Archaeological Survey of the Berlin Lake Reservoir Coast, Mahoning, Portage, and Stark Counties, Ohio

Michelle R. Bebber, Ashley M. Rutkoski, Anna Mika, James D. Norris, Michael Wilson,

Heather Smith, Leanna Maguire, and Metin I. Eren

Berlin Lake is a U. S. Army Corps of Engineers multipurpose reservoir constructed in 1943 and located in the tri-county area of Mahoning, Portage, and Stark counties, Ohio. Federally owned land around the lake—6,885 acres—is leased to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.  In June 2016, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers invited Kent State University (KSU) archaeologists to visit Berlin Lake in order to begin a partnership involving archaeological research in the area. At that time there was a concern that cultural materials, specifically those along the coast, were being lost due to natural and/or anthropogenic processes causing erosion along the reservoir’s coast.

Intermittently between the Fall 2016 and the Summer 2018, professional and student archaeologists from KSU conducted an archaeological survey of the Berlin Lake Reservoir. The goal of this project was to assess potential “at-risk” areas along the coast, and, upon discovery of such areas, determine any needed intervention and preservation.  Cultural remains which suggest continual human occupation for several thousand years have been previously documented at Berlin Lake. A phase I & II survey—covering a 20% sample of land surrounding the water (1,377 acres)—took place in 1987 (Rue et al. 1987) followed by a phase III investigation three years later (Church 1990). A wide variety of cultural remains spanning multiple time periods were recovered during these previous efforts (Figure 1). Despite the success of the earlier surveys, to our knowledge no further research has been conducted at Berlin Lake.  As such, our survey of the reservoir’s coast fills a gap in our knowledge of the area by providing a systematic evaluation of the prehistoric presence immediately adjacent to the water.

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