The Wheeler site sits on the floodplain within a bend in the Salt River, which flows into the Ohio River just downstream from the Falls of the Ohio. This 4.5 acre-site consists of an oval Fort Ancient midden stain surrounding a central plaza. A small mound is located along the stain's northern edge.
Artifacts from the site and radiocarbon dates suggest that Native peoples occupied the site toward the end of the thirteenth century (1250-1300 AD). The University of Kentucky conducted limited excavations at the site in the 1960s, with more extensive investigations undertaken in 2013 by the University of Kentucky's archaeological field school.
Investigators excavated trenches through the midden stain surrounding the central plaza. These trenches documented concentric activity zones. As with many Fort Ancient villages, the dead were buried between the edge of the plaza and the residential zone. Several houses were documented within the residential zone. Of note was the presence of houses with walls of either single-set post or wall-trench construction.
Prior to the field school, archaeologists were unsure whether a rise along the northern edge of the village represented a purposely built mound, or thick midden deposits, or if it was simply a natural floodplain rise. Excavations revealed that the rise was, in fact, a mound built over a stone pavement. Burials, which were not excavated, ringed the mound edge. The pavement and burial pits were covered with basketloads of earth when residents abandonned the community.
Excavations and preliminary analyses of the recovered materials from Wheeler indicated that site residents interacted with their downstream Mississippian neighbors in the Falls Region and perhaps even with those living in the Green River drainage further west.
Evidence of such downstream interaction included Mississippian-style pottery vessels, Mississippian-style ceramic surface treatments, and house construction techniques. An example of a Mississippian-style pottery vessel was a large, well-fired bowl with outslanting walls. This is a vessel form similar to those recovered from contemporary Mississippian sites in the Falls Region.
Possible interaction with Mississippian groups in the Green River drainage was reflected by the recovery of jars with check stamped exteriors. This surface treatment is common in the Green River drainage.
Although most of the structures at Wheeler were of the single-set post variety, one structure had been built using wall-trench construction techniques. No daub was recovered from the site (sun-baked clay walls are a hallmark of Mississippian wall-trench houses), but the use of wall-trenches clearly indicated that some degree of of interaction took place between Wheeler site residents and their Mississippian contemporaries.
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