May 2006 this author visited Dave at his home to photograph the material.  In the meantime, Dave had found, just below the surface of a crawlspace in a house he was building, the material shown on this page at about 1.5 m (5') beneath the surface of rural terrain that was undisturbed below a plow zone of about 20 cm (8").  Within glacial till (clay), the artifacts had been placed in a horizontal layer of creek sand that was not parallel to the sloping contour of the terrain.  Most of them were like those viewed in October, but accompanied in direct context by a cache of flint, quartz, and calcedony points, blades, and scrapers that have since been professionally characterized as Late Archaic and/or Early Woodland, from very roughly 2000 to 4000 years BP. These identifiably "Indian" objects seem to offer some hope of gaining professional attention to the material as a whole, but complicating things a bit, and rather intriguingly, in direct context were clearly manmade objects of glass, iron (radiocarbon dated), and concrete incorporating the simple bird and bird-human imagery characteristic of very old Native American artifact material.  This could (or should) become interesting...

There was no professional interest in assisting with or even witnessing the retrieval of this material, and it is most unfortunate that, as a result, its original context and its removal were not properly documented or photographed.

To demonstrate the important "replicability" factor, some of the artifacts shown here are accompanied by references to similar ones at the 33GU218 site.

  --------------------    --------------------

Part of Flint and Quartz Point Cache  - Dave Gillilan Find

Part of Point and Blade Cache - Dave Gillilan Find

Part of Point and Blade Cache - Dave Gillilan Find              Adena Point - Dave Gillilan Cache


Flint Artifact from Dave Gillilan Cache      


Above:  Some of the flint, quartz, and chalcedony artifacts.

--------------------    --------------------


Bannerstone Half from Dave Gillilan Cache    Bannerstone Half from Dave Gillilan Cache

Half of a banded slate bannerstone.


Groundstone Celt from Dave Gillilan Cache    Groundstone Celt from Dave Gillilan Cache 

A celt.


Artifacts from Dave Gillilan Cache   

Miscellaneous objects, including an apparent abrading stone.



A zoomorphic figure.


Pottery Fragment from Dave Gillilan Cache

Pottery Fragment from Dave Gillilan Cache    Pottery Fragment from Dave Gillilan Cache

A fragment of a thick-walled ceramic vessel tentatively identified as dating from roughly 2500-3000 years BP.


A close-up showing the fine-to-medium grit temper.


Artifacts from Dave Gillilan Cache

Bird-form artifacts, including two pendants.  The pendants are perfectly balanced when suspended from a cord.  The large one does not look balanced in two-dimensional view, but its thickness (hence weight distribution) varies to place the balance point in the hole.



Looped and intertwined hairs, apparently from various animal species, partially embedded in a coating of powdered lime(?) on the surface of a rock - for whatever reason.  Almost certainly not a natural occurrence.


Bones, most or all of them human-modified.


Bison Molar from Dave Gillilan Cache    Bison(?) Tooth from Dave Gillilan Cache

Teeth, the larger of which is probably a bison molar.

Below:  On the left, a molar in a Pleistocene-age bison jaw from Oklahoma, and right, the large tooth shown above.  The arrows point to an "isolated stylid", a distinguishing feature of bison molars. 
Bison Tooth from Dave Gillilan Cache



Large rodent tooth.




Simple zoo-anthropomorphic clay figures.

__________________ Maize __________________

Maize Cob from Dave Gillilan Cache

Maize Cobs from Dave Gillilan Cache  Maize Cob from Dave Gillilan Cache

These maize cobs are about 2 cm (0.8") in diameter.  They are eight-ranked with two kernel rows per rank - sixteen kernel rows around the circumference, apparently unusual for this cob size in this geographical area.  Judging from the remaining shell casings and the cupule width, the kernels were about 3 mm x 1.5 mm.


__________________ Glass __________________

Glass Point from Dave Gillilan Cache

This glass point was part of the point and blade cache that is apparently of Late Archaic to Early Woodland age.  It seems out of place, to say the least, but it is the author's opinion that Dave would have not "planted" it.  Also, there were numerous artifacts (a few shown below) and byproducts in direct context that strongly suggest a simple early glass manufacturing technology.  (For what it's worth, note the resemblance to the early Adena Cresap point.)

