The Forgotten Culture That Built America’s “Pyramids” of Dirt
American history students know of the ancient Egyptians, the Incas of Peru, and of the Aztecs of Mexico, but less know a major civilization that extends through the eastern United States from around 800 to 1600 CE. Meet the Mississippians.
Years before the European immigrants planted the seeds of modern civilization in North America, the Mississippi culture spread from the Florida Panhandle all the way to southern Minnesota.
Defining the dozens of discovered settlements are distinct earthwork mounds that resemble pyramids of dirt. Various structures were regularly constructed atop these mounds. Chiefs presided over individual settlements and were thought to regulate trade, particularly of maize, which archaeologists believe was the primary staple crop.
The rise of centralized agriculture is the most agreed-upon explanation for the evolution of the Mississippian culture. Settlements were set up near rivers to take advantage of fertile farmland. Food was grown and shared under the altruistic watch of the settlement chief.
With a reliable source of food, the Mississippians could undertake other pastimes. Metalworkers fashioned stone tools for farming and etched ornate copper plates for adornment.
Artists crafted necklaces and pottery out of riverine shells. Spectators watched athletes compete in a game known as chunkey, in which players tried to hurl a spear closest to a thrown disc-shaped stone.
Chunkey was often played in immense arenas. The largest was in the Mississippian capital of Cahokia, situated in southern Illinois just across the Mississippi River from modern-day St. Louis. At its peak around 1100 CE, the city was home to as many as 20,000 people.
Most residents lived in humble, thatched-roof dwellings near the outskirts of the sprawling city, but they would regularly venture to the heart of the settlement to visit markets set up in the four open plazas or to view religious ceremonies.
Cahokia featured at least 109 raised mounds, the largest of which had a base almost as expansive as the Great Pyramid at Giza. Atop these mounds were grand structures. Some may have been temples, places of politics, or finer dwellings for higher-status residents.
The Mississippians thrived through the 13th century, but started declining thereafter. Floods associated with the Little Ice Age may have swamped their signature mounds. Other climatic events may have threatened the foundational maize agriculture that maintained their flourishing society.
Cahokia was abandoned in the later half of the fourteenth century, sending migrants roaming across the land to seek new starts at other settlements.
The diaspora brought with it political turmoil and warfare. By the time Europeans began actively colonizing North America in the 16th century, the Mississippian culture was torn, ragged, and disconnected, a shadow of its former self.
While there has been no shortage of beautiful artifacts recovered from Cahokia and other Mississippian settlements, there’s been a complete absence of any form of writing. It seems the Mississippians lacked a writing system.
This critical dearth of information helps explain why the Mississippians rarely make it into textbooks of American history, and why only 2,600 words are written about them on Wikipedia compared to 13,000 for Ancient Egypt.
And so, we’re left wondering about the Mississippians… What were their names? What were their stories? What did they believe in? We may never know for sure.
Three 17th-Century Ships Found buried underneath in Old Town Alexandria Tell a Story of Colonial-Era Virginia
Back in December 2015, a 300-year-old ship buried in Old Town Alexandria was first detected at a construction site for a new hotel.
Local archaeologists suspected that it may have originally been used to truck heavy cargo or was built for military purposes, the Washington Post’s Patricia Sullivan reported at the time.
Later research revealed that the ship had been built in Massachusetts sometime after 1741 and made its way to Virginia in the latter half of the century, where it was used as a landfill to create new real estate of the 17th-century shoreline.
All three ships are believed to have been built in the mid-to-late 1700s and buried before 1798. A similar ship was discovered nearby at the Hotel Indigo site in late 2015.
“The combination of Revolutionary War-era ships, early building foundations, and thousands of other artifacts makes Robinson Landing one of the most archaeologically significant sites in Virginia,” said Eleanor Breen, acting City Archaeologist.
“The discoveries at this site have gained international attention, and the City is working with EYA to identify and preserve these important pieces of Alexandria’s history.”
Archaeologists were on hand to provide information and answer questions. The active construction site was not open to the public during the viewing, but many notable elements of the site were visible, including the most recent — and largest — ship discovery. The ships were covered before and after the viewing, in order to protect the wood from exposure.
“Working in Alexandria for more than 20 years, we recognize and respect the rich history of the city and the importance of preserving discoveries of this kind,” said Evan Goldman, EYA LLC Vice President of Acquisition and Development.
“We’re committed to this unprecedented effort to protect the archaeological history of Old Town. The results have gone well beyond what we expected, and we are thrilled by the significance of the findings and their unique ability to preserve the legacy of the city for years to come.”
