Archaeology in Ohio & the Ohio Archaeological Inventory

Ohio Archaeological Inventory

The State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) maintains the Ohio Archaeological Inventory (OAI), the official record of archaeological site locations and information on such sites in Ohio.

The OAI form is the result of a cooperative effort between the SHPO and the Ohio Archaeological Council. The form facilitates creation of a comprehensive, standardized inventory that is now computerized and used for planning, management, and research purposes. The OAI form is comprehensive and user-friendly. It is used to record both prehistoric and historic sites. Please refer to our instruction manual for directions on completion of all sections of the OAI form. Please contact the Archaeology Survey and Data Manager at the SHPO for clarification on any questions you may have.

The public, including vocational archaeologists, artifact collectors, and property owners, plays an important role in discovering, recording, preserving, and understanding Ohio’s history. Archaeological sites recorded with the State Historic Preservation Office can sometimes be protected from projects that would otherwise destroy them. Often projects can be redesigned to avoid destroying important archaeological sites, but only if the State Historic Preservation Office knows about their existence before project work begins.

Permission to Conduct Archaeological Investigations on Public and Private Lands

Prior to conducting archaeological investigations on state property in Ohio, it is necessary to seek permission from the relevant state agency and to obtain a permit from the Ohio History Connection. Likewise, it is illegal to collect artifacts from any federal property without first obtaining a permit from the federal government or from private property without permission from the property owner. Theft of artifacts from private property and transporting them across state lines may also be a violation of the Archeological Resources Protection Act, a federal law. The criminal and civil penalties associated with violations of this law can be severe.

Ohio's Wetlands

Wetlands are one of the most archaeologically sensitive areas in Ohio and were exploited for their natural resources throughout Ohio’s prehistory (14,000-450 years ago). Land adjacent to wetlands, particularly in Ohio’s glaciated region, was often used by prehistoric American Indians for hunting game, collecting plants and establishing settlements.

Wetlands preserve the remains of Late Pleistocene and Early Holocene animals and plants exploited by Ohio’s earliest inhabitants, the Paleoindians (14,000-9500 years ago). Mastodon (an extinct relative of the elephant) and human associations are the subject of great international interest, and lately sites in Ohio have been at the forefront of such research. Primary among these were the 1989 discovery of the Burning Tree mastodon in Licking County, and the 1993 recovery of remains from the Martins Creek mastodon in Holmes County.