KYTC partners with UK archaeologists on excavation project - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

KYTC partners with UK archaeologists on excavation project

(Source: KYTC) (Source: KYTC)
(Source: KYTC) (Source: KYTC)
(Source: KYTC) (Source: KYTC)
(Source: KYTC) (Source: KYTC)
(Source: KYTC) (Source: KYTC)

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet has been working on a project with archaeologists from the University of Kentucky Program for Archaeological Research as part of prep work for construction of the new Lake Barkley Bridge at Canton since 2014.

Archaeologists have conducted excavations in the footprint of the new U.S. 68 Lake Barkley Bridge to prepare for construction that is now taking place at Canton in Trigg County.

The dig site, which is located along the eastern bluff of Lake Barkley at Canton, dates back to the Early Archaic period (8,000-6,000 B.C.)

It provides an opportunity to examine a poorly understood period of Kentucky's prehistory.

To date, KYTC said more than 1,700 square feet of the site area has been excavated.

The excavation results indicate that the site was a residential camp that was intermittently inhabited over a period of several centuries.

According to KYTC, charcoal or carbonized nut shell recovered from excavations were submitted for radiocarbon dating. The results indicate that the primary occupation of the site dates to about 8,000 years ago.

Artifacts from the site include a variety of stone tools; including spear points, drills, scrapers, and other tools, as well as abundant flakes produced during stone tool making.

KYTC said archaeologist Mickey Loughlin had indicated this site is among fewer than a dozen sites of this quality across Kentucky.

They say these artifacts present important evidence about the range of activities carried out at the site, which apparently include stone tool manufacture and maintenance, plant processing and hide working.

The distribution of these artifacts across the site provides date about how the site was organized, such as the locations of living areas and activity areas.

Moreover, KYTC said the presence of burned animal bone and carbonized plant remains provide data about the types of plants and animals that were consumed by site inhabitants. These remains also provide information about the environmental context of the site at the time it was occupied, which has likely changed dramatically over the past 8,000 years.

In addition to the excavations, KYTC said the project also includes a geomorphological study that helps us understand the formation and alteration of the landform on which the site is located. Situated near a sinkhole, on top of a bluff overlooking the Cumberland River valley, the site would have provided easy access to water and diverse food resources.

Chert outcrops along the bluff provided raw materials for stone tool production.

Given this setting, one of the research questions that will be addressed during the analytical stage of the project is why Native Americans apparently stopped living here by the end of the Early Archaic period.

By examining how the landform and environment changed through time, KYTC said they may be able to better understand why the site was abandoned after a few hundred years of very intensive occupation.

The project is funded through KYTC, and is being carried out in consultation with KYTC and the Kentucky Heritage Council.

Because federal funds are being used for the bridge replacement and highway improvements, the projects is subject to compliance with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act.

According to KYTC, these excavations represent the final stage of cultural resource management compliance, where the impact of construction on cultural resources goes through excavation and analysis.

These archaeological investigations have not gotten in the way of any of the construction activities associated with the bridge replacement and highway improvements, according to KYTC.

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