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Chipped stone tools recovered from Highland Creek site

Highland Creek

Site ID: 15Un127

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


​​​​​​​​​​The Highland Creek site is a Late Archaic camp on a small rise in the Ohio River floodplain.  Archaeologists from the Kentucky Archaeological Survey investigated the site in the 1990s after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was informed of ongoing looting there. 

The presence of three-foot-thick midden deposits suggested that Native use of the site was intensive.  Native hunter-gatherers visited this spot on a seasonal basis over the course of several hundred years.  They processed nuts, collected a variety of wild plants, made chipped stone tools, and buried their dead.  

Site map showing more than 40 looter holes.


The floodplain rise on which the Highland Creek site sits was an attractive spot for establishing a long-term camp. The resource-rich floodplain locale offered access to diverse food resources and to the raw materials Native peoples needed for making stone tools. These natural resources may have drawn Native groups to this locale, and encouraged them to stay for longer periods.  In time, this effectively changed the way site residents interacted with their neighbors and with the land.

Most of the nutshell from the site was hickory and black walnut, but residents also ate acorn, pecan, butternut, and hazelnut. ​ Nuts are a high-yield resource: nutritious, calorie-dense, and an excellent source of protein.  

Processing nuts into food involves intensive preparation. Residents had to crack, grind, boil, and heat the nuts before they could make nut oil or nut cakes for later use.​  They used stone-boiling techniques in nut processing - in which stones are placed into or near a fire/hearth until the stones are hot, then the stones are quickly placed into a water-filled container, which causes the liquid to boil. Use of this technique by residents likely accounts for the presence of hearths at the site, fire-cracked rocks, and the large amounts of burnt clay and carbonized nut shell investigators ​​recovered.  ​Nut harvesting and repeated seasonal nut processing were among the main reasons Native peoples repeatedly returned to the Highland Creek site.​

Late Archaic spear points from the site.

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Season of Occupation

Seasonal visits to the Highland Creek site may have occurred throughout the year, as illustrated by the animal bones recovered during investigations. 

Deer, turkey and many small mammals may be taken at any time of the year, but they thrive in the late fall and winter months. That is when Native hunters likely took them. Residents would have hunted migratory birds, such as mallards and geese, from the late fall through early spring; and reptiles and fishes in the spring or summer months. They likely collected river mussels and aquatic snails during the late summer and fall.

But given the large quantities of nuts in the Highland Creek site midden, Native hunter-gatherers primarily occupied the ​site in the late fall or early winter​.

Chipped stone drills from the site.

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