Jack D. Nance

Murray State University


Even though I could never even hint at giving thanks for the actions of TVA for driving my family, and many other families out of Land between the Rivers in Western Kentucky, purchasing their land at a pittance for what it was really worth, I feel I must at least thank them for contracting with Dr. Jack D. Nance at Murray State University, to write this little book on ancient man in land between the rivers. Even though their motives for doing so may have perchance been to indicate to those embittered by being driven out that, the land was once owned by other peoples than themselves, I feel to give credit where credit is due.


So I wish to at least give thanks to both the Library personel and attorney's at TVA for granting permission to use this little book published by TVA. I also offer this web presentation of the book in honor of the late Dr. Jack D. Nance, who has passed since writing this book. May it honor his memory.


The author would like to express his thanks to those who made the preparation of this report a pleasure during fieldwork as well as the actual writing. The TVA staff at Golden Pond has been extremely helpful with and enthusiastic about our work at Land Between The Lakes. Much credit must be given to Robert Howes, James Ransom, Ann Winstead, and John Charron. The following aided the author in various ways while library research was being done: Lathel Duffield, Joe Granger, Roger Allen, Steve Moccas, and Richard Faust. A special thank you must go to Crista Schorrig and Edna Milliken of the Murray State University Library.


Prehistoric North American Cultural Stages

YR. B.C.






1000 A.D.






500 B.C.









6000 B.C









8000 B.C.






10000 B.C.




Land Between The Lakes is being developed by the Tennessee Valley Authority as an outdoor recreation and environmental education center in western Kentucky and Tennessee. President Kennedy, in making the Land Between The Lakes assignment to TVA, charged them with responsibility for demonstrating "how an area with limited timber, agricultural and industrial resources can be converted into a recreation asset . . ." Rich in a variety of wildlife and plant life, this 170,000-acre area offers visitors unlimited opportunities for camping, hiking, boating, fishing, hunting, and being alone in the outdoors. But Land Between The Lakes is more than just another Federal recreation area. It is a place to learn as well as play. Each year the area is utilized more and more often by school systems, colleges, and communities as an outdoor laboratory. An environmental education program has been developed in Land Between The Lakes which helps visitors become more aware of the world around them. Through programs which are fun and informative, visitors become aware of the interdependency of man and his environment.

The total environment has been a concern of the TVA since its inception in 1933. Interest lies not only with natural resources but also with the cultural aspects of the environment. It is for this reason that TVA has maintained a continuing interest in prehistoric and aboriginal cultures, spearheading many archaeological surveys throughout the Tennessee Valley. Archaeological surveys have been conducted in Land Between The Lakes by Dr. Jack Nance, formerly with Murray State University, and his students from January 1972 until July 1973. These studies will continue as Land Between The Lakes assesses its cultural resources for future education and recreation development.




Man's presence in Land Between The Lakes is not restricted to activity on the part of Europeans although the historic (American) culture is certainly more familiar to the average visitor than is the story of the aboriginal inhabitants. Work carried out by archaeologists in the Ohio, Cumberland, Tennessee, and Mississippi River basins has shown that man has been present in the Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, and Tennessee region for at least 10,000 years. This span of time has been divided by archaeologists into four broad cultural temporal divisions: Palaeoindian, Archaic, Woodland, and Mississippian. While there existed regional variation in prehistoric cultures as in contemporary ones, during each of these periods certain distinctive patterns of culture were prevalent over much of North America. These cultural patterns are most evident in different styles of chipped-stone (flint) artifacts, pottery, remains of campfires and houses which show that as time passed, the customs of the original occupants in Land Between The Lakes changed. This illustrates that members of different cultures occupied or used this area over long spans of time.

Survey and excavation in this area has a relatively long history; the first work was done in 1931. However, prehistory comes about slowly and it is only today that we are finally beginning to piece together the story of ancient man in Land Between The Lakes. The basic field research needed to write this story is still going on and at the very time you travel the wooded highways and backroads of the recreation area, archaeologists and field crews are busy unearthing the secrets of the past.