The Alexandria Archaeological Protection Code requires developers to have archaeologists on-site to monitor all phases of ground disturbance.
This ensures that any historic features encountered during demolition and construction are dealt with properly so that Alexandria’s history is enriched through archaeological study.
As the development of the Alexandria waterfront continues, excavations have the potential to continue to unearth additional evidence of early wharves and piers, maritime vessels, early industries, and commercial and domestic activities.
Early 20th-Century Trolley Tracks Found in Washington State
Contractors dug up history last week when rails from Walla Walla’s trolley system dating back to 1906 were removed from Whitman Street between First and Second avenues.
The tracks once connected Walla Walla residents to downtown, Pioneer Park, the Walla Walla County Fairgrounds, cemetery, and many other key stops before automobiles became the common transportation mode.
For 5 cents, Walla Wallan’s could take a trip around the city’s central portion, and as far as Pleasant Street or Prospects Heights. Stops included colleges, local businesses and an opera house.
About 450 linear feet of those trolley tracks were dug up to replace the sewer main underneath them as part of the Third and Maple Infrastructure Repair and Replacement Plan Project, including water, sewer and road improvements expected to be complete in October, city officials said Tuesday.
The removal of trolley tracks is permitted because of measures taken to mitigate the impact of the loss of the tracks. These efforts included hiring Fort Walla Walla Musem to conduct an archeological survey, research and report on the trolley system in 2011 when a different project called for the removal of the tracks.
Other efforts included interpretative signage placed along the former trolley line near Sharpstein School and at modern bus stops on the former trolley line, a Powerpoint presentation on the trolley system used for public education purposes and a publication of an article.
When part of the rail was removed in 2011, archeologists took a piece of it. The rail had a date on it and listed the manufacturer, confirming the research, said Mike Laughery, the city’s capital programs engineer.
That piece is at Fort Walla Walla Museum and if needed, can be curated, made part of the museum, and put on display.
With these steps, the state Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation and the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation continue to grant permission for removal of the tracks for each infrastructure project the city plans, so far, Laughery said.
Another step in honoring the history could be incorporating a segment of railroad tracks into the design, Laughery said. That would mean removing the original tracks, rebuilding the utilities, and then setting the new tracks back in the roadway, so they are still visibly present, he said.
That idea has not yet been required, he said.
According to the 2011 report, exposed trolley tracks create safety hazards for pedestrians and cyclists. Leaving tracks beneath asphalt leads to premature failure of that street surface, and pavement failure associated with the tracks was discovered in various locations where buried rails exist.
Some of the trolley tracks remained much longer than they were in use, and portions can still be seen on Whitman Street between Howard and Division streets, near the intersection of Clinton and Boyer streets and along North Sixth Avenue to Cherry Street. The trolley only operated 20 years before the automobile became so common that the line had to close down in 1926.
“I don’t know what the financial investment was back then but it had to have been substantial,” Laughery said. “I don’t know if they just didn’t foresee the development of the automobile or how that played out.”
Trolley cars would hold 28 to 72 passengers and were equipped with onboard electric motors. Overhead wires supplied electricity to the cars through metal rods extending from the roof, according to an article published by Maury Mule of the Fort Walla Walla Museum.
The trolley cars had two-piece windows allowing for air during hot summer days and maintaining heat in the colder months with an onboard coal-fired stove providing heat to the car, the article stated.
The trolley operated in conjunction with an interurban line, which closed in 1931 and ran about 13 miles south to the Oregon cities of Milton and Freewater, the article stated. Spur lines and connections to national rail networks would appear.
No other discoveries were reported when the contractors removed the tracks, Laughery said. Project contractor Total Site Services now owns the tracks, and if no one wants them, they will probably be scrapped, according to city staff.
For further information, call the city’s Engineering Division at 509-527-4537.
A lost city discovered by Archaeologists when they explore a rural field in Kansas
In the Great Plains of Kansas, archaeologists have made an innovative and unlikely discovery: a vast town lost centuries ago. Donald Blakeslee discovered a few years ago the lost city of Etzanoa in Arkansas City, Kan, a Wichita State University anthropologist, and an archaeology professor.
In that small city in south-central Kansas, local residents found the arrowhead and the gold mine underneath their town, pottery, and other ancient artefacts, for decades, in the fields and rivers of the region.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Blakeslee used newly translated documents written by the Spanish conquistadors who came across the land over 400 years ago to determine that these artifacts were once part of the Native American lost city of Etzanoa.
