Monday, October 21, 2002

Owner respects ancient mound

The Associated Press

COLUMBUS - A 15-acre parcel that a man bought after World War II as a family retreat turned out to also be special for another culture thousands of years ago.

After Tom Montei learned of the connection between him and the ancient Indian mound builders who once lived there, he made sure future generations would look on the land in the same way.

With Mr. Montei's approval, the state declared the property to be an official archaeological preserve, which means it can never be commercially developed.

Mr. Montei, 76, paid a few thousand dollars for the property in 1946.

In 1975, Mr. Montei asked the Ohio Department of Natural Resources whether the land could be turned into a nature preserve.

The department said the domed hill on the land appeared to be man-made and referred him to the Ohio Historical Society, where Mr. Montei met Martha Otto, its curator of archaeology.

Ms. Otto's staff verified that the dome was an earthwork that probably was part of an Adena or Hopewell village. Those groups of Indians lived in Ohio about 2,000 years ago.

Ms. Otto said that although hundreds of such mounds exist in Ohio, few are privately dedicated as preserves.

"The designation stays with the land," she said. "It's sort of like a permanent easement."

The property is now valued at about $500,000 In 1991, the owner founded the Montei Mound Preserve, a nonprofit corporation to secure funds for its preservation.

Mr. Montei would like to see the mound become an educational site for children.

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