Skip to main navigation Skip to main content

Mt. Horeb

Site ID: 15Fa1A

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


​​​​​​Mt. Horeb Earthwork is an Adena earthen enclosure located along Elkhorn Creek.  Native peoples built it over 2000 years ago. It consists of a circular ditch and embankment. An earthen causeway is located on its west side. 

Archaeologists believe that the​ Adena people used Mt. Horeb for periodic social or ritual gatherings.  Today, Mt. Horeb Earthwork has been partially reconstructed. It is a protected recreational area owned by the University of Kentucky.

Archaeo​logical investigations at Mt. Horeb took place in 1939 under the direction of William S. Webb of the University of Kentucky.  Many local men participated in WPA archaeological excavations at sites across Kentucky, including Mt. Horeb, as a way to get back to work during the difficult years of the Great Depression.  The crew dug horizontal and vertical trenches through the ditch and embankment to explore how Native groups built the enclosure.

A WPA crew member measures elevation at Mt. Horeb.


Measuring over 295 feet across, Mt. Horeb Earthwork consists of an outer earthen embankment, a ditch to its interior, and a flat central area. Investigators documented a circular pattern of large paired posts around the circumference of the central area. A causeway extends westward from the earthwork. 

Archaeologists recovered very few artifacts from the enclosure's center.  This suggested that, at the conclusion of rituals, Native participants made an effort to clean the area.  

Mt. Horeb appears to represent a place where Adena people gathered to carry out important rituals over several decades.

An artist's reconstruction of Mt. Horeb Earthwork.

What's Cool?

​​​Paired-post Screen​

​​During the excavation of Mt. Horeb, archaeologists uncovered the remains of a structure that Adena people built and used prior to digging the ditch.  The structure consisted of a circle of paired posts.  Average post diameter was just under a foot.  There was no evidence that the builders wove smaller saplings between the posts to create a solid wall.  Thus, it may have looked more like a circular standing screen than a walled circular structure.

Archaeologists think that Adena paired-post structures were open-air meeting spaces where groups held important ceremonies.  The circular screen would have set up a boundary around this ritual space, limiting access to only those people directly involved in the ceremonies. 

However, since the structure sat on a prominent place on the landscape, people excluded from the ceremonies still would have known that an important ritual was underway. Imagine attending an evening ceremony, looking up at the circular structure and seeing the flicker of torch light through the paired posts.

With the construction of the ditched enclosure, the paired-post structure was no longer needed.  The outer walls of the embankment would have served the same purpose - effectively separating certain people from the events taking place within the enclosure.

Excavated posts surrounding the flat central interior area of Mt. Horeb Earthwork.

Keep the Search Alive!