October 11, 2015
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According to a series of posts made on Facebook Sunday, a West Virginia caver may have recently stumbled across what might be one of the most astonishing archaeological finds in recent West Virginia memory.
Ray Hartzell, a caver and Charleston-area contractor says he was “exploring a remote area of the county,” near the banks of the Elk River, when he “found two separate tombs, a wall structure… and several smaller mounds.”
Stacy Kessler Keeney, who refers to Hartzell as her ex-brother-in-law, said that the Charleston contractor crawled back into the hole and found ancient skeletons “to what I believe to be Archiac or Paleo or early Woodland Indians,” adding, “The burial style says a lot.”
Sunday evening, Keeney posted photos of Hartzell at the cave’s entrance onto a Facebook group, and stated, “National Geographic is coming from what I hear. It’s truly an amazing find.”
Keeney said that she and her husband are avid artifact hunters and that she hopes this site will be preserved.
Referring to this specific location, which is on private property, Keeney writes, “A wall was built there at the turn of the century – actually several walls – not knowing what was laying 40 feet back.”
West Virginia’s prehistoric history is rich and has been well documented over the years; as of 2009, over 12,500 archaeological sites have been documented in the Mountain State.
According to anthropologists, the first evidence of humans in what is modern-day West Virginia dates back to the nomadic Paleo-Indians, roughly 11,000 years before the time of Christ.
From 7,000 to 1,000 BC, archaic Native American cultures developed in the Northern Panhandle, the Eastern Panhandle, and along the Kanawha River Valley. “They created temporary villages on the Kanawha region streams, Monongahela and Potomac tributary streams of the Allegheny Mountains.”
Appalachian Magazine has reached out to Hartzell and Keeney and will post updates as they become available.
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