Archaeologists from the University of Kentucky excavated the Longworth-Gick site in 1977 prior to new floodwall construction. Over the course of eight weeks, they identified 37 different occupational zones (linked to the Native peoples who had lived at the site) and soil zones (deposited by floods). Native groups occupied the site on and off for more than 9000 years, but the site saw its most intensive Native use during the Early Archaic period (8000-6000 BC).
Situated on a low floodplain ridge near the Falls of the Ohio River, the Longworth-Gick site contained stratified archaeological deposits to a depth of at least 24.5 feet below the surface. These deposits corresponded to brief seasonal occupations by Native hunter-gatherers.
Artifact analysis allowed archaeologists to gain a better understanding of how Early Archaic hunter-gatherers lived 10,000 years ago. At that time, groups were highly mobile, moving with the seasons. Since the river is least likely to flood between late summer and winter, this would have been an ideal time for Early Archaic groups to camp on the low ridge.
The Native occupation at Longworth-Gick during the Early Archaic is defined by stylistic changes in spear points. These changes - in tool size, shape, and features of spear point blade edges and point bases - corresponded to the site's distinct occupational zones and took place from 8500 to 6500 BC.
The earliest residents made and used Palmer spear points. Blade edges are deeply serrated and recurvate, with flaring barbs, and the points have straight bases. Larger Kirk Corner Notched spear points, which otherwise look very similar to Palmer points, eventually replaced Palmers.
Over the course of several hundred years, Native toolmakers stopped making corner-notched spear points and began to make smaller spear points with "bifurcated" (split) bases. Known as LeCroy and Kanawha, these point types are distinguished from each other by the bifurcation depth of the base.
By understanding the geological formation of the zones at a site, archaeologists can better explain how and why Native groups repeatedly used certain localities. Geological research at Longworth-Gick indicated that before humans occupied the site, the Ohio River frequently flooded the site locale. These floods carried large amounts of sediment that eventually settled. Over time, these flood-deposited sediments gradually built up to form a low ridge that was less affected by floods.
Around the time the first Early Archaic hunter-gatherer arrived in the area, floods became less frequent and carried with them less sediment. Hunter-gatherer encampments created occupational zones on the low ridge.
Even though floods became less frequent, however, they continued to occur. The sediments deposited by these floods created soil zones at the site. This pattern of occupational zones/flood-deposited zones continued for several thousand years.
Sites like Longworth-Gick are very important to archaeologists. The zones represent sealed Native occupations that reflect repeated site use by humans over a long time.
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