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Archaeologists excavate units at the Raised Spirits rockshetler

Raised Spirits

Site ID: 15Po331

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


​​​​​​​​​​Archaeologists recorded Raised Spirits Rockshelter in 1998 and carried out additional investigations at the site in 2000. This work revealed that Native groups used the site mainly as a short-term winter camp during the Late Archaic (3000-1000 BC) and Late Fort Ancient (1600-1750 AD) periods.  

The interior of this east-facing rockshelter consists of a central room and a small rear alcove.  The ceiling is 14 feet high at the dripline and gently slopes back to only two feet high in the alcove.  Dry throughout, exposed bedrock or roof fall is concentrated in the center of the site. A bedrock mortar was observed on one of the central boulders.  ​

Late Fort Ancient decorated jar rims.


​Researchers recovered several Late Archaic spearpoints from the site.  All were made from local chert.  

Characteristics of the Fort Ancient ceramics - thin vessel walls, thin strap handles, wide shallow designs on jar necks, and notched applied rim strips - indicated that the Native potters made these vessels very late in the Fort Ancient sequence, probably after 1600 AD. Sherds from Raised Spirits are similar to contemporary examples found in nearby rockshelters in the Red River Gorge area and at the Howard site in Madison County. 

Decorated jar rim from William S. Webb Memorial Rockshelter in Menifee County. It resembles examples from Raised Spirits.

Animal remains were well-preserved and included white-tailed deer, bear, elk, turkey; diverse small mammals, like grey squirrel, raccoon, and cottontail rabbit; and reptiles, such as turtle.  The Late Archaic and L​ate Fort Ancient residents hunted similar ​animals. 

These animals are typical species found in a mixed mesophytic forest/short grasslands environment. A mixed mesophytic forest has diverse tree species and a rich understory of ferns, mushrooms, smaller plants,​​ and shrubs.​

On the sandstone bedrock/roof fall in the center of the shelter, archaeologists documented a complete bedrock mortar, an abraded area, and nutting pits.  The bedrock mortar measured 4 inches in diameter and was over one foot deep.  

The abraded area  - represented by a crescent-shaped scar - was located on an inclined portion of the sandstone bedrock/roof fall​.  Native residents probably straightened out spear/arrow shafts in this area, 

Ten abraded or pecked pits, resembling those in a pitted nutting stone, were scattered across the rock’s surface near the bedrock mortar. Residents would have cru​shed nuts in these pits using a stone pestle.​

Late Archaic spear points recovered from Raised Spirits Rockshelter.

What's Cool?

​Bedrock Mortars

Raised Spirits is one of many rockshelter sites in the Red River and Kentucky River drainages where archaeologists have documented bedrock mortars.  Some archaeologists have suggested that these cultural features were linked to plant food processing and the rise of native plant domestication in eastern Kentucky. 

Often referred to as “hominy holes,” they can best be described as tubular- or conical-shaped rock mortars.  They occur in bedrock or large boulders in sandstone rockshelters.  These oval to round holes average around 4 to 6 inches in diameter and are from 1 inch to two feet deep.  Based on a mortar hole’s constricted shape, Native peoples would have used an up-and-down pounding motion (with a pestle) during plant processing, rather than the back-and-forth motion of grinding.​

Example of a bedrock mortar.

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