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One of the Muir houses after the basin had been excavated.


Site ID: 15Js86

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


​​​​​​​​​​The Muir site sat on a broad upland ridge west of Nicholasville.  The University of Kentucky investigated this early Fort Ancient (1000-1200 AD) site in 1985.  The work was carried out prior to construction of the Nicholasville Bypass.

Researchers documented several domestic activity areas. These areas each included a house and its associated hearths, cooking pits, and trash pits.  Unlike ​​later Fort Ancient villages, where 15 to 20 houses were often organized around a central plaza, at Muir, only one to three houses appeared to have been occupied at any one time.  These findings led researchers to suggest that some early Fort Ancient households lived in more dispersed settlements than did their descendants. ​​

Map of an excavated house basin showing its central hearth and single-set wall posts arranged along the basin edge.


​Houses at Muir were small and square to rectangular in shape, with single-set posts placed along the edges of shallow basins​.  The houses ranged in size from 9 by 11 feet to 14 by 14 feet.  Inside each one was a small, central hearth. An arrangement of interior posts within one house suggested that a bench or partition had once been inside.  There was very little evidence to suggest that Native residents had used these houses for anything other than sleeping or perhaps for storage.  After moving to newly constructed houses, residents used some of their former houses as trash dumps.

Ceramic vessels were cordmarked or plain-surfaced jars. Vessel neck decoration consisted of rising and descending incised lines. The classic Fort Ancient jar decoration - incised curvilinear "guilloche" designs (interlaced or overlapping curved or wavy lines) - was rare.  Jars most often had thick, parallel-sided strap handles, but a unique form of handle from Muir was a strongly angled form that looked like an "elbow." A pair of “ear-like” projections were located on the jar lip, directly above the handle.

The Muir site produced an abundance of animal and plant remains.  Deer, elk, and bear accounted for almost 90 percent of the meat eaten by the site inhabitants.  A variety of other mammals - beaver, raccoon, gray fox, dog, gray squirrel, woodchuck, otter, bobcat, and opossum - were eaten, too.  Turkey represented almost all the bird remains.  

Muir site residents ate both cultivated and wild plants.  Corn was the main crop they grew in their agricultural fields, although they also grew beans and native cultigens, such as erect knotweed and sunflower.   Black walnuts and hickory nuts were the primary wild plants collected and eaten by the Muir site residents.

Elbow-shaped jar handles with ear-like projections on the lip above the handle.

What's Cool?

​Arrowhead Styles

Triangular arrowheads from Muir, like those from other early Fort Ancient sites, had straight sides and straight or convex bases. But in other ways, many of the triangular arrowheads from Muir differed from contemporary examples made by northern Kentucky Fort Ancient flint knappers, and from points made by later Middle and Late Fort Ancient flint knappers

The Muir arrowheads were different in two ways. They tended to be long relative to their width. They had exaggerated projections or "ears" that extended outward from the point base. 

Contemporary triangular arrowhead from northern Kentucky.

Triangular arrowheads with exaggerated basal projections or "ears."

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