The Mission of SunWatch Indian Village/Archaeological Park is to protect, preserve and research the cultural remains of the SunWatch National Historic Landmark archaeological site and to serve as a visitor and educational center for archaeology, Native American culture, and heritage stewardship as they relate to the site.
The Mission of the Dayton Society of Natural History* is:
To educate and enlighten all people of the region about the wonders of the world through the work of the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery and SunWatch Indian Village/Archaeological Park.
The Mission of SunWatch Indian Village/Archaeological Park is:
To protect, preserve and research the cultural remains of the SunWatch National Historic Landmark archaeological site and to serve as a visitor and educational center for archaeology, Native American culture, and heritage stewardship as they relate to the site.
The Dayton Museum of Natural History began in 1893 as a part of the Dayton Public Library and Museum. Over the years, collections gathered by prominent Dayton citizens on their trips around the world were contributed to the museum. Local natural history collections were also contributed. In 1952, a group of citizens organized the Dayton Society of Natural History* which took responsibility for the collections and transformed them into the Dayton Museum of Natural History. In 1958, the Museum of Natural History's main building on Ridge Avenue in Dayton was opened.
SunWatch, originally named the Incinerator Site, was first excavated and reported on in the 1960s by amateur archaeologists John Allman and Charles Smith. When news came in the early 1970s that the City of Dayton planned to expand a nearby sewage treatment plant onto the property and impact the site, Allman and Smith contacted James Heilman, the Curator of Anthropology at the Dayton Museum of Natural History, in hopes of recovering as much valuable information from the site as possible. In 1971 the Dayton Museum of Natural History (now the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery) began "salvage" excavations at the site with just this goal in mind.
This initial work was designed to recover as much data from the village as possible prior to the proposed destruction of the site to make way for the sewage treatment plant expansion. As excavations continued, a planned, stockaded village which was estimated to have been occupied for about 20 years and included apparent astronomical alignments was revealed. The roughly 3 acre village site contained many well preserved artifacts, including fragile items such as crayfish pincers, fish scales, turkey egg shell fragments, and even uncharred wood remains. The work at the site exposed many students and adult volunteers to archaeology for the first time and gave them an appreciation of the archaeology and history of the region.
With the cooperation of the City of Dayton the plans for the expansion of the sewage treatment plant were modified, and with the assistance of the city, numerous volunteers, scholars, and supporters the site was saved from destruction. Soon after, planning began to interpret and open the site to the public.
On July 29, 1988, after 17 years of excavation and research by the Dayton Society of Natural History, SunWatch opened to the public. Seasonal excavations continued through 1989. The years of excavation at the site, combined with additional analysis and research, have resulted in a remarkable understanding of the site's original inhabitants. SunWatch currently combines experimental archaeological research, including the reconstruction of the Fort Ancient structures in their original 13th century locations, with an interpretive center that exhibits many of the artifacts that have been recovered from the site. The village reconstruction includes five lath and daub structures with grass thatch roofs, portions of a stockade, and a native garden and prairie with plants typical of the period. Inferred astronomical alignments originate from a complex of posts at the center of the village that have also been replaced. There is also a picnic shelter and picnic tables overlooking the village and are available for visitors to relax.
In June of 2006, the Heilman-Kettering Interpretive Center at SunWatch reopened after an extensive renovation added over 6,000 square feet to the facility. The renovation included a new lecture room that can be divided in two and used for lectures, seminars, receptions, traveling exhibits, and other events. A meeting room that overlooks the reconstructed village, a handicap lift to provide access to the new second floor, and additional restrooms and other amenities provide for the comfort and enjoyment of our guests.
Because of its archaeological and historical significance, SunWatch was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975 and became a National Historic Landmark in 1990.
* The Dayton Society of Natural History is the parent organization of the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery and its sister organization, SunWatch Indian Village - - a museum of the area's 12th century Fort Ancient Indians.
For more information, please call 937-268-8199.
The National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) is a list that recognizes historic places worthy of preservation. It is administered by the National Park Service, a part of the U.S. Department of the Interior. The NRHP was first authorized under the 1966 National Historic Preservation Act, and its mission is to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect cultural resources. There are 80,000 listings on the NRHP in the United States, including 325 from the state of Ohio. SunWatch was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.
National Historic Landmark (NHL) status was granted to SunWatch Indian Village/Archaeological Park in 1990. NHL status indicates that a historic or prehistoric site possesses exceptional value as commemorating or illustrating the history of the United States. NHL was formed under the Historic Sites Act in 1935. Harold Ickes, Secretary of the Interior, was seeking a broad legal foundation for a national program of preservation and rehabilitation of historic sites, and wanted a program that would work through the National Park Service to make a survey of historical and archaeological sites, buildings and objects. NHL status works to promote the advancement of historic preservation, patriotic instruction, and tourism promotion. To visit SunWatch’s NHL webpage, click here. For more information, please call 937-268-8199.