by, Beverley H Moseley, Jr. and John J White, III
Originally published in The Midwestern Epigraphic Society Journal
It is possible to argue that Robert Martin Gosling (1904-1964) was the greatest field archaeologist and naturalist in Ohio History. This self-educated genius from an enlightened Lancaster, Ohio family (father and four brothers) was a career field researcher who persevered through all manner of depression-related economic obstacles to compile a record of accomplishments hailed by prominent national scientists. Goslin’s career story will be told more fully in a future issue of the Midwestern Epigraphic Journal (Vol 14).
Typical of the life of this obscure Assistant Curator of the Ohio Historical Society is the fact that he married a woman from LaFollette, TN. This result is testimony to the fact that Goslin was a principal excavator for the famous physicist/anthropologist Dr Charles S Webb of the University of Kentucky, who supervised many of the salvage archaeological digs funded to offset the eventual permanent flooding effects of the massive TVA dam and flood control projects.
In the course of our research on the accomplishments of Robert Goslin, we rediscovered the famous photograph from 1927 shown below. The Goslin brothers were active Boy Scouts and explorers in the Lancaster area. Based principally on experience and archaeological curiosity, they elected to dig in the area of a cave shelter at a place 1.5 miles south of Lancaster called Kettle Hill Cave. Their findings made them famous.
The Goslins discovered a well-preserved skeleton of a 13-year-old Woodlands Era (ca 1000 CE) girl who had swallowed a small salamander as treatment for an illness. Much of the flesh and clothing of this skeleton had survived. This find was displayed at the Ohio Archaeological and Historical Society (15th and High Sts) for about 30 years (ca 1930-1960). The skeleton would be a good subject for modern DNA research.
Robert Goslin’s talent came to the attention of OHS Curator Henry Shetrone, who gave him work as limited funds became available. Both Shetrone and Emerson Greenman came to recognize cave shelters to be valued archaeological sites as a result of this ‘mummy’ discovery. Goslin was responsible for identifying and mapping many of the potential cave sites in Ohio. State Geologist Wilbur Stout uses this research as a guide in the 1930s to select locations for many Ohio Parkland purchases.
Photograph of Robert (left) and John (right) Goslin at Kettle Hill (Winter 1926-27) showing their ‘Mummy’ skeleton find in situ.
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