Skip to main navigation Skip to main content
Changes in projectile point shape from the Middle Archaic to Early Woodland


Site ID: 15Bl35

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


​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​The Main site is located on the south bank of the Cumberland River. It was investigated by Cultural Resource Analysts before a new bridge was built over the Cumberland River. This work produced evidence for repeated Native American short-term occupations at this site spanning almost 7,000 years. 

The six distinct occupation zones at the site date from the beginning of the Middle Archaic period through the end of the Early Woodland period (ca. 6000 to 200 BC). Each occupation zone yielded a variety of cultural materials including chipped stone tools, groundstone implements, and clusters of fire-cracked rock. The Woodland zones also produced pottery.​​

Middle Archaic spear points:  Stanly (left); Morrow Mountain (right).


​Throughout the Archaic period, Native people occupied short-term camps at the Main site from late fall to early winter. Their activities focused on hunting and collecting plant foods.  As groups settled into the region, the ratio of plant-food-processing tools to hunting tools increased. This suggests that the relative importance of plant foods increased over time, even though wild game remained central to the residents' diet.

Early Woodland Ebenezer spear point.

By the beginning of the Woodland period, groups were gradually extending the amount of time they continuously lived in one place before they moved to a new location. This change is recorded at the Main site.  By Woodland times, Native Americans living along the Cumberland River had domesticated native plants, such as goosefoot, knotweed, and sunflower.  To plant, tend, and harvest these plants, Native American groups stayed in one place for longer periods, even as they continued to hunt animals and gather wild plants. 

Late Archaic Saratoga spear points.

What's Cool?

Determing Tool Use

The chipped stone tool assemblage from the Main site was very large and included many tool types. Archaeological research has shown that characteristics of chipped stone tools hold important information - not just about about tool age, but about ​how Native people likely used the tools​​​, too. 

To identify how a Native person used a stone tool, an analyst first describes its shape and size. Then, if interested in learning specific details about its function, the analyst examines the tool's surfaces and edges. 

During use, stone tools come into contact with different types of materials - wood, bone, stone, hides. Their surfaces and edges are gradually worn down by that contact. Archaeologists know that working wood leaves wear patterns on tool edges and surfaces that are different from the wear patterns left by working stone or bone. They also know that how a tool was used - drilling or cutting or scraping - also leaves distinctive patterns.  

Archaeologists used a microscope to observe the wear patterns (called microscopic use wear) on 180 stone tools from the Main site. This helped them more precisely identify how Native peoples used the tools.

From this study, researchers learned that the tips and edges of spear points were broken or worn due to impact and penetration into an animal's body.  Most of these specimens had been hafted (attached to) a shaft. 

Analysts also examined a variety of other tools, like unifaces and bifaces. Unifaces are tools chipped on one surface only, while bifaces are chipped on two surfaces. Native people used these tools for a wide range of food preparation and craft production activities, including skinning and butchering animals, and working hides.  Some tools were clearly used to drill and bore holes into harder materials, such as bone and antler. Others were used to work wood and stone. 

This wide range of tool uses highlighted​ the variety of activities that Native people undertook while they lived at the Main site for more than 6,000 years.

Drawings of bifaces. Arrows/lines and numbers show where analysts found microscopic use wear.

Related Materials

Keep the Search Alive!