The Panther Rock site was located on a terrace overlooking the Ohio River floodplain. Archaeologists from the Kentucky Archaeological Survey investigated the site in 1996 and 1997 with assistance from Carroll County High School students. This work was undertaken to learn more about the site, and to give the students an opportunity to participate in archaeological research. The site was further investigated by archaeologists from AMEC Earth & Environmental in the 2000s. This work was undertaken prior to the construction of a nearby bridge replacement.
Research at the site discovered that Native people had lived at Panther Rock seasonally, and primarily from the late Middle Archaic to early Late Archaic (4000 to 2500 BC) subperiods. Of note was the recovery of 227 Matanzas and 34 Brewerton Eared spear points.
Based on the analysis of recovered materials and the characteristics of pit features, researchers inferred that seasonal activities at Panther Rock included chipped stone tool making/maintenance, processing hickory nuts for consumption at the site, butchering deer and other animals, hide processing, and food preparation.
Investigators documented a concentration of river mussel shells at Panther Rock. This indicated that during the late Middle Archaic, site residents considered these animals a food resource. It also indicated that the section of Ohio River closest to the site was a large, shallow, gravel-bottomed waterway - one that could support a relatively large mussel bed/shoal.
River mussel shells were absent in the more recent archaeological deposits at the site. This suggested that either river conditions had changed or Native peoples no longer considered these animals an important food source.
Full Grooved Axe
Archaeologists recovered several full grooved axes from Panther Rock. A grooved axe is a large groundstone tool. One end (the working end) is typically tapered. For a full grooved ax, the midsection exhibits a groove that completely encircles the tool. A split wooden handle would have been "hafted" (attached) to the stone at this groove using animal sinew.
Native Americans used full grooved axes to chop down trees and split wood. An axe was a necessary woodworking tool made and used by Native Americans throughout the Archaic period.
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