During the late 1930s and again in the 1980s, archaeologists from the University of Kentucky investigated the multiple archaeological sites that make up Lower Shawneetown, a major mid-eighteenth-century Indian village. Depicted on maps of the period - on one or both sides of the Ohio River at its confluence with the Scioto River - it was the primary village of the Shawnee from the mid-1730s to 1758.
In the late 1740s and early 1750s, Lower Shawneetown served as an international diplomatic center for indigenous peoples, and a mid-level diplomatic center between Europeans (French and English) and Indian groups. In 1751, eyewitnesses estimated its population as 1200 people. It also was a major economic hub or “factory” that served as the western terminus for the Pennsylvania deerskin trading network's southern route. English "trading houses" (trading posts) stood in the town at that time.
Of the four sites (Bentley, Thompson, Forest Home, and Laughlin) on the Kentucky side of the Ohio River that make up the archaeological remains of Lower Shawneetown, the most well-known is the Bentley site. Archaeologists recovered Late Fort Ancient ceramics and European American-made trade goods from the same trash disposal area at that site.
South of the trash disposal area, pebble-lined posts formed the outline of a structure that measured at least 30 feet wide by 50 feet long. This structure is similar in size and shape to those identified at the earlier Late Fort Ancient villages of Hardin and Fox Farm.
Use of Native and European American Goods
At Lower Shawneetown, Late Fort Ancient ceramics and chipped stone tools were contextually associated in the same trash disposal area as mid-eighteenth century European American trade goods. These trade goods were diverse: ornaments, but also firearms (gun parts, gunflints, and ammunition) and items of domestic use, such as scissors, knives, and mouth harps.
This contrasts sharply with where investigators found European American trade goods within mid-seventeenth-century Late Fort Ancient villages and what the trade goods were. These items were recovered exclusively from burial contexts, and most were ornaments - glass beads or copper beads derived from reworked fragments of brass or copper kettles.
The contemporary use of both Native-produced and European American-made goods at Lower Shawneetown points to the enduring quality of Native cultural traditions that extended into the mid-1700s, well after sustained, direct contact with European Americans.
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