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Artist reconstruction of Slack Farm.

Slack Farm

Site ID: 15Un28

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


​​​​​​​Slack Farm, a large Caborn-Welborn village in Union County, was occupied from 1400-1700 A.D. It is located on the Ohio River floodplain.  Sidney S. Lyon, who was working for the Smithsonian Institution, documented the site in 1868. The site received little professional attention until the fall of 1987, when the Kentucky Heritage Council learned that looting was taking place there.  

In the late winter and spring of 1988, professional archaeologists from the Kentucky Heritage Council, University of Kentucky, and Indiana University undertook an extensive investigation of the site.  They were assisted in this effort by several hundred volunteers.  Among them were professional archaeologists from throughout the Ohio Valley, avocational archaeologits, and members of the general public.  Together they documented more than 450 looter holes.  In addition, to learning more about how this Caborn-Welborn village was organized, they recorded over 300 complete or partially complete burials within seven distinct cemetery areas. Based on the forensic examination of the recovered human remains it was determined that the looters had disturbed a minimum of 850 individuals.  Upon completion of the forensic​ study, the human remains were reinterred at the site.  

Slack Farm covers about 75 acres and contains at least seven residential areas with associated storage facilities and cemeteries.  Six areas were situated around a plaza or series of courtyards.  Graves are often laid out in parallel rows, oriented toward the plaza.  The seventh area was located across a ravine and downstream from the others.  Additional smaller residential areas, some with small associated cemeteries, were located in other parts of the site.  ​​

Archaeologists and volunteers document the extent of the looting at Slack Farm.


​The residential areas at Slack Farm included structures (house basins), small and large pits, and hearths.  Investigators documented portions of at least 40 houses. Most were shallow basins bordered by wall-trenches. Structure walls had been made of wattle and daub: a woven lattice of wooden strips plastered over with clay baked hard by the sun. Each house had a prepared interior clay hearth.  When residents abandonned their homes, they intentionally broke old cooking and serving vessels and left them behind in the hearth.

Large pits were located near structures.  Many had diameters greater than​ six feet and were more than six feet deep.  Residents used these “underground silos” to store dried plant foods.  ​Sprouted corn kernels recovered from some large pits suggested that a portion of the stored corn may have spoiled.  

If corn accounted for 65 percent of the diet (and assuming residents ate between 2,300 to 3,500 calories a day per person), then the contents of these storage pits could have fed from 7 to 12 individuals for a year.  When the contribution of meat, fish, and wild plants to the Caborn-Welborn diet is added to the equation. the food stored in these silos may have fed even more people.

The most distinctive decorations on Caborn-Welborn Decorated jars are trailed, incised, and/or punctated designs on jar shoulders.  These des​igns consist primarily of incised or trailed lines that form opposing triangles.  Archaeologists have interpreted these designs as part of a sun symbol, with the center of the sun corresponding to the jar mouth and the designs, the sun's rays. 

Caborn-Welborn Decorated  jars.

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​​Long-distance Exchange

​The Slack Farm residents were engaged in long-distance trade with groups living north and southwest of Union County.  

Interaction with northern groups was reflected by non-local ceramic vessels, triangular endscrapers, and objects made from catlinite, a brownish-red stone.  Trade with groups to the southwest was represented by Central Mississippi Valley ceramic vessels, Nodena arrowheads, and marine shell objects.  

indirect, long-distance exchange with Europeans began around 1550 AD. This was reflected by glass beads, and metal beads and tinkling cones made from reworked European copper and brass kettles.​

Copper beads and tinkling cones made from European kettles.

A catlinite disk pipe.

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