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Archaeologist excavate the canton site


Site ID: 15Tr1

Program for Archaeological Research
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​​​​​​​​​​​​Archaeologists from the University of Kentucky's Program for Archaeological Research excavated the ​southern edge of the Canton site prior to the construction of a new bridge spanning Lake Barkley. Situated on the bluffs overlooking the Cumberland River and along the edge of a sinkhole, the site represents the remains of an Early Archaic camp. Stone tools recovered from the site included spear points used in hunting and endscrapers used during hide processing. Analysis of these stone tools and their spatial distribution allowed archaeologists to learn about the daily activities of the people who lived at the Canton site 9000 years ago. ​​

Slightly re-sharpened spear point (left) and recycled drill/perforator (right).


​​One reason Early Archaic people ​found the Canton site so appealing was its proximity to high-quality cherts, from which they made their spear points (mainly Kirk-like examples) and scrapers. They preferred St. Louis chert, which outcrops within one mile of the site, and Fort Payne chert, which outcrops within four miles of the site​.  Residents traveled to these outcrops and returned with large chert nodules. They then proceeded to make multiple tools from one nodule.

​The process of making a spear point or endscraper - flintknapping - began when a knapper, using a stone that functioned like a hammer, knocked off the chalky exterior of a nodule to expose the high-quality chert inside. This raw chert was then roughly shaped with the same hammerstone to produce a biface (a two-sided blank), ready to be refined into a distinct and functional tool for everyday use. The flint knapper then used softer bone tools to remove small flakes from the tool edges and to form notches so the tool could be secured (hafted) to a handle. 

Endscrapers were used to prepare hides.  Archaeologists recovered more than 200 from the site.

What's Cool?

Local Spear Point Style

Through a comparison of the 300 Kirk-like spear points recovered from the Canton site with those recovered from contemporary Early Archaic sites, archaeologists identified stylistic characteristics that are unique to the Trigg County area. Examples from the Canton site have corner notches that are shallower and wider than spear points made by other Early Archaic groups.​ ​

Examples of Canton Style Kirk-like spear points made from St. Louis (left) or Fort Payne (right) chert.

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