Lost Image Rockshelter is located along the western edge of the Cumberland Plateau in the Red River Gorge. It was recorded in June 1992 by U.S. Forest Service archaeologists. Ceramics, animal bones, and stone tools were scattered fairly evenly across the shelter's floor. During their visit, the survey team noted that the shelter had been heavily looted.
The shelter measures approximately 70 feet wide by 30 feet deep. The ceiling is 15 feet high at the dripline. The floor consists of dry, loose sand, some roof fall, and mounds of backdirt created by looters. Native groups primarily used Lost Image Rockshelter toward the end of the Late Woodland period (ca. 800-1000 AD).
Researchers assigned some of the pottery from Lost Image to the Chimney Top Ceramic Series. Diagnostic characteristics included thick jar walls and cordwrapped dowel-impressed thickened rim strips. A radiocarbon date of 936 AD - obtained from a worked bone fragment - coupled with the characteristics of the site's ceramics suggested that Native groups lived at the site during the Terminal Late Woodland period.
Chimney Top ceramics are similar to ceramics found at contemporary sites in Kentucky, West Virginia, and Ohio. This suggests there was some sort of cultural connection between the Lost Image residents and groups living elsewhere.
Appearances are Deceiving
At first glance, Lost Image Rockshelter appears to hold limited research potential. Looters seriously disturbed the site, as evidenced by the large holes and backdirt piles that covered the site's surface.
But artifact analysis determined that Native peoples had occupied the shelter mainly during the Terminal Late Woodland period. Thus, despite the looting, Lost Image Rockshelter is contributing to our understanding of Native American settlement patterns just prior to the shift to full-time agriculture and an increased reliance on corn.
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