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Extensive excavation done at Hardin in 1939.


Site ID: 15Gp22

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


​​​​​​​The Hardin site is a Fort Ancient village occupied from the late 1500s to mid-1600s. It sits on the Ohio River floodplain and covers more than 10 acres. Excavation by the University of Kentucky in 1939 and again in the early 2010s documented the remains of eight houses, along with numerous storage pits, fire hearths, and trash pits.

Storage pits and fire hearths occurred​​ within houses, while trash pits were outside them. Cemeteries where family and kin buried their dead were near the houses. Research at Hardin has contributed to our understanding of Fort Ancient involvement in long-distance exchange networks, village organization, house size, and burial practices. ​

Map of Hardin showing house locations (shaded in green).


​Houses at Hardin were quite large. They ranged in size from 51 to 70 feet long by 24 to 29 feet wide. Individually-set posts formed the wall framework. There was no evidence that residents had interwoven sticks between the posts, then plastered over everything with daub (sun-dried clay), so it is likely that house walls were covered with bark. Cane and textile mats may have lined the inner walls.  The size of these houses suggests that two or more related families lived within them. Central fire hearths suggest that families shared cooking and other domestic activities.

Residents buried their dead in a cemetery close to the house. Hearths near these cemeteries suggest that ritual feasts, similar to those documented at other Fort Ancient villages, were part of funerary ceremonies. Most individuals were buried in an extended position on their back.

Archaeologists have identified some of the objects Fort Ancient groups obtained in trade with​ their neighbors, such as marine shell beads and brass objects. However, researchers have yet to identify what they offered their neighbors in exchange. 

​Perhaps they traded animal skins. Native men and women used triangular endscrapers to clean animal hides by removing sinew, fat and hair in preparation for tanning. Large numbers of triangular endscrapers have been recovered from late Fort Ancient sites like Hardin.  Perhaps an increase in animal skin processing led to a surplus that could be exchanged for non-local goods.

Triangular chipped stone endscrapers.

Map of one the largest houses documented at the site.

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Diet and Health

Analysis of the human remains from Hardin has contributed to a greater understanding of the people who lived at this large Fort Ancient village.  Like many pre-twentieth-century agricultural societies, infant mortality at Hardin was high: many children died within two years of birth. However, if someone lived past their second birthday, they had a good chance of growing into adulthood and contributing to their village's domestic and ritual life.  

Chemical analyses of bone indicated that corn was an important part of their diet.  Corn and other crops, such as beans and squash, which they grew in nearby fields, were dependable and storable food sources. Relying on corn, with its high sugar content, however, accounts for the large numbers of ca​vities in the teeth of the Hardin residents​​. 

Residents would have used vessels like this cordmarked jar to cook a variety of foods.

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