Referred to as the "Great Indian Quarry of Ohio," Flint Ridge is a nearly eight mile long vein of high quality Pennsylvanian-age Vanport flint located in Licking and Muskingum Counties of eastern Ohio. Hundreds of quarry pits and workshop sites are scattered across more than 2,000 acres of ridge top in these Appalachian foothills. The prehistoric flint mines range in size from 12 to 80 feet in diameter and from 3 to 20 feet in depth.
Flint Ridge flint is particularly distinctive for its bright coloration. The most common type is white with light gray streaks, but the most sought after colors included various shades and combinations of red, pink, yellow, blue, and green.
All of Ohio's pre-contact American Indian peoples used Flint Ridge flint to make spear and arrow points, scrapers, and knives. The Hopewell culture (100 BC – AD 500) especially prized it, using it to make particular kinds of small knives called bladelets. Flint was also an important resource for early European settlers who used flint from Flint Ridge as fire starters, in flintlock guns, and as buhrstones, large flat stones used to grind grain. Today, flint is polished to make jewelry and is recognized as the State of Ohio's official gemstone.
In 1933, the Ohio Historical Society established the Flint Ridge State Memorial. In 1968, a museum was built around a restored prehistoric quarry which includes displays on the use of flint and the geology of Flint Ridge. Flint Ridge State Memorial is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Charles Smith, who later changed his name to Gerard Fowke, made the first systematic study of Flint Ridge in the 1880s. He published the results of his survey in the 1884 annual report of the Smithsonian Institution and in his 1902 book entitled Archaeological History of Ohio.
William C. Mills, former Curator of Archaeology for the Ohio Historical Society (as of 2014, the Ohio History Connection), did the most important study of Flint Ridge around 1920 when surveyed and excavated many quarry pits and workshop sites. Mills learned that the Hopewell culture was responsible for the bulk of the flint quarrying at Flint Ridge. They dug the flint from the pits and chipped it at nearby workshops into two basic forms: leaf-shaped bifaces (a biface is a flint flake or slab worked on both the front and back); and, small, cone-shaped cores for making long, thin bladelets.
In the summers of 1987 and 1988, Richard Yerkes, Professor of Anthropology at The Ohio State University, dug several test pits and systematically collected artifacts from the surface at Flint Ridge State Memorial. The goals of Yerkes' study were to test Mills' ideas about how the Hopewell culture used Flint Ridge, and to see if he could find evidence of Hopewell villages there. Yerkes found no evidence that Hopewell people ever lived at Flint Ridge, but he did confirm Mills' conclusions about how the Hopewell extracted flint and manufactured tools.
In the fall of 1997, Ohio Historical Society archaeologists Bradley Lepper and William Pickard excavated a large area at Flint Ridge that was to become the site of a picnic shelter. They excavated more than 1400 cubic feet of earth and recovered nearly a ton of flint tools and discarded chips, this investigation also confirming Mills' conclusions. Most of the tools found were bifaces, cores, and bladelets made by the Hopewell culture.
- Lepper, Bradley T., Richard W. Yerkes, and William H. Pickard: "Prehistoric Flint Procurement Strategies at Flint Ridge, Licking County, Ohio." Midcontinental Journal of Archaeology Volume 26, pp. 53-78, 2001.
- Lepper, Bradley T. Ohio Archaeology: An Illustrated Chronicle of Ohio's Ancient American Indian Cultures. Wilmington, Ohio, Orange Frazer Press, 2005.