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WPA Archaeologists pose for a picture on the large mound at Wright.

Wright Mounds

Site ID: 15Mm6-8

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


​​​​​​​​The Wright Mounds consisted of a cluster of three conical earthen Adena mounds.  Located on a broad ridgetop, the mounds could have been seen from surrounding ridgetops, making their location an important place on the Adena ritual landscape.

In 1937, archaeologists from the University of Kentucky excavated two of them. The larger of the two ​(15Mm6) contained a number of log tombs, which suggested Native peoples had used it for several generations.  In comparison, the smaller excavated mound (15Mm7) contained fewer graves. Thus, it likely was used for a shorter period. The third - the Greene Mound (15Mm8) -​ was not excavated.

The larger Wright Mound prior to excavation.


The larger Wright Mound measured 180 feet in diameter and stood 30 feet tall.  Like many Adena mounds, groups built the mound where several paired-post enclosures had once stood.  Ritual activities would have taken place within those enclosures.  There was no evidence that the enclosure builders wove smaller saplings between the posts to form a solid wall. Thus, these enclosures may have looked more like standing screens than walled structures.  

After an enclosure's last use, Adena groups often covered it with an earthen mound.  In the case of the larger Wright Mound, they built a log tomb for a single individual, then covered the enclosure with soil.  Each new construction phase coincided with the placement of additional burials in the mound.  Of the 21 individuals buried in this mound, 14 were buried in log tombs.  

Archaeologists recovered a large number of intentionally broken ceramic vessels In the deposits between construction phases.  This led them to suggest that groups of Adena people had periodically revisited the mound to reconnect with their relatives.  During these visits, they may have held ritual feasts that concluded with breaking ceramic vessels. 

The smaller Wright Mound was 60 feet in diameter, but 50 feet tall.  As with the larger mound, it was built over a circular paired-post enclosure.  But unlike the larger mound, this mound was constructed in just one phase, and only two people were interred within it.  A single-phase construction, coupled with just a few graves, suggested that Adena groups has used this mound for a shorter period, in comparison to the larger mound.

An artist's reconstruction of an Adena log-lined tomb.

What's Cool?

Engraved Stone Tablets​

Adena people carved palm-sized rectangular tablets from shale, limestone, siltstone, or very fine-grained sandstone. ​These tablets are about one-quarter to three-quarters of an inch thick. Four of these rare objects were found at Adena sites in Kentucky. Only one - from the larger Wright Mound - was found by archaeologists during excavation​​.   

Adena craftspeople engraved distinctive designs on these tablets. They often were highly stylized wild turkeys or raptorial birds (raptors are birds-of-prey, like falcons or eagles).

Like other Eastern Woodlands peoples, the Adena ​people may have believed in a layered universe, with the earth suspended between a sky world and a watery underworld. Mythical beings represented these two worlds. Heavenly birds or human-raptorial birds - like those engraved on the tablets - were linked to the sky world. Underwater monsters and horned serpents were linked to the underworld. 

An engraved Adena tablet made from siltstone depicts stylized birds.

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