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WPA crew excavating the bottom of the shell midden

Carlston Annis

Site ID: 15Bt5

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


​​​​​​​​​​Carlston Annis is a Late Archaic (3000 to 1000 BC) shell midden site on the Green River​ floodplain. It measures 300 x 350 feet. Like many Green River Archaic shell midden sites, Carlston Annis sat adjacent to a ​stable mussel shoal. Native residents would have exploited the mussels during their seasonal rounds.  The University of Kentucky​ investigated the site from 1940-1941 and excavated approximately 21,000 square feet (almost a half acre). In the 1980s, ​​Washington University in ​St. Louis returned to conduct additional research within a much smaller area. Together, these investigations recovered several thousand artifacts, and documented 390 human burials, 28 dog burials, and more than 129  hearths, cooking pits, and trash pits. ​​

University of Kentucky's field crew excavating and removing soil.


​The relatively large number of Late Archaic chipped stone tools recovered from Carlston Annis, as well as the thickness of the midden (more than 6 feet),​reflect the continuation of a pattern initially observed in the region during the late Middle Archic period - that of decreased hunter-gatherer mobility and longer occupation of resource-rich areas.

Among the artifacts recovered from Carlston Annis was a cache of pestles - tools interpreted by archaeologists as having been used to process seeds and nuts. Most are conical; others are bell-shaped. Pestles tend to be made from limestone, but some are made from granite. Because investigators found the pestles together as a cache, archaeologists have inferred that Native hunter-gatherers planned to use the tools upon their return to the site.

Cache of pestles.

What's Cool?

​Bone Pins

The Green River Archaic people made bone pins from the long bones of white-tailed deer. They split the bones lengthwise into thin pieces and ground down each piece until it was smooth. 

A bone’s natural contours guided the pin makers in shaping the pin’s final form. The makers did not commonly carve pin tops into different shapes. Instead, like the example shown second from the right, they might attach pieces of shell to the pin top with "asphaltum" (a natural, asphalt-like substance found at oil seeps). 

Bone pins may have held a person’s hair in place. Some have drilled holes and may have been strung on a cord and worn as pendants around the neck. Other pins could have fastened clothing together, like a button or a safety pin.​​​

Green River-style bone pins.

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