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Photograph of the Amburgey site.


Site ID: 15Mm137

Kentucky Archaeological Survey
Unless specified, we cannot provide site location information.


​​​​​​​​​​​The Amburgey site sits on a high ridge in Montgomery County.  It was documented in 1996 as part of a survey by Cultural Resource Analysts prior to the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet's realignment of Highway 11.  Since the site could not be avoided, it was excavated in 2001. This work investigated four Middle Woodland pits and 11 Middle Woodland postholes. It also recovered nonlocal artifacts, such as a tetrapodal (four-footed) ceramic jar, copper earspools, a copper celt, and mica.

Four sides of a copper earspool.


Th​e 11 postholes form an oval pattern measuring 39 x 57 feet (historic graves obscured the northern portion of the pattern). This arrangement of posts may represent a temporary structure or screen. The structure had at least one central post, which was slightly larger and deeper than the surrounding posts.

One interpretation of the site is that it was a place where feasting - indicated by burned edible plant and animal remains - occurred in connection with ritual offerings of a tetrapodal jar and copper artifacts​. Chipped stone tools and flakes also were burned, but the tetrapodal vessel and copper artifacts were not. This suggests that the latter were deposited after the feasting. 

The tetrapodal jar stood on cone-shaped feet. ​It was made with mica-flecked clay to which moderate amounts of sand and rock had been added. The vessel's outer surface was brushed except for the neck and rim, which were plain and well-smoothed. The diagonally oriented brushstrokes created a herringbone pattern. The vessel’s characteristics suggest that it was made in the Appalachian Summit region of eastern Tennessee/western North Carolina. This vessel probably represents a Connestee Brushed jar obtained through trade between people living in Montgomery County and people living in eastern Tennessee.

Investigators found two copper earspools beneath the vessel. One earspool was nearly complete; only the outer edges of its obverse "cymbal" or disc (the larger side of the earspool that is visible when worn in the ear) and its reverse cymbal were slightly fragmented. This earspool is a composite artifact. It was formed from at least three copper plates and one stem. No clay was found between the plates, and the stem was wrapped in fiber. The second earspool, thought broken, was similar in shape to the first. Fiber cordage wrapped around its stem was made of bast fibers - pliable, elongated strands from the inner bark of plants.

The copper celt was almost complete, except for a small chunk that was missing on one end. Several bits of mica were lodged on the surface of each face. The celt measured 2.9 inches long and 1.7 inches wide, and tapered toward one end. The working end was flared, slightly rounded, and beveled, which gave it the appearance of an adze. The celt's margins were flat instead of blade-like. The tool was made by folding raw copper sheets, which left a lengthwise seam on one face.

Copper does not occur naturally in central or even eastern Kentucky. When copper objects are recovered from Kentucky sites, they represent objects exchanged with groups living to the southeast in the Appalachian Mountains or to the north in Michigan.

Connestee Sand Tempered tetrapodal jar.

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A Connestee tetrapodal jar and the two copper earspools were found together in a small pit. The vessel was probably made in what is now western North Carolina. The copper used to make the earspools also would have come from this region. Although no plant remains were found inside the jar, beneath it, investigators found carbonized seeds of squash, goosefoot, bedstraw, purslane, and sticky catchfly. Traditionally, both bedstraw and catchfly are known to have medicinal uses. 

A nearby pit yielded heat-altered sandstone and quart pebbles, as well as a copper celt, a groundstone celt, a chipped stone tool, and chipped stone flakes. Most of the chipped stone artifacts also were heat-altered.

Finally, a third pit produced 600 heavily burned bone fragments of white-tailed deer, other mammals, and birds. Diverse plant remains also came from this pit. They included walnut and hickory nutshell, and goosefoot, pokeweed, chokeberry, eastern redbud, and St. John’s-wort seeds. These plants could have been used for medicinal treatments, baskets, as incense, and as fiber. Investigators interpreted this pit as a thermal feature, most likely a place where people processed animals or prepared food. This pit may contain the remains of ritual feasting that concluded with depositing the tetrapodal jar and copper earspools in a nearby pit.

Copper celt showing both faces.

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