Three photos below:  A glass object appearing in context, similar in color to the point.  Note the raw material, sand and lime, fused with its surface. 

Glass Artifact from Dave Gillilan Cache  Glass Point from Dave Gillilan Cache  Glass Artifact from Dave Gillilan Cache

A compositional analysis of the glass point with SEM/XRF at NSL Analytical Services' laboratories in Cleveland, Ohio revealed this content, all elements occurring naturally in the area of the find:


Glass Artifact from Dave Gillilan Cache

A small glass object with apparently beveled edges.

Glass Artifact from Dave Gillilan Cache

A close-up of the raised area on the object, with the light source behind it.  This appears to be an intentionally formed bird head in raised relief, likely formed with a small pointed implement while the glass was still hot.

Glass Artifact from Dave Gillilan Cache

A two-faced polymorphic/polyiconic glass figure, both a bird head looking to the right (note the eye and the demarcation of upper and lower beak), and overall seemingly a flying bird profile (head upper left).   Below, the opposite side of the figure with backlighting:
Glass Artifact from Dave Gillilan Cache

Glass Artifact from Dave Gillilan Cache

Glass Artifact from Dave Gillilan Cache

Another glass bird form.


Close-ups of iron inclusions in the above piece.


Glass Artifact from Dave Gillilan Cache    

Another interesting glass figure, 3 cm (1.25") .  The blue-green inclusion is physically separate, but fused with the rest of the piece.         Below, the piece from two more perspectives:

_____________ Metal and Concrete _____________


Concrete Artifact from Dave Gillilan Cache

An anthropomorphic figure of lime-based cement/concrete.

Out of place as this may seem, one must consider that a well developed and refined natural concrete technology was employed in Mexico 2000 years ago.

The composition of the cement in the concrete among Dave's finds has been analyzed and determined to be a mixture of natural limestone and clay, as opposed to the synthetic (Portland) cement developed in the early 1800s and almost always used currently.

Iron and Concrete Artifact from Dave Gillilan Cache          









  Same Theme in Limestone at Day's Knob:


                     Click to expand.

Left, a concrete bird-human head spewing forth iron, apparently in the classic theme of one figure sending forth another from its mouth.

Iron and Concrete Artifact from Dave Gillilan Cache    Iron and Concrete Artifact from Dave Gillilan Cache

Left, another iron-spitting head.   Right, a small (3 mm diameter) iron protrusion from the back of the head, also in classic zoomorphic form.  Note the extension of the figure-from-the-mouth (the simple two-eyes-and-a-mouth) theme in the protrusion.

Iron and Concrete Artifact from Dave Gillilan Cache              Iron Artifact from Dave Gillilan Cache   Iron Artifact from Dave Gillilan Cache

Formed iron rods possibly intended (or earlier actually used) for the attachment of anthropomorphic concrete heads as on the two pieces shown above these photos.  (The rightmost two of the photos directly above are of the same rod.)  The iron in its current state is not at all flexible, indicating that it likely was formed while still hot.

Iron and Concrete Artifact from Dave Gillilan Cache

Iron and Concrete Artifact from Dave Gillilan Cache

An iron rod overlain with cement and stones.  Length 5 cm (2").

Below:  Close-ups of the tip, which incorporates quasi-bird-like figures.

Iron and Concrete Artifact from Dave Gillilan Cache    Iron and Concrete Artifact from Dave Gillilan Cache


Iron and Concrete Artifact from Dave Gillilan Cache

Iron and Concrete Artifact from Dave Gillilan Cache

Above, two iron and concrete figures.


Iron Artifact from Dave Gillilan Cache

Iron Artifact from Dave Gillilan Cache        Iron Artifact from Dave Gillilan Cache

Above, a large iron piece 89 mm (3.5") in length, weighing 49.4 g (1.74 oz).

