Archaeologists’ debate shows how science works

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Bradley Lepper

The Welling site in Coshocton County is at the center of a debate about our understanding of the way of life of Ohio’s Paleoindians – the Indigenous discoverers of America. 

Local amateur archaeologists discovered the site and the late Olaf Prufer, then with Kent State University, conducted excavations there in the 1960s. 

In the 1980s, Prufer and his Kent State colleague Mark Seeman argued that Paleoindians mostly avoided Ohio’s hill country, preferring instead to hunt big game on the flatlands of central Ohio. Supposedly, the only reason they ventured into the hills was to quarry the flint that outcropped near the Welling site, which Prufer and Seeman regarded as merely a workshop for making stone tools.  

I studied the traces of Paleoindian activity in Coshocton County for my dissertation in the late 1980s and argued that Paleoindians didn’t go to Coshocton County only for the flint; and Welling wasn’t just a workshop. It was a base camp, where groups lived for weeks at a time while hunting, fishing, sharing stories, and, yes, quarrying flint from nearby outcrops and making tools. 



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