Jeff Dilyard squatted in a waist-deep pit beneath a rock overhang, contemplating a dark patch of sand he uncovered. Perhaps it’s the remnants of a campfire an Indian hunting party built more than 10,000 years ago, when mastodons roamed the woods. It’s a good theory. It was just a few feet away that the retired teacher and volunteer archaeologist found the base of a Paleo-Indian hunter’s spear point this summer. Excavations such as this one help prove that the natural rock overhangs that dot Ohio’s landscape provided shelter for hunters dating back more than 12,000 years. (These overhangs still do — researchers sometimes find shell casings left by modern hunters). This all makes perfect sense to Nigel Brush.
Brush, a geology professor at Ashland University, has spent 27 years leading excavations at 30 rock shelters in Ohio, mostly in Holmes and Coshocton counties.