“‘I thought, ‘Wow, their eyewitness descriptions are so clear it’s like you were there,’” Blakeslee told the Times about reading the conquistador’s accounts. “I wanted to see if the archaeology fit their descriptions. Every single detail matched this place.”
The city of Etzanoa is believed to have been around from 1450 to 1700 and was home to approximately 20,000 people. Blakeslee said that the city was the second-largest settlement in the present-day United States at the time and spanned across at least five miles of the space between the Walnut and Arkansas rivers.
The 20,000 inhabitants of Etzanoa were said to have lived in “thatched, beehive-shaped houses.”
In 1541, conquistador Francisco Vazquez de Coronado came to the town hoping to discover its fabled gold but instead found Native Americans in a collection of settlements that he called Quivira.
Sixty years later in 1601, Juan de Oñate led a team of 70 conquistadors from New Mexico to Quivira, also hoping to find its gold but they ran into a tribe called the Escanxaques, who told them of the nearby city of Etzanoa.
Oñate and his team arrived at the city and were greeted peacefully by the inhabitants of Etzanoa. However, things quickly went south when the conquistadors started taking hostages, which then caused the city’s residents to flee in fear.
The group of conquistadors explored the vast area of more than 2,000 houses but feared an attack from the peoples they dislodged and decided to return home.
On their return trip, they were attacked by some 1,000 members of the Escanxaque tribe and a huge battle took place. The conquistadors lost and returned home to New Mexico, never to come back to the area again.
French explorers came nearly a century later to that part of south-central Kansas but did not find any evidence of Etzanoa or its people. It is believed that disease caused the untimely demise of the population.
However, traces of the people and their city would not stay hidden forever. Blakeslee and a team of excavators found the site of the ancient battle in a neighborhood in Arkansas City and found remanents from the battle.
Locals in the area had been uncovering artifacts from the lost city for decades but didn’t understand why until evidence of the city itself was discovered by Blakeslee.
“Lots of artifacts have been taken from here,” Warren “Hap” McLeod, a resident of Arkansas City who lives on the spot where the battle took place, told the Times. “Now we know why. There were 20,000 people living here for over 200 years.” One local resident said that the sheer amount of artifacts that people in the area have is mindblowing.
“My boss had an entire basement full of pottery and all kinds of artefacts,” Russell Bishop told the Times. “We’d be out there working and he would recognize a black spot on the ground as an ancient campfire site … I don’t think anyone knew how big this all was. I’m glad they’re finally getting to the bottom of it.”
The Great Plains were long-regarded as huge, empty spaces in ancient times that were populated mainly by nomadic tribes. But Blakeslee’s discovery of Etzanoa could prove that some of the tribes in the area weren’t nomadic and were actually more urban than previously believed.
Blakeslee has also discovered evidence that similar, large-scale lost cities could be located in nearby counties which might have been around during the time of Etzanoa. These latest groundbreaking archaeological finds are helping researchers fill in huge blanks in early American history.
1.8-million-year-old skull gives a glimpse of our evolution
The finding of a 1.8 million-year-old skull from a human ancestor found in a medieval Georgian village is a dramatic example of early evolution and shows that our ancestral tree has fewer branches than some believe, researchers say.
The fossil is the most complete pre-human skull uncovered. With other partial remains previously found at the rural site, it gives researchers the earliest evidence of human ancestors moving out of Africa and spreading north to the rest of the world, according to a study published in the journal Science.
The skull and other remains offer a glimpse of a population of pre-humans of various sizes living at the same time – something that scientists had not seen before for such an ancient era. This diversity bolsters one of two competing theories about the way our early ancestors evolved, spreading out more like a tree than a bush.
Nearly all of the previous pre-human discoveries have been fragmented bones, scattered over time and locations – like a smattering of random tweets of our evolutionary history. The findings at Dmanisi are more complete, weaving more of a short story. Before the site was found, the movement from Africa was put at about 1 million years ago.
When examined with the earlier Georgian finds, the skull “shows that this special immigration out of Africa happened much earlier than we thought and a much more primitive group did it,” said study lead author David Lordkipanidze, director of the Georgia National Museum. “This is important to understanding human evolution.”
For years, some scientists have said humans evolved from only one or two species, much like a tree branches out from a trunk, while others say the process was more like a bush with several offshoots that went nowhere.
