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Many centuries ago Indian trails from villages and campsites throughout the Midwest converged on an irregular range of hills about ten miles in length located between the present cities of Newark and Zanesville, Ohio. Along the trails through tangled forest growth and on nearby river waterways, prehistoric Indians on foot or in dugout canoes made their way to these hills for a material they sorely needed - flint. Approximately 200 million years ago, a stratum of hard flint deposit began to be elevated, and laater part of this stratum was exposed by erosion. In a five- or six-square-mile area, outcroppings of the colorful rock caught the eye of roving Palaeo-Indians about 8,000 to 10,000 years ago. Nowhere in what is now the Midwest had better flint been found.
Inevitably, quarrying operations were begun to extract the highly-prized flint, to process it into useful and easily transported form, and to carry it across the land to villages where finely executed tools, implements, and weapons could be fashioned when needed. Specimens from Flint Ridge have been discovered on the Atlantic seaboard, in Louisiana, and as far west as Kansas City.
The first quarry workers soon found that the flint which had been exposed to the elements was useless because it cracked easily. However, below the ground's surface, Indians found a layer of high quality flint from one to ten feet thick. Great physical force was needed to quarry the mineral. Large hammerstones or mauls, granite or quartzite boulders worn smooth by glacial action and weighing up to 25 pounds, were used to drive wooden or bone wedges into natural cracks in the flint stratum.
With great labor, rectangular chunks of the raw material were extracted. As the quarrying continued over the centuries, deep pits were formed and piles of broken pieces and chips accumulated. Quarrying Indians were immune from assault while working the flint pits - Flint Ridge was so strategic, it was neutral territory.
In workshops near the quarry, Indians skilled with small hammerstones and other tools "blocked out" rough pieces of flint from three to twelve inches long and two to five inches wide, by using pressure and percussion techniques. The resulting blade-shaped pieces were characterized by rounded or square bases. The blades were then either transported to villages for further refinement or were finished at workshops near the quarries. Experienced Indians meticulously formed arrow and spear points, drills, knives, and scrapers from the blades.
When the first pioneers of the old Northwest Territory rediscovered Flint Ridge, they too learned of the superior qualities of the translucent and varicolored mineral. A lower grade of weathered flint from the western portion of the ridge was found to be ideally suited for making buhrstones for water-powered mills. Millers in central Ohio would pay several hundred dollars for a pair of these millstones. Smaller stones were used for hand grinding at home.
Engineers building the National Road through Muskingum and Licking counties utilized the discarded flint chips from prehistoric times to form the roadbed for that early highway across the state.
Today the significance of Flint Ridge is historical rather than economic. In 1933, The Ohio Historical Society established Flint Ridge State Memorial to preserve this unusual site. In 1968, aided by the state capital improvements program, a modern museum was constructed over one of the original flint pits, where Indian figures toil at quarrying and chipping. Here visitors obtain a thorough knowledge of the geologic and human history of this unique area. The museum geology exhibits show the types and location of flint deposits in Ohio, a geologic time scale and well log showing the layers of rock down 468 feet, and how flint was formed. Displays on prehistoric man and flint include flint chipping techniques, objects made of flint, and their distribution across the eastern United States as an Indian item of trade.
The nature preserve at Flin Ridge is made accessible by several naturz trails. The flint pits along the trails forn temporary ponds filled with wildlife ane an abundance of interesting plants. An asphalt trail with handrails is available fo: handicapped persons and Braille and standard text interpretive signs have been placed along this trail.
Visitors are requested to refrain from removing pieces of flint from the park area. The 525-acre state memorial is located four miles north of Interstate 70 on Licking County Road 668. For information on this museum's hours of operation and special events, please call this toll-fres number 1-800-BUCKEYE before you travel.
Check with us at a later date.