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Members of the William S. Webb Society investigate the Pyles Site.


Site ID: 15Ms28

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


​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Situated along the North Fork of the Licking River, the Pyles site is a small (ca. 3 acres or less), circular early Late Woodland (500-800 AD) village.  Several other Late Woodland sites like Pyles are located near it in Mason County.  They may represent the movement of a single Native community, possibly due to local natural resource exhaustion.​​ 

These settlements of sedentary Native gardeners provide evidence for a shift toward more nucleated communities around 500 AD.  The William S. Webb Archaeological Society investigated the Pyles site in the mid-1970s.

Drawing of the Pyles site village: habitation area (midden ring) and plaza.


​The Pyles site consisted of a circular 150-foot wide habitation area surrounding a central plaza.  The plaza, which the Native residents kept clean, had a diameter of 150 feet.  Stone burial mounds were located adjacent to the habitation area.

Research targeted the habitation area.  Investigations recovered large amounts of ceramics, spear points, and the debris from making and maintaining chipped stone tools.  

Researchers failed to find posthole patterns indicative of structures, but they did document dense artifact clusters of sherds, burned rock, nutting stones, and fired clay.  These they interpreted as areas where families had built their houses. 

Late Woodland ceramic jars tend to have thinner walls and are larger relative to earlier Woodland vessels.  In central and northern Kentucky, these vessels also have distinctively thickened angular shoulders.​  This shift to thin-walled pottery took place at the same time Native gardeners increased their reliance on starchy- and oily-seeded native plants like goosefoot, sunflower, and maygrass.

Fragments of distinctive Late Woodland angular shouldered jars: rims (top row) and shoulders (bottom row).

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​Differences in Raw Material Use

Researchers could find no clear distribution patterns in pottery types across the Pyles site's habitation area. The same was not true, however, for the debris the site's residents produced when they crafted and resharpened stone tools made from high-quality nonlocal cherts.

On the south side of the village, debris from Haney, Paoli, and St. Louis cherts was more common. These cherts occur in areas south of Pyles. In contrast, debris from Vanport chert, sources of which are located north of Pyles, was more common on the village's northern side. 

This pattern indicated that Pyles site residents visited areas south and north of their village to gather the raw materials they needed for their chipped stone tools.​  It also suggested that within the village, knappers who shared chert source preference - were they relatives? - lived near each other on the same side of the village. ​

Groundstone celts from Pyles. When attached to a wooden handle, Native gardeners used them to clear and work their gardens.

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