Skip to main navigation Skip to main content
House exposed by archaeologists at the Holt site


Site ID: 15Wa13

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


​​West​​ern Kentucky University archaeologists recorded the Holt site during an archaeological survey of the Gasper River drainage in 1972.  In 2019, archaeologists from Corn Island Archaeology returned to the Holt site. Their work showed that the site held important information about ancient Native farmers. Kentucky Archaeological Survey archaeologists worked at the Holt site in 2019 and 2020.  In 2021, students carried out more work at the site as part of Western Kentucky University's Summer Archaeological Field School.​​

​​​​The Holt site sits on the floodplain of the Gasper River.  It consisted of 8 to 12 houses where families slept and took cover during bad weather.  Residents disposed of their trash from cleaning out hearths away from their houses.  Various outdoor activity areas were documented, indicating activities such as cooking, hide smoking​, flint knapping, and pottery making took place near the houses.  Agricultural fields in the floodplains surrounded the village, and residents fished and collected mussels in the nearby river. ​

Roof timbers exposed at the Holt site.


Holt site residents carried out many different domestic activities within their village. They built houses and dug trash pits. They made tools and containers. They ground corn, shelled nuts, butchered animals, and dried the meat. Weavers made fabrics from plant and animal fibers, and tanners made leather from smoked animal skins.​

Toolmakers collected fine-grained, light to medium-gray St. Louis chert nodules from nearby river gravels, and gathered chunks of grainy, gray or very dark gray Ste. Genevieve chert from upland outcrops. Then, they knapped triangular arrowheads and a variety of other stone tools, such as drills, and scraping and cutting tools, from the chert. Village flintknappers also prized Dover and Mill Creek chert, which they traded for with their neighbors.

​Potters crushed freshwater mussel shells, then added the fragments to clay they had dug along the river bank near their village. Mixing the shell fragments into the clay prevented vessels from shrinking and cracking as they dried. This ensured successful firing of these watertight vessels. Potters formed jars, bowls, and pans for use in cooking, serving, and storing food, and fired these vessels outdoors, near their homes.

Mill Creek chert adze from the Holt site.

What's Cool?

​House Rebuilding

Houses at the Holt site were square to rectangular.  Floors were set into a basin dug about 2 feet below the ground surface. House wall frames were made from strong, durable hickory and white oak posts set closely together in 6-inch-wide trenches along a basin’s perimeter. Timbers formed the roof frame. The walls themselves were made from thick mud applied to the framework. Inside, cane mats covered the walls. Hickory rods, interwoven with white oak strips, formed the roof.

An earlier house had an interior floor space of 182 square feet.  Following a flood, residents rebuilt it.  This later house was larger. It had an interior floor space of 342 square feet.  Residents did not rebuild this house after it burned down.

Rebuilt house documented at the Holt site.

Related Materials

Keep the Search Alive!