Cincinnati State Land Surveying Capstone 2021


Marcus Schulenberg shows the students of the state of Cincinnati the scope of the project.

The Cincinnati State 2021 land survey graduates were busy bringing history back to life near the city of Lawrenceburg, Indiana. This team of students from Ohio was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to survey a village prior to contact. The Dearborn County, Indiana site is the current focus of the Archaeological Research Institute, also known as ARI. ARI’s stated mission is to educate present and future generations about the past cultures of the tri-state Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky regions through research archeology and cultural preservation. To accomplish this mission, ARI needed to identify the boundaries of their excavable area, collect topographical information about that area to identify ancient structures and features on the land, establish control over the design of the features on the site as needed, and establish the excavation site Open to the public and enjoyable.

Frank L. Sellinger, II calibrates GPS while fellow students wait to discuss next steps.

To help ARI accomplish its mission, Carol Morman Ed.D., PE, PS, Program Chair and Professor of Land Survey at Cincinnati State Technical and Community College arranged for a team of five land survey students to take the project as the culmination of their degree.

While the project was presented as a simple retracement and topographical survey, there was a unique obstacle in the composition of the team. Each member worked full time and was also a student. This meant that all work was done on weekends, with minor tasks to be done after everyone’s day job. This limited schedule quickly became problematic as several weekends were lost when the site was completely submerged due to its location on the floodway of the Great Miami River.

Luke Strotman locates possible corner monuments.

After the elements were overcome and endured, the fieldwork took shape. The topography was handled by two teams operating Trimble S3 instruments simultaneously, one team working in the wooded area of ​​the property and another working in the open areas. The topographical survey was necessary in order to be able to recognize the differences in height of the ground in order to find further artifacts and other features of the ancient settlement. Three wire level loops were run to the site to determine the elevation from a nearby NGS benchmark. With the help of ARI executive director Liz Sedler and senior archaeologist Marcus Schulenburg, Cincinnati state students were also able to map the locations of well-known buildings around a Native American settlement and what is believed to be a protective wall. These structures had been discovered through an earlier magnetic survey by ARI, which could reveal evidence of settlement and help determine where the huts and protective perimeter wall are in the ground. To provide a more interactive format for the topographic map, a secondary survey of the location was performed by the surveying division of LJB, Inc., Cincinnati State’s collaborative education partner. With a drone specially equipped for surveying work, a 3D image of the project site was created and the topographical data from robotic total stations and GPS were checked. The drone survey data will be an invaluable teaching aid in ARI’s work in educating the Lawrenceburg community about the history of the area. The Cincinnati state students also identified checkpoints that ARI will use for future excavation site mapping. These points have been focused on the eastern portion of the property to allow room for further work during future mapping.

Marcus Schulenburg, Rakeem Wright, Frank L. Sellinger, II, Luke Strotman, Jared Foster, Emerson Hoeweler. Not pictured: Carol Morman, Liz Sedler.

With the establishment of control and the completion of the topographical mapping of the area, the boundary was the next problem. The area studied by ARI is surrounded by Oxbow, Inc., which leases the fields for agricultural use, an active railroad line, and the old riverbed of the Great Miami River. The property is also on the existing floodway of the Great Miami River. Although there was a plowed field to the west of the property used by ARI, the class was able to find an undisturbed rebar in the center of the field and use it to define the west line of the property. Several monuments were also found that proved of little help in defining the border. Near the southeast corner of the property, there were three existing features that could reasonably be considered a corner monument. Two of them were set in concrete and sheathed with PVC pipes, and the other was an angle iron. None of them could fit neatly into the notarized area, the next was more than 60 cm from the notarized corner. The project’s boundary was eventually set using the rebar in the west line of the adjacent property, the original concrete monuments in the west line of the property in question, and rebar on the northeast corner of the property.

Improvement plan with huts and suggested improvements.

Then, after the retracement and topography of the property was completed, the goal of the class was to show ARI how the land could be used to provide guided access to the excavation site for tours and information events. An improvement plan was drawn up for this purpose. Part of the property not marked as a building site was selected as a possible space for a small parking lot and a hiking trail was shown that followed both the edge of the village and a number of old building sites through the village. The exact location is not disclosed for security and conservation reasons, but is available on request.

When students finish their time in the Cincinnati state survey program, they will be able to expand their ever-growing knowledge of this unique experience. By locating and mapping the locations of these ancient buildings, they have helped preserve the information below the surface. This is information about a culture that may have been lost and that can be used to teach us about society and humanity.

Emerson Hoeweler and Luke Strotman review the level loop notes.

This project was completed under the requirements of the Bachelor of Applied Science Degree in Land Surveying in the State of Cincinnati. The Surveying Capstone course is one of the final courses that students on the program will take to demonstrate their knowledge of land surveying prior to graduation.

The Archaeological Research Institute (ARI) is a not-for-profit organization based in Lawrenceburg, IN, near an Ohio River site inhabited by ancient cultures. Under the guidance of ARI’s archaeologists, volunteers and students of all ages have unique and extensive practical opportunities to excavate, document, and preserve artifacts and features of sites, and to learn and appreciate the cultures that long ago lived on our Tristate land US.

Carol Morman, EdD, PE, PS is the Cincinnati State Program Chair and Professor of Land Surveying. She is a licensed land surveyor in Ohio and Indiana and a licensed civil engineer in Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky.