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Madisonville Cordmarked jar with curvilinear guilloche

Sweet Lick Knob

Site ID: 15Es111

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


​The Sweet Lick Knob site sits on the Kentucky River floodplain. The overall organization of this community is not known. Excavations conducted by the University of Kentucky Program for Archaeological Research in 2010 documented a large rectangular Fort Ancient structure at the site.  

Based on its size, internal features, the materials recovered from the floor, and radiocarbon dates, investigators interpreted the structure as a public building used from 1400 to 1450 AD.​​​

Archaeologists expose burned posts from a collapsed wall.


​The public building at Sweet Lick Knob measured 42 feet north-south by 28 feet east-west and enclosed 1,176 square feet.  An alignment of three large pits - where sacred poles had once stood - and two rectangular, well-defined hearths were in its center.​​​ Holes for the sacred poles measured 1.6 feet in diameter and extended 2.2 feet below the structure's floor. The southern hearth and southern pole pit appeared to have been capped with clay at the same time.  This structure may have served as a place where people met periodically for social or ritual purposes.  

It is worth noting that the Sweet Lick Knob site sits at the interface of two major physiographic zones.  To the east, the most common contemporary sites are rockshelters. To the west, contemporary sites are large villages.  Perhaps the Fort Ancient people who used the site spent at least part of the year traveling and hunting in the mountains to the east.  Additionally, the Knob, so visible in this area, may have served as a beacon, drawing dispersed and different Fort Ancient groups together for ceremonies and other rituals.  

Public building after excavation. Note the three central pits and two central hearths.

What's Cool?

​Sandstone Disk Production

Among the activities carried out within the public building was the production of sandstone disks. All stages of disk production were represented.

Early stages of reduction involved chipping a stone's margins to produce a roughly circular disk.  Additional chipping further refined the disk and made it smaller. The disk was finished off by grinding. 

Also recovered from the floor of the structure were ornamental objects made from cannel coal - a type of bituminous coal found in eastern Kentucky.

Cannel coal pendant (left) and bead (right).

Sandstone disks in different states of production.

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