Archaeological Illustrations

Illustrations allow us to bring together a variety of different objects in time and space to suit our purpose. The following illustrations are intended to convey the art and the technology of different periods of time in Ohio prehistory in a series of subject oriented, spy-glass views back into time. I did these illustrations for the "kidsINK" weekly series of educational articles which started on October 8, 2002 in the Dayton Daily News.

Paleo Period
Paleo Period
Archaic Period
Archaic Period
Adena Period
Adena Period
Hopewell Period
Hopewell Period
Ft. Ancient Period
Ft. Ancient Period
Native Games
Cultivated Foods

Click on any of the links below the pictures to learn more about that topic in Ohio prehistory.


In Dayton, Ohio one finds SunWatch Archaeological Park (33MY57), a U.S. National Historical Site where a Fort Ancient culture 12th century Indian village has been excavated and reconstructed by the Dayton Museum of Natural History and an interpretive museum built. Reconstruction was accurately done using authentic materials and methods. How did we know where the houses were? From stains in the ground left by the posts as they rotted away over the years. How did we know the houses were wattle & daub sides with thatched roofs? Because of impressions left on mud-dauber wasp nests found.

The color portrait forensic reconstruction above which I painted was the model for the priestly mannequin dressed in ceremonial attire displayed in the site interpretive center.

How do we know that the people looked anything like what is shown in my sketches here to the right? By forensic reconstruction of human remains found at the site in conjunction with their grave goods.

How do I know that bone fish hooks were made as shown below? Because of pieces broken in various stages of construction and found in garbage pits at the site.

Ft. Ancient VIP
Ft. Ancient Faces


Photographs aren't always the answer to conveying visual information. Sometimes a photograph can't highlight detail which needs to be highlighted. Sometimes parts of the object rotted away centuries ago and can't be photographed.

Sometimes a museum or a school doesn't have the money to publish a book or an article containing photographs, and needs line art which prints cheaply. Examples of such line art illustrations are shown below.

bone awls arrowhead drawing
bone fish hooks Upper Left: Illustrating a collection of bone awls.
Upper Right: An example of illustrating lithics
Lower Left: Illustrating how bone fishhooks were made.

The scholarly record of the excavation and interpretation of the SunWatch site by various experts from around the world who worked on the site or who worked in labs analyzing finds from the site was recorded in the two-volume book "A History of 17 Years of Excavation and Reconstruction", ed. by Heilman, Lileas, and Turnbow. The black and white line drawings on this page are but a few samples of illustrations I did for all of that book for other scholars and for my own chapter on bone tools.


Susan K. Nelson has a Master of Arts degree in Archaeology Education from the McGregor School at Antioch University.

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