Even bush-favoring scientists say these findings show one single species nearly 2 million years ago at the former Soviet republic site. But they disagree that the same conclusion can be said for bones found elsewhere, such as Africa.
However, Lordkipanidze and colleagues point out that the skulls found in Georgia are different sizes but are considered to be the same species. So, they reason, it’s likely the various skulls found in different places and times in Africa may not be different species, but variations in one species.
To see how a species can vary, just look in the mirror, they said.
“Danny DeVito, Michael Jordan and Shaquille O’Neal are the same species,” Lordkipanidze said.
The adult male skull found wasn’t from our species, Homo sapiens. It was from an ancestral species – in the same genus or class called Homo – that led to modern humans. Scientists say the Dmanisi population is likely an early part of our long-lived primary ancestral species, Homo erectus.
Tim White of the University of California, Berkeley, wasn’t part of the study but praised it as “the first good evidence of what these expanding hominids looked like and what they were doing.”
Fred Spoor at the Max Planck Institute in Germany, a competitor and proponent of a busy family tree with many species disagreed with the study’s overall conclusion, but he lauded the Georgia skull discovery as critical and even beautiful.
“It really shows the process of evolution in action,” he said.
Spoor said it seems to have captured a crucial point in the evolutionary process where our ancestors transitioned from Homo habilis to Homo erectus – although the study authors said that depiction is going a bit too far.
The researchers found the first part of the skull, a large jaw, below a medieval fortress in 2000. Five years later – on Lordkipanidze’s 42nd birthday – they unearthed the well-preserved skull, gingerly extracted it, putting it into a cloth-lined case and popped champagne. It matched the jaw perfectly.
They were probably separated when our ancestor lost a fight with a hungry carnivore, which pulled apart his skull and jaw bones, Lordkipanidze said.
The skull was from an adult male just shy of 5 feet (1.5 meters) with a massive jaw and big teeth, but a small brain, implying limited thinking capability, said study co-author Marcia Ponce de Leon of the University of Zurich. It also seems to be the point where legs are getting longer, for walking upright, and smaller hips, she said.
“This is a strange combination of features that we didn’t know before in early Homo,” Ponce de Leon said.
When the Smithsonian discovered an ancient Egyptian colony in the Grand Canyon
At 277 miles (445 kilometers) long, up to 18 miles (28 kilometers) wide, and 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) deep, the Grand Canyon is one of the most beautiful and awe-inspiring places in the United States.
The Hopi Indians believe it is the gateway to the afterlife. Its sheer immensity and mystery attracted more than 6 million visitors in 2016.
But what those people probably don’t know is that the Grand Canyon might once have been the home of an entire underground civilization.
But where are they now? And why did they abandon the canyon? Hosts Matt Frederick, Ben Bowlin, and Noel Brown jump straight into the folklore, the legends, and of course, the conspiracies to find out what really happened to the Grand Canyon’s Lost Civilization in this episode of Stuff They Don’t Want You To Know.
It all started in 1909 when purported Smithsonian Institution explorer G.E. Kincaid discovered strange caverns during an expedition directed by Smithsonian anthropologist S.A. Jordan. The entrance to the cavern was nearly inaccessible, but Kincaid was able to get in to make an incredible discovery.
The enormous caves, which radiated out from a center cavern-like spokes on a wheel, were full of artifacts, including statues, copper weapons, even granaries full of seeds. Its size indicated that 50,000 people could live inside comfortably.
But even more amazingly, the artifacts didn’t match up to anything in the known record. Rather than appearing to be of Native American origin, as one might expect, the objects had distinct Egyptian or Tibetan designs. Could there actually have been an entire civilization of Egyptians living there? If so, how did they get there?
The story caused a huge sensation when it broke in the Arizona Gazette in 1909, but was soon met with skepticism: The Smithsonian has no record of either of the scientists, nor their discoveries, and firmly quells any claims that Egyptian artifacts have been found in either North or South America.
And no one has been able to find these supposedly massive caves since. Was this some elaborate hoax, may be perpetrated by the Gazette to sell papers?
That’s certainly a possibility, but it doesn’t fly for many conspiracy theorists. Some argue that the Smithsonian Institution has purposely wiped Kincaid and Jordan from their records and actively destroyed artifacts that don’t agree with the “status quo story” of human history.
Others think the caves hold a passage to the fourth dimension, where the reptilians (yep!) who have secretly run the world for thousands of years emerge into our world. Still, others believe the area is top-secret and closely guarded, like Area 51.
