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A profile of the Chiggerville shell midden


Site ID: 15Oh1

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


​​​​​​​​​The Chiggerville site is a Late Archaic (3000 to 1000 BC) shell midden on the Green River floodplain. It measures 170 x 350 feet. Like many Green River Archaic shell midden sites, Chiggerville sat adjacent to a stable mussel shoal. Native residents would have exploited the mussel shoal during their seasonal rounds. The University of Kentucky investigated the site in 1938 and again in 2009. This work recovered several thousand artifacts, and documented 114 human burials, 17 dog burials, and a large number of hearths, cooking pits, and trash pits.

University of Kentucky's 1938 Works Progress Administration field crew.


​The relatively large number of Late Archaic chipped stone tools recovered from Chiggerville and the midden thickness (more than 4 feet) reflect the continuation of a pattern initially observed in the region during the late Middle Archaic period - that of decreased hunter-gatherer mobility and longer occupation of resource-rich areas. Unlike at the earlier nearby Baker site, where Raddatz spear points predominated, most of the spear points from Chiggerville were assigned to the Saratoga Cluster.

​In addition to collecting mussels during visits to Chiggerville, Archaic hunter-gatherers caught freshwater drumfish and catfish, and also softshell turtles using bone fishhooks attached to plant-fiber lines. ​They trapped and netted snapping turtles and mud turtles for food, too. 

Bone Fishooks.

Archaic people also collected a variety of plant foods. Acorns and hickory nuts were their favorites. They also ate many different kinds of wild fruits, such as blackberry, grape, strawberry, and persim​​mon; and the seeds of weedy plants like knotweed and goosefoot. They undoubtedly stored nuts and seeds for use in the winter, when these foods would not have been otherwise available.​

Saratoga Cluster Stemmed spear points.

What's Cool?

​Bannerstone Styles

The atlatl (spearthrower) was the Archaic hunter’s weapon of choice. It required skill to make and to use. A two-part tool, it consisted of a wooden spear fitted with a spear point of antler or chert (flint), and the atlatl itself: a handle and a hook made of wood, bone, or antler, and often a drilled counterweight or bannerstone.​

Some Late Archaic hunters put a great deal of time and effort into making very decorative bannerstones. The shape and style of a hunter’s bannerstone may have reflected where he or she came from. For example, hunters living in the Green River valley used humped bannerstones. Those living in south-central Indiana along the Ohio River, however, were partial to the double-notched butterfly type.

Not every hunter owned a bannerstone. Even fewer owned highly decorative ones made from non-local materials. Decorative bannerstones would have worked just as well as the simpler ones, but they may have held some symbolic meaning. Perhaps having a decorative bannerstone recognized a hunter’s skills or leadership position within his or her kin group.

Examples of bannerstones recovered from sites in the Green River drainage.

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