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Discovery of 1,000-year-old artifacts delays highway plans

Redmond, West Virginia (AP) 9-07

Archeologists have unearthed tools, pottery and other American Indian artifacts suspected of being more than 1,000 years old inside a rock cave shelter, a discovery that could delay the upgrade of U.S. 35 for at least six months.

No human remains have been found since the excavation began in January, but diggers have uncovered arrowheads, mussel shells, a leather punch and bone middens, which are waste products from processing food, among other things.

“This (discovery) has local significance,” said David Fulp, a field technician with Skelly and Loy Inc., a Harrisburg, Pa., company with offices in West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Maryland.

Based on what they’ve uncovered so far, Skelly and Loy field director Tracy Johnston said there’s “probably a late woodland occupation of Native Americans in the rock shelter.”

“I’m not sure what tribal affiliation it would be, but it would roughly date to 1,000 years ago,” Johnston said.

Fulp said Adena and Hopewell Indians thrived in bordering Ohio mainly from 100 B.C. to 100 A.D. During the American Revolution, Shawnee Chief Cornstalk lived in the Point Pleasant area.

The path of the four-lane highway was to run through the cave. Construction was scheduled to begin in that area of Mason County this month.

Officials with the state Division of Highways plan to meet next week with American Indian representatives to discuss how to proceed. Rerouting the highway around the cave is not a good option, officials said, because there probably are other artifacts in the area.

“We don’t want to disturb what’s there and will do anything we can to settle the issue,” said former state Sen. Charles Lanham, who co-chairs the U.S. 35 Committee.

He said he is confident an agreement will arise from next week’s meeting to get the project back on track early next year.

Information from: Charleston Daily Mail, http://www.dailymail.com

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