So is this series of caverns proof of a long-lost, possibly Egyptian civilization that’s simply being covered up by the Smithsonian, or is it a passageway into this dimension for our reptilian overlords? One thing is for sure.
400-year-old underground complex found in the Grand Canyon
Courtesy & Full Credit: The National Reporter
A group of hikers who had been exploring a virtually untouched area of the Grand Canyon happened upon an opening in the side of the canyon wall last July. Peter Marlington and his friends had discovered the entrance to an underground complex that has been estimated to be over four hundred years old and built in the late 1500s.
“It was hot as hell out and we were hiking up the side of the cliff to get into a wooded area for the shade.” Peter Marlington explained. “When we reached the shrub line we felt a cool breeze coming from the high weeds that were growing on the side of the cliff. It seemed very odd that a cool breeze would be coming from nowhere like that, so we poked around to see why.
When we pushed our way past the shrubbery we came to the entrance of a large brick-lined tunnel. We could tell right away that it was very old, but we had no idea that it would turn out to be as old as they say it is.”
“We were a little hesitant at first to go inside because we didn’t know what it was. We thought it might be a flood tunnel and we could be drowned in a sudden storm came up. And it was really kind of creepy too. I don’t believe in ghosts, but I’ll tell you when you are staring into an old dark musty smelling tunnel like that, it will give anyone the creeps. After a few minutes of debating whether or not we should go inside, the spirit of exploration overruled our fears, out came our flashlights, and into the tunnel, we went.
It went for quite a distance all on very level ground. We knew that if it was a flood tunnel that it would be slopped upward, we were relieved when we realized that we weren’t going to be flushed out in a sudden deluge. After a few hundred feet the tunnel stopped, it was boarded up.” The National Reporter – Did you turn back?
“Oh, hell no. We broke through. We had to. If we quit just because of some old rotten wood blocking our way and turned around, we would have spent the rest of our lives going crazy wondering what was on the other side of that door.”
The National Reporter – I can understand that. As a staff member of The National Reporter, I would have continued on as well to satisfy my curiosity and to bring yet another award-winning news story to my readers. So, What was on the other side of the wooden barricade? “Another tunnel. It was a lot smaller than the one we were in, it was more like a doorway in the wall. It was pitch black inside and it smelled kind of funny, like something that has been dead for real long time, you know, like dried up and dusty smelling. We made our way inside and soon came to another tunnel that went off to the right and another one about twenty feet ahead that went to the left.
We didn’t go down either of them, we just kept going straight.”
“We continued down the pitch-black tunnel until we came to a huge chamber. Our flashlights were barely bright enough to light the entire area up because of its immense size. Down below the brick floor looked like it had collapsed and there appeared to be some sort of tunnel system that had been exposed. We had no idea what the tunnels were for, but they were definitely big enough for large groups of people to move through.”
The National Reporter Did you go down to see what was inside of them? “We did after a while. The other guys were getting kind of scared, I have to admit it was getting kind of creepy. Graveyard creepy,..you know what I mean?”
The National Reporter – I know exactly what you mean. “I went down by myself, the other guys were too scared. It took a few minutes to get down to the collapsed floor where the tunnels were. It was pretty dangerous because the morter was all crumbled and powdery and the bricks were loose. I figured that was why the floor had collapsed. I entered the tunnel on the far left and walked for about fifty feet, then it stopped at a bricked-up wall. There was a loose brick in it, so I pushed on it and jiggled it around until it fell into the room on the other side.”
The National Reporter – What was inside of the room?
“I don’t know, I couldn’t see. “The hole wasn’t big enough to stick the flashlight in and look in at the same time, so I just put the camera into the hole and snapped a few pictures. I had the weirdest feeling while I was doing it like there was something on the other side of the wall watching me the whole time. I’ll tell you this much, it spooked the hell out of me and I ran out of there with the hair standing up on my neck.”
The National Reporter – What did you do then?
“We left.” He said. “When I told my buddy’s that it felt like something was watching me from the other side of that wall, that was it. We ran out of that place so fast nothing could have stopped us.” The National Reporter – What did you do when you exited the complex, Did you report finding it right away?
“Yeah, pretty much. We went to the park rangers’ office and told them what we found. Naturally, they didn’t know what we were talking about. They checked their map and there were no tunnels or underground facilities in that area. They thought we were making the whole thing up.” The National Reporter – What did you do then?
“We took them out to the tunnel so they could see it for themselves. They didn’t want to go at first because they still thought we were on something. I guess I would have thought the same thing if I was in their position. The whole thing sounds so made up.”
