Archaeology: Bibliography for Kentucky Archaeology and Native American History

A fascinating story lies beneath the feet of all Kentuckians. It is the story of prehistoric Kentucky.


Picture in your mind’s eye a cool late summer morning in prehistoric Kentucky.  It’s the kind of morning that signals fall is right around the corner. The sun rose just a short time ago. A thick mist is rising from the river, but it will soon be burned away.  The smell of burning wood mixes with the odor of cooking corn, drying meat, tobacco smoke, and garbage.


The village is beginning to stir, Over 500 people live in this village. Their 25 rectangular, bark-covered houses are scattered along the river bank.  Large trees stand next to some of the house, shading them as the sun rises. Corn fields surround the village. Beyond the fields is the forest.


Since these people make their living mainly by farming, they built their village near fertile, well-drained soils. But they also fish and gather freshwater mussels.  Over the long distances they travel by canoe, and they need fresh water for drinking. For these reasons they also built their village along the river’s edge.


Near the village center, one house is much larger than the others.  It is the house of the village chief and his family.  It serves as a meeting place for the village leaders, too.  There they discuss politics, marriages, trade, and other important matters that touch their lives.


Next to the chief’s house is the open area where the villagers hold important ceremonies.  The earth is so hard that no grass grows there.  It has been packed down by the hundreds of people who have danced there for the past five years.  The woman sweep this area clean of garbage and debris before and after each ceremony,


House size varies.  The largest ones measure 70 by 30 feet, while the smallest ones measure 50 by 18 feet.  The houses are not arranged in any regular pattern within the village.  The doors are large pieces of elm bark or bearskin. There are no windows.  Smoke curls upwards from the roofs of some houses. It is the smoke from last night’s fire escaping through the central smoke hole in the roof.


Between 15 and 25 people live in each house and make up a household.  Each household is made up of several families.  The people of each household are most closely related to the people who live in the nearby houses.  This is because they belong to the same clan.  Several clans live in this village.  The clans are known by animal names:  Snake Turtle, Raccoon, Turkey, Hawk, Deer.


Men cannot marry women of their own clan.  When couples marry, the wife comes to live with her husband.  When children are born, they belong to their father’s clan. And when people die, they are buried in shallow graves in the clan’s special burial area at the village edge.


Each house is surrounded by an open area that is mostly bare ground.  This open area is largest in front of each house.  The villagers do most of their work in this open area, except on the rainiest days.


Most of their clothing is made of deerskin.  The women wear wrap-around skirts, and the men wear short aprons or breechcloths. Their feet are bare.  The women wear their dark hair long and braided. The men’s hair is cut shoulder length. Most of the men wear headbands. One or two feathers are tied to a few of the older men’s headbands.  Everyone wears some kind of jewelry.  Ornaments made from bone are tied into their hair. Around their necks hang pierced elk teeth, beads made of birds’ wing-bones, or disk-shaped shell beads.


Excerpt:  Summer Village.  Kentuckians Before Boone.

By A. Gwynn Henderson, PhD

The University Press of Kentucky, 1992,  ISBN 0-8131-0908-6


Further Reading Kentucky Archaeology Native American History