Originally published in the 2024 Cincy Region Visitors Guide. Interview by Kevin J. Gray. 

What makes our region special? Hear it straight from one of our local experts: Bill Kennedy, archaeologist and site manager at Fort Ancient Earthworks and Nature Preserve in Oregonia. 

Bill Kennedy

Credit: Bill Kennedy

You've done a lot of work on prehistoric cultures in Ohio. Where did that interest originate?

My interest in local history really started me on the path, but I don't know if or how that could be a career path. Once I took an Intro to Archaeology course at Wright State, that showed me that there was much more to learn and a way to seriously pursue it. 

How does your work in reconstruction help us better understand those who lived here before us? 

I've spent many years rebuilding ancient wooden architecture. By physically rebuilding it at full-scale, I've gained insights about how it worked that wouldn't be otherwise possible. It helps us to understand architecture and the relationship between American Indians and their natural environment in the past. 

What findings or facts about prehistoric cultures in the Ohio River Valley will surprise Ohioans? 

Many people are unaware of the incredible Hopewell earthworks in southern Ohio, such as Fort Ancient. They don't know that southern Ohio was a place of major pilgrimage by American Indians from across eastern North America about 2,000 years ago. 

Congrats on the recent UNESCO designation. How does that further support your work? 

We now have eight earthworks in Ohio that are UNESCO World Heritage sites. This will raise international awareness, but also pique interest within the region and hopefully inspire many people to visit who otherwise wouldn't. 

Fort AncientCredit: Billy Wagner

In what interesting ways is our past connected to our current region?

Most people in southwest Ohio are not aware of the aquifers we have here and what a tremendous impact that will have on the future of Dayton and Cincinnati. The interesting geological story of how those aquifers were created during the Ice Age has had a major impact on people in Ohio from the Ice Age to the present. 

What are you most excited for regarding the region's future? 

I'm not only excited about the long-term impact of World Heritage, but also about the new state park that's coming near Xenia - Great Council State Park. I'm excited to see our Shawnee tribal partners have a permanent presence in Ohio that they have not had in nearly two centuries. That is good for everyone. 


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