Below:  Iron slag pieces, all magnetic, but not uniformly.  Some of these have been formed into the typical zoomorphic or quasi-anthropomorphic figures.
Iron Slag Artifact from Dave Gillilan Cache

Iron Slag Artifact from Dave Gillilan Cache    Iron Slag Artifact from Dave Gillilan Cache

Iron Slag Artifact from Dave Gillilan Cache    Iron Slag Artifact from Dave Gillilan Cache

Iron Slag Artifact from Dave Gillilan CacheIron Slag Artifact from Dave Gillilan Cache

Below:  Strange indeed - a large iron and concrete abstractly zoomorphic figure.  The rods are not welded, but seem to have been fused while still hot.  The end of the tail is hammered flat.

Iron and Concrete Artifact from Dave Gillilan Cache

Iron and Concrete Artifact from Dave Gillilan Cache

Below are two close-ups of rod joints:

Iron and Concrete Artifact from Dave Gillilan Cache  Iron and Concrete Artifact from Dave Gillilan Cache

Iron smelting - like glassmaking - seems a stretch, but this was done thousands of years ago in Europe, Asia, and Africa.  Is it reasonable to assume that the people here in North America, who did a lot of experimenting with fire, were any less intelligent and resourceful?  Possible evidence of prehistoric iron smelting has long been recognized in Ohio, as at the well known Spruce Hill walled earthworks site in Ross County, close to the location of Dave Gillilan's finds.  It is fairly common in the vicinity of Hopewell earthworks, but summarily dismissed by archaeologists as an "intrusive feature" on the patronizing assumption that "Indians" were not capable of this.  Even the few earlier (exclusively avocational) investigators of the evidence in Ohio who have recognized this as convincing, (e.g., Arlington Mallery and William Conner) have insisted it must be the work of Vikings (had to have been white people, right?).

Recent Related Development

Prehistoric Native American Lead Smelting in Indiana?

The Mann Site

On 3 January 2011 National Public Radio's news program All Things Considered aired a feature on recent discoveries at the Mann Hopewell earthworks site in southwestern Indiana, with the statement that one of these "could rewrite history books".  "...scientists are starting tests on what looks like evidence of lead smelting, a practice that, until now, was only seen in North America after the arrival of the French, 1,000 years after the Hopewell Tradition."  Apparently this the first time that profes- sional archaeologists are recognizing the idea of metal ore smelting by prehistoric Native Americans as plausible.  Daring, to say the least.  It will be interesting to see how this develops...

It is noteworthy that none of the iron and slag artifacts in Dave Gillilan's cache have any apparent utilitarian function.  They seem to be of an iconographic nature, and it appears that this was the main or only purpose of smelting technology here.  (And it is interesting that in ancient Siberia and Africa, iron smelting was largely the domain of shamans [ref. Mircea Eliade in his encyclopedic work Shamanism].)

Of course there is the awkward fact that Native Americans are not recorded as engaging in iron smelting at the time of European contact.  This author's tentative hypothesis is that this time-consuming and labor-intensive technology with no perceived practical application was abandoned (and subsequently forgotten) around the time of cultural decline corresponding to the transition from the Middle to the Late Woodland Period, when survival-related concerns became paramount.

The anomalous and "problematic" material in Dave Gillilan's finds will be scien- tifically evaluated as time and other resources permit, leading to whatever conclusions may result.  This is, of course, a strictly avocational project, as professional and academic archaeologists seem, for the most part, to have little interest in things beyond the realm of what they have been taught to expect.  But things are whatever they are, and the scientific method dictates that unexpected phenomena be examined and evaluated in terms of actual physical evidence rather than summarily dismissed because they do not fit within an established paradigm.

 __________ Radiocarbon Dating __________

Iron Artifact from Dave Gillilan Cache - Radiocarbon Dated to Roughly 400 AD

The carbon content of the iron artifact shown above (presumably from charcoal fuel used in the smelting process) was radiocarbon dated at the University of Arizona's  AMS laboratory in 2007.  The carbon content of the tested sample varied from one segment to another, one showing 0.007%, another 2.2%, and the rest in the range of 0.04% to 0.08% - altogether much less homogeneous than what one would expect in recently manufactured iron.  Readings from three separate samples with sufficient carbon indicate about a 90% probability of origin somewhere between 209 and 783 AD, the two more closely corresponding readings indicating 209 to 551 AD, alto- gether coinciding more or less with the Middle Woodland Period.  Click on the image below to see charts of the readings calibrated against the IntCal04 atmospheric curve using Oxford University's OxCal software:

While this is quite interesting, suggesting that the iron is roughly contemporaneous with the temporally diagnostic Native American artifacts in direct context, one can say with certainty only that these are the numbers returned by the radiocarbon dating process.  At best, carbon dating is a tricky business with many pitfalls, and the dating of iron is even more so than that of other materials.  Altogether, there remains a lot of time-consuming and expensive research to be done.

