Archaeological Sites Will Determine Route for New Road

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Harold Martin Clark County
Harold Martin walks near Native American burial mounds built about 800 years ago and talks about artifacts and skeletal remains found on his Clark County farm over the years. (Photo: Angela Shoemaker, The (Louisville, Ky.) Courier-Journal)

In Indiana, official are considering two possible routes for a $22.5 million road for large trucks near Utica. The area is rich is Native American artifacts which have led to many archaeological research projects in the past century.

“It’s certainly a challenging area of the state for a new transportation project,” said Will Wingfield, a spokesman for the Indiana Department of Transportation.

Projects in other areas of the state bring environmental concerns, he said, but the area around Utica, Charlestown and Jeffersonville in southeastern Clark County has a combination of historic sites, difficult terrain, wetlands and other natural factors.

In a soybean field near what is now the River Ridge Commerce Center, for instance, archaeologists have found four mounds and part of what they believe is a fortification wall built by Native Americans.

The property, owned by retired oral surgeon Harold Martin, has been studied in past decades but little detailed research has been done in recent years, complicating state efforts to pick a route.

“The area could use a detailed study,” said Indiana University archaeologist Cheryl Munson, who in 2003 began studying Martin’s property, dubbed the Prather site for a former farmer who lived there in the 1800s.

The area has seen development explode at the commerce center, formerly the Indiana Army Ammunition Plant. But more is expected in anticipation of the eastern bridge, one of two spans being built under the $2.34 billion Ohio River Bridges Project.

Jeffersonville redevelopment director Rob Waiz said he had heard mounds were found along an original route for the road, prompting the need to explore alternate routes. That led to the city’s redevelopment commission withholding the second of three scheduled annual payments of $866,666.66 for the project until more is learned.

Read More: Indian artifacts may reroute key Indiana road

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