The Guard Village site is in Dearborn County, Indiana mere minutes from the ARI (Archaeological Research Institute) offices.
The village was occupied sometime between AD 1000-1250 by the first maize agriculturalists in the Ohio Valley; archaeologists refer to this as the Fort Ancient culture1. The village was home to 150-500 people who lived in the village throughout the year. They tended their crops and gardens, fished in the rivers and wetlands, and hunted in the surrounding hills. We have only been able to survey approximately half of the site and from this survey we know the village was arranged in a big arc, likely a circle, around a large clear park archaeologists call a plaza. At the center of this plaza was a large pole 30 feet high2. This area was the true heart of the village; people would gather in the plaza to work, play games, dance, have feasts, and participate in religious celebrations3.
We have been able to identify 33 structures in the village; most of these were homes for the villagers. The houses were square, most measuring 4-5 meters across (12-15 feet). These homes had a floorspace of 20-25m2 or 150-225 ft2, smaller than a studio apartment. Archaeologists think these were homes for families of 5-10 people. We know the house walls were covered in a type of plaster made from mud and clay known as daub, and the roofs were likely thatched with grass or river cane. People may have slept on benches built into the walls of these houses and likely did most of their daily activities outside in courtyards in front of, between, or behind their homes.
The villagers were concerned with trash disposal and buried much of their garbage. Looking through these discarded materials allows us to examine people’s daily lives and habits. We know the villagers had a diet that consisted of corn and other domesticated plants like squash and Chenopodium (also called goosefoot or lambs quarter), fresh-water mussel, fish, deer, turkey, nuts, and other wild plants and fruits. They made shovels and hoes out of mussel shell, deer bones. They used hammers, axes, adzes, and mauls made from stones like granite and basalt. They used local stones called chert to make cutting tools like knives, arrows, and spears. They used clay to make pottery for cooking, serving and storage. They made musical instruments like flutes from turkey bones, pipes for smoking tobacco out of clay or stone, and game pieces from bone, antler, and pottery.
People at the village were able to travel long distances, most likely using the rivers to cross long distances and trade for materials from far away. We have found materials from central Ohio, Wisconsin, South Dakota, and even obsidian from Wyoming. Pottery and art have been found that resembles work made in the Chicago, Central Tennessee, Southwest Indiana, and the St. Louis areas.
By AD 1300 most people had left the village. We are not sure why they left, though it is unlikely there was only one reason or that it happened all at once. They may have left after a series of floods, the soil may have begun to be depleted, or internal tensions may have caused people to become frustrated and leave the village. They likely founded new villages or moved into already existing villages. We find these villages throughout southern Ohio, northern Kentucky, and southeast Indiana; people throughout the area were still living in these villages in the 1670s. These villagers are among the ancestors of the modern Shawnee and Miami nations who were living throughout this area in the early 1700s. Groups as far away as the Omaha and Quapaw may also count these villagers among their ancestors.