The National Reporter – I can understand that most people would think that you made this story up. It’s a good thing you have photographs to prove it’s all true. Your photographs coupled with the integrity and reputation of The National Reporter as being one of the most reliable news sources in the nation is guaranteed to make believers out of many skeptics.
“I know, that’s why I contacted The National Reporter and not one of those silly tabloids who make up ridiculous stories.” The National Reporter – What did you think when you found out that the underground complex that you and your friends discovered was 400 years old?
“It blew our minds. I mean,..who the hell built it? The Indians sure as hell didn’t have the know-how to build something like that and there were no European settlers that far west at the time and even if there was, they sure as hell didn’t have the equipment to dig out an underground complex of that size and manufacture the millions of bricks it took to build it.”
The National Reporter – The complex was to be opened to the general public after your discovery, but those plans were quickly cancelled when a government agency closed it down suddenly for some unknown reason. Do you have any ideas on why they did that?
“I have my suspicions. Remember when I told you about how I stuck my camera into the hole in the wall and snapped a few photo’s and it felt as though something was watching me?”
The National Reporter – Yes, was there something in the photographs? “Take a look for yourself.” He said, handing it to me. “If this is 400 years old, then something really weird was going on back then that people don’t know about and they sure as hell aren’t going to find out what it was from reading their history books, I’ll tell you that.”
I took the photograph from him and to tell you the truth, I was speechless by what I saw. I could understand what Peter Marlington meant when he said something weird was going on back then. I won’t say anymore, I will just present you, readers, with the image Mr. Marlington captured on film and leave you to ponder on it.
19th-century wagon discovered at Detroit Lake when it was at its lowest level in 46 years
The unprecedented drought on the west coast of the United States that has lasted for over four years now has had a major impact on everything from water supplies to agriculture to fisheries.
But in one town in Oregon, the resulting historic low water levels have dredged up history: the remains of a town that was abandoned and sunk beneath a reservoir more than 60 years ago.
Back in 1953, the 200 residents of the tiny town of Old Detroit deserted their homes after Congress approved a nearby dam, which, when finished, would flood the area to create the reservoir now known as the Detroit Lake.
Ever since, when the lake’s water level fell, remnants of the town would sometimes rise out of the water. With the lake’s water level at a record low this year, when a local sheriff’s deputy drove past the lake in late October to take a look, he discovered the perfectly preserved remains of a 19th-century wagon, half-sunk in the mud.
“I went on a treasure hunt down along the river, figuring I’d find foundations or something like that,” Marion County Sheriff’s Deputy Dave Zahn tells Christena Brooks for the Statesman Journal. “Then I saw a piece of old history right there.”
The lack of snowfall last winter caused Detroit Lake’s water levels to drop to the lowest they’ve been in almost 50 years, approximately 143 feet below capacity.
When Zahn decided to poke around in the newly dry lake bed, he discovered the utility wagon alongside an octagonal pit lined with cement that experts still haven’t identified, Brooks reports.
“As far as I know, the wagon’s never been seen until this year,” U.S. Forest Service archaeologist Cara Kelly tells Brooks. “This might not have been its original resting place…It could’ve come from anywhere in the town of Detroit or even up the drainage.”
While Zahn first spotted the wagon on October 29, he and Kelly decided to keep its location a secret, so as not to attract potential looters and vandals.
According to a metal plate attached to the wagon as seen in some of Zahn’s photographs, the wagon was made in 1875 by the Milburn Wagon Company of Toledo, Ohio, which was one of the country’s largest manufacturers of wagons at the time.
As Brooks reports, the lake bottom’s low oxygen levels almost perfectly preserved the wagon – ironically, its brief stint on land probably damaged it more than all the decades it spent underwater.
Old Detroit isn’t the only town briefly revealed by a historic drought: that same month, a drought in the Mexican state of Chiapas uncovered the ruins of a 450-year-old church.
The “Temple of Quechula,” as it is known, was originally built by Dominican monks near a conquistador highway, but was abandoned in the 18th century after a series of plagues struck the region.
This year, lake levels dropped so low that locals were able to take tourists out to see the ruins.
Even though Oregon’s drought may have uncovered a reminder of Detroit’s history, this year’s dry weather had such a bad effect on the town that Zahn hopes his once-in-a-lifetime experience stays that way.
“Hopefully it will be another 40 years before Detroit’s this low again,” Zahn tells Brooks.