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Prehistoric Allen County
Preservationist Fritz Zimmerman documents the area’s ancient earthworks
By Michael Summers
Fort Wayne Reader
Let’s take a big step back in time.
How far back? Way back. Past the fond memories of death-defying TRF raft races. Past the nostalgic remembrances of Wolf & Dessauer’s halcyon days. Past the days when Fort Wayne’s factories made… well, lots of stuff. Heck, even way past the days when Fort Wayne was just a fort…
Fritz Zimmerman has been cataloging and investigating prehistoric burial mounds and other Native American earthworks in Allen County and beyond. Way beyond, in fact. He’s photographed and documented sites not just in Indiana but Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia. He has published two books, A Travel Guide to Ancient Ruins in the Ohio Valley and Fallen Angels in the Ohio Valley, both volumes of what Zimmerman calls the Nephilim Chronicles.
Zimmerman estimates the project took him about 13 years, and says he physically investigated over 700 burial mounds and earthwork sites in five states. “Most of those were in Indiana,” he explains. “I’ve investigated over 400 sites (in Indiana), and I photographed 85.”
And according to Zimmerman, Allen County is home to some pretty interesting sites, including a small henge on the St Joseph River, and the remains of an Iriquois fort across the river from the Riverbend golf course. “It was a U-shaped structure, and you can see parts of the linear walls,” Zimmerman says. “There are also a few burial mounds around in Allen County.”
Zimmerman isn’t an archeologist; he describes himself as an historian and an independent scholar. And he’s not interested in excavation. “I’m a total preservationist,” he says. “I am so against archeologists digging into anything. My whole purpose of this is to make a photographic record so down the road it can be preserved.”
“The burial mounds should at least be noted as historic sites, not by digging into it, removing all the skeletal remains and destroying it, which is kind of what archeology does.”
Zimmerman organized a conference, held in Fort Wayne on February 4, called Mysterious Ancient America. The conference includes a number of authors and independent scholars like Zimmerman, and focuses on who these ancient Americans were, where they came from, and where they went.
And its here where the ideas of Zimmerman and his colleagues diverge — to say the least — from generally accepted archeological theories. The folks at the conference theorize that these were actually a sophisticated maritime people, and link them to the Biblical Amorites.
In the Bible, the Amorites are described as giants, something that followers of this theory take literally (in the Book of Numbers in the Hebrew Bible, “Nephilim” are giants). They point to numerous newspaper accounts, many from the early half of the 20th century, of human skeletal remains ranging from 7’ to 9’ tall being uncovered.
Also, in his books Zimmerman discusses a numerological codex that he says is found in the Bible and in Stonehenge, and that shows up consistently in the earthworks in the Ohio valley along with their use of complex mathematics and geometry.
As I said, these are controversial theories that don’t find much support in the field of archeology. To simplify a complicated issue, archeologists say that many of the theories Zimmerman follows have their origins in the 1800s, what archeologists call “the speculative age.” Back then, these speculations derived from the belief that the Native Americans, who seemed primitive to Western eyes, weren’t sophisticated enough to create some of the more complex systems of measurement and engineering that have been found. You won’t find the racist — or at least Euro-centric — undertones of those early speculations among modern day adherents, but most archeologists would still contend the theories don’t have much basis in fact.
And some of it, they say, just defies belief. They point out that these skeletal remains of 7’ – 9’ tall people are no where to be found, and there aren’t any pictures, either. Though conspiracists claim the bones are tucked away in the basements of universities and museums, there doesn’t seem to be much of a point in the “archeological community” keeping something like that hidden (and wouldn’t having the remains of a race of 7’ – 9’ giants in your possession be a magnet for grant and donor money for any museum or university archeological department?).
But Zimmerman is no longer interested in having point/counter-point discussions with university-affiliated archeologists. “They’ll just bash everything I’ve done,” he says. “They would disagree with everyone at this conference. But they don’t know who these people are, where they came from, or where they went. They have no theories concerning any of it.”
Whether or not the theories Zimmerman adheres to hold up, he has done the work in cataloging and documenting these sites. “So much of this stuff is only a couple hours from here, and it’s actually a really great winter adventure,” he says of his project. “My season would usually start in November and end around April 15, when everything started to sprout up.”
He adds that the fact that he wasn’t interested in digging up anything gave him access to people’s land — the property owners don’t want anything changed, and neither does Zimmerman. “Of those 85 sites I photographed in Indiana, only two are even listed as historic sites, so we have a long way to go as far as ancient Indiana and what’s out there and needs to be preserved,” he says. “We have this incredible, rich prehistoric past here that’s not protected or even listed as historic sites, and I’d like to make more people aware of it.”
For more on Zimmerman’s project, you can visit americanindianhistory.blogspot.com or the nephilimchronicles.blogspot.com