Early results of this work in conjunction with past work carried out before Kentucky and Barkley Lakes were formed are beginning to reveal a record of human occupancy in Land

Between The Lakes which continuously spans the abovenoted 10,000 year period. The work is painfully slow and usually the results of it are unknown to the public except on rare occasions when tidbits of information find their way into newspapers or magazines. The distribution of this pamphlet is one such occasion. Its purpose is to inform you, the visitor, about the work going on here and to make your visit to Land Between The Lakes a more informed and rewarding one. The story of ancient man is fascinating, hopefully for the recipient of this document and certainly for the archaeologists who have toiled to recover information from the past. So take this pamphlet and prepare yourself to enter the interesting world of archaeology and "Ancient Man in Land Between The Lakes."


We do not know when the first humans arrived in the lower Tennessee-Cumberland region. Evidence for early man elsewhere in North America indicates his presence at least 10,000-15,000 years ago. In the southeast, however, the first cultures were apparently extant at about 8,000-10,000 years ago, some few thousand years later than in the west, the Plains and Great Lakes areas. This being the case, it is unlikely that humans were present in this region during the height of the "Ice Age." Had they been here at that time, early man would have perceived an environment drastically different from the contemporary one.

In contrast to areas lying to the north (Ohio, Indiana, Illinois) which were partially covered by huge glaciers during the geological epoch called the Pleistocene, Kentucky and Tennessee never experienced the environment of an Ice Age. The area was, however, influenced by events to the north. The last great advance of ice, the Wisconsin glacial,* saw the southernmost limit of ice reach an area still north of the Ohio River, the northern boundary of Kentucky. This, the Tazewell advance, as it is termed by geologists, probably reached its maximum extent some 18,000-19,000 years ago. Subsequent to this, minor readvances of ice reached only as far south as central Illinois and Ohio or later (10,000 years ago) the southern end of Lakes Huron and Ontario, northern Lake Erie and central Lake Michigan.

 - *so named for the extensive deposits of glacial till found in Wisconsin.

Although the lower Tennessee-Cumberland region was not invaded by the ice, the climate and topography was certainly changed by these events. The nearness of the glacial front would have produced a much cooler climate than today's, an environment quite similar to that presently

existing in the Earth's higher latitudes. This was a colder climate which from fossil evidence is known to have been inhabited by black bear, giant beaver, ground sloth, peccary (a small pig-like animal), elk caribou, moose, musk ox, giant bison, horse, mastodon, and mammoth.

Toward the end of the Ice Age the glaciers began to melt and receded. As they did so, immense quantities of water were released. As a result, the Ohio River swelled; its valley bottom as well as those of its tributaries were built up by deposits of sand and gravel transported by the glacial outwash. Such deposition resulted in the formation of the broad-bottomed, alluviated valleys characteristic of the Jackson Purchase to the west of Land Between The Lakes. It is likely that the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers, the eastern and western boundaries of Land Between The Lakes, were ponded by glacial alluviations and that severe flooding took place. Deep deposits of gravel and sand in western Kentucky (notably observable along the Illinois Central RR just north of the Lake Barkley/Kentucky Lake canal near the northern entrance to Land Between The Lakes) are a result of this flooding and alluviation.

As the climate warmed much of this material was eroded away. Subsequently, the situation returned essentially to those conditions prevailing today. The climate warmed to

a maximum at around 5,000-6,000 years ago through the anathermal and altithermal. It is at the end of the Pleistocene that man apparently entered this region.

It is probable that at this time a different plant community existed here. Instead of the present-day deciduous hardwood forest (oak-hickory), it is likely that a boreal forest (spruce-fir) assemblage existed. Pollen analyses from bog deposits in Ohio suggest that as the climate warmed, the forest progressively changed from this cool-climate vegetation to species more suited to warm, dry conditions (altithermal) and subsequently to