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Archaeologists examine site.

Twin Knobs Rockshelter and Flat Top

Site ID: 15Cn50, 15Cn52

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


​​​​​​​​​​Twin Knobs Rockshelter (15Cn50) and the Flat Top site (15Cn52) were associated with a prominent knob or sandstone hill in Crittenden County: the rockshelter as an overhang on the side of the knob and the open site on top of the knob.  During July and August 2005, the Kentucky Archaeological Survey carried out excavations at both sites prior to the realignment of U.S. Highway 641 from Marion to Fredonia, Kentucky.

Native Americans used the rockshelter for several thousand years. Late Paleoindian (8500-8000 BC) and Early Archaic (8000-6000 BC) groups were the first to use it - as a hunting camp.  About 3000 years later, Late Archaic groups returned to camp in the shelter. Like their ancestors, they hunted wild animals but also collected wild plants. Native groups continued to use the shelter on a seasonal, short-term basis throughout the Woodland (1000 BC-1000 AD) and Mississippian (1000-1750 AD) periods.

In contrast, Native groups used the Flat Top site only during the Late Woodland (500-1000 AD) subperiod. It served as a camp. 

Archaeologists excavate the Twin Knobs Rockshelter. Note its small size.


​The twin knobs/sandstone hills stood out prominently on the Crittenden County landscape when excavations began; both topographic features would have been clear landmarks when Native American groups lived in the area, too. The rockshelter provided small groups some shelter from the elements. The top of the knob afforded a commanding view of the surrounding countryside as well as a potentially defensive position.

During the Late Paleoindian (8500-8000 BC) and Early Archaic (8000-6000 BC) subperiods, Native groups used Twin Knobs Rockshelter as a hunting camp, where they repaired stone tools and butchered animals. By the Late Archaic (3000-1000 BC) and Early Woodland (1000-200 BC) subperiods, people stayed at the shelter for longer periods of time. They still made stone tools from locally available materials and hunted, but they also collected and processed wild plants. By Early Woodland times, shelter residents may have planted small gardens nearby.

Hunting, plant collection, and plant cultivation continued into the Late Woodland (500-1000 AD) subperiod, but the main Native occupation shifted to the Flat Top site. Recovery of polished hoe flakes from Flat Top indicated that during site visits​​, ​​residents resharpened the chert hoes they used to cultivate their nearby fields. The ​rockshelter saw only minor use at this time.

Pottery vessel fragments from the Flat Top site came from very thin-walled, cordage-impressed jars. Potters added fragments of fired clay to their clays to ensure successful firing. Relatively wide, shallow notches extended diagonally across jar lips.

Native occupation during the Mississippian period signaled a return to a focus on the rockshelter and its use primarily as a hunting camp. The recovery of a large number of triangular arrowheads - and the absence of Mississippian-age pottery - suggested to investigators that primarily Native men had used the shelter ​on a short-term basis at this time.

The small block of units at Flat Top, where investigators found polished hoe flakes.

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​Tools Change

By noting differences in spear point and arrowhead shape among the different occupational zones at Twin Knobs Rockshelter, investigators determined when and for how long Native peoples had lived there. Native flintknappers made each point from local chert and had resharpened most of them several times.

Below is a summary of the changes in point shape observed for Twin Knobs Rockshelter - starting with the most recent examples from the uppermost levels. The accompanying photograph illustrates these changes.

Mississippian - Light-colored Point at Top Left

Arrowheads mark the final occupation of the rockshelter. This point is triangular in shape and has a straight base. Like all arrowheads, it lacks a stem.

Late Woodland - Dark-gray Point to the Right and Below Mississippian Point 

This spear point is small to medium-sized and triangular in shape. It has straight corners with straight edges, an expanding stem, and a straight base.

Early Woodland - Large, Light Tan Point Below and Left of Late Woodland Point  

This spear point is medium-sized and has a distinctive contracting, rounded stem. It is lanceolate to triangular in shape with sloped corners.

Late Archaic - Two Points Below Early Woodland Point 

These points are triangular in shape, have straight to barbed corners with straight edges, and convex bases.

Early Archaic - Next Four Points Below Late Archaic Points 

These spear points are large to medium-sized. They are triangular in shape, corner notched, have barbed shoulders, straight to flared shoulder edges, and expanding stems.

Late Paleoindian - Bottom Two Points 

Archaeologists recovered these spear points from the deepest deposits. They have concave bases, are medium to large in size and are lanceolate-shaped. The specimen on the bottom left probably broke while while ​being made.

Spear points and an arrowhead from Twin Knobs Rockshelter in chronological order. The oldest tools are on the bottom row.

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