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Spring Branch Rockshelter

Spring Branch

Site ID: 15McY319

Kentucky Archaeological Survey
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​​​​​​The Spring Branch Rockshelter is located along a curving cliff face at the head of a steep drainage.  It is 200 feet long and 30 feet wide. The ceiling is 40 feet tall at the drip line.  The site was recorded in 1982 during a US Forest Service archaeological survey.  At that time, investigators noted that illegal looting had severely disturbed the site, but that intact deposits were still present. 

US Forest Service archaeologists revisited the site in 2002 and 2009. They also talked to local informants who had visited the site.  The rockshelter's extremely dry deposits preserved perishable objects not often recovered from archaeological sites.

Middle Woodland Wright Checked Stamped ceramic jar.


​Among the objects recovered from this shelter were large sections of ceramic vessels and a variety of textiles and cordage fragments.  The latter illustrated the richness and diversity of Native textiles. 

Textile examples ranged from finely spun and woven fabrics to coarse, unprocessed fiber formed into crude knots.  The complexity and fineness of some of the cordage reflected the skill needed and the expenditure of time necessary to produce them. More c​oarsely woven objects reflected expedient production and use.  

Illustration of cordage twist direction: S-twist (left) and Z-twist (right).

All of the textiles were weft-twined. Twining is a type of weaving that does not require a loom, Native weavers passed paired horizontal elements (wefts) around stationary vertical elements (warps).  In between each warp, the paired wefts made a half-twist around one another. ​

Cordage twist direction at the Spring Branch Rockshelter was evenly divided between S- and Z-twist. One textile fragment exhibited both.  At most ancient Native sites, one twist direction predominates, as textile production techniques are often passed down from mother to daughter.  Some people who camped at the shelter had been taught to S-twist the raw fibers. Others had been taught to twist it in the opposite direction. This suggested to researchers that spinners with different twist traditions had periodically occupied the site.

Example of cordage. 

Fragment of a twined mat from the Spring Branch Rockshelter.

What's Cool?


Among the textiles found at the Spring Branch Rockhelter were three slippers. They were made in two different styles.  

The wear on the slippers was considerable. Their owner(s) likely discarded the slippers when they could no longer adequately mend them.​

The overall quality of the slippers suggested that skilled weavers made them. The  weavers who had lived for a time at Spring Branch Rockshelter could devote considerable time to making textiles. 

A pair of slippers from the site.

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​American Indian Textiles​

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