The building that houses the Newtown Municipal Center is “ancient” by modern standards, originally built as a Baptist church in 1841.

But the building is not nearly as ancient as what’s inside, or what lies beneath it.

Inside are artifacts thousands of years old that chronicle the rich history of American Indians who lived in the Newtown area near the Little Miami River from 1000 B.C. to 1400 A.D.

And beneath the building is an ancient American Indian village and burial ground, one of a half-dozen documented sites in the vicinity that were used at one time by American Indians.

The area in and around Newtown was home to American Indians for thousands of years because it was located in a wide valley with large and relatively level terraces, says Bob Genheimer, curator of archaeology for the Cincinnati Museum Center.

The large and relatively level terraces were the perfect geography for constructing earthworks, villages or campsites, Genheimer says.

The artifacts left from those American Indian occupations now on display are representative of the Adena, Hopewell, Late Woodland and Fort Ancient cultures that lived in the area.

Artifacts include pieces of pottery, flint arrow and spear points, stone pipes, earrings, stone and shell gorgets (drilled ornaments), terracotta human effigy figurines, cut and polished deer antler segments, awls carved from turkey bones, and a piece of a hoe made from a local shell.

The artifacts are all part of the American Indian Education Center, located in the Newtown Municipal Center, 3537 Church St. The building, built and used as a Baptist Church until 1955, was bought by the village and used as a fire station from 1957 to 2011.

When the Little Miami Joint Fire Rescue moved to a new facility, the back half of the old fire station was renovated as village offices and conference space, and the former fire truck bay in the front of the building was renovated into a council chamber. The American Indian Education Center artifacts are displayed in cases surrounding the council chamber.

Newtown Councilman Curt Tiettmeyer, who was instrumental in guiding the education center project to fruition, says, “One of the most interesting exhibits is labeled the Newtown Firehouse. That is where artifacts were discovered when the fire department was actually digging to build a fire hose tower.”

Genheimer explains the significance of the artifacts discovered on that site. “Perhaps the two most spectacular artifacts on display at the Newtown museum are the mountain lion (panther) and opossum gorgets from the Newtown Firehouse site, the location of the actual museum.

“These engraved gorgets were made of segments of marine shell that originated in the southern Atlantic or Gulf of Mexico. Prepared by two different artists, these gorgets, or ornamental items, most likely depict clan or kinship symbols prevalent during the early fifth century A.D.”

The education center, opened in 2013, has been popular, Tiettmeyer says. Nearly 200 people, ranging from young children, to Boy Scouts, to senior citizen groups visited the facility during one month this summer, Tiettmeyer says.

The American Indian Education Center is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.