__________ Compositional Analysis __________

In testing the hypothesis that the iron is prehistoric in origin, it was deemed neces- sary to determine whether or not it contains elements characteristic of recent alloying processes.  A sample (shown below) like the one dated and from direct context in the find, was analyzed by EDS (energy-dispersive spectroscopy) and WDS (wavelength dispersive spectroscopy) at Yale University.
The carbon content of a fragment of the specimen, determined after annealing and cooling, was less than 0.1%.   From EDS and WDS, the non-metallic content of another fragment of this was found to be primarily manganese at 0.3%, with smaller components of silicon and sulfur.  No distinctly modern alloying content was detected.

For comparison, this sample of southern Ohio hematite ("bog ore") from 33GU218 was analyzed by ICP-MS (inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry) at NSL Analytical Services' laboratories in Cleveland:

This material was determined to be more than 10% iron (no surprise), with aluminum, calcium, and silicon each comprising between 1% and 5%, and manganese being between 0.5% and 1% of the whole.  Altogether, melting this ore would likely produce an iron with the composition of the metal artifacts shown above.  A fire raised to a temperature of around 1000 degrees Celsius would be required, but, as mentioned above, this was achieved with primitive technology over two thousand years ago in Europe, Asia, and Africa.  Why not in North America?

__________________  __________________

An interesting and certainly exasperating aspect of this project is the fact that  Dave Gillilan repeatedly asked Ohio's state archaeologists to at least take a look at his material as he was removing it from where it appeared.  (He had no choice but to remove it, as he was committed to finishing and selling the house beneath which the artifacts had appeared; this was an urgent matter of financial necessity.)  His pleas were ignored.  Upon being shown photographs of the material taken by this author after its removal, the state archaeologists declared it to be typical of a nineteenth century landfill (trash dump), and of no archaeological interest.  It was not meaningful to them that the artifacts included points and blades, groundstone tools, half a bannerstone, and pottery fragments, all professionally assessed as being from around 2000 years BP, and absolutely nothing definitively identifiable as culturally of the historical era.  (There is no record of there ever having been a landfill at this location, and in laying utility lines for the property, Dave had dug up thousands of cubic feet of ground, seeing nothing suggesting a trash dump.)

In October 2006, Dave and this author, at their own expense, engaged the services of a professional geomorphologist recommended by the Ohio Historical Society to assess the stratigraphy immediately adjacent to the find area.

The geomorphologist's report states "With the exception of the uppermost 20-cm thick plow zone, there is no evidence of prehistoric or historic disturbance of the sediments revealed in the soil profile of the trench."  The state archaeologists' response to this:  "There must be a landfill there somewhere.  Just keep looking for it."  Apparently this is their understanding of scientific inquiry - start with an a priori assumption and work back through the evidence for as long as is necessary to make this support the assumption.  (It is worth noting that these are the same purported experts that contemptuously dismissed as a geofact the now well known and professionally verified sandstone turtle head sculpture unearthed by Dirk Morgan near the Fort Ancient site, this being only one of numerous such displays of incompetence.)  Needless to say, there is a bit of a communication problem here, given this author's own approach of carefully assessing all the available evidence, however unexpected or anomalous, and working from this to hypotheses that can be either confirmed or disconfirmed on their own merits. 


Related Development

Iron Artifact at 33GU218 (Day's Knob)

Click image for details.

Iron artifacts of characteristically prehistoric morphology and likely a product of direct-reduction smelting have been surfacing at the apparently Early-to-Middle Woodland site 33GU218 in Guernsey County, Ohio.   This is currently under investigation.

__________________  __________________

Top of Page

Click your browser's "Back" button to return to the point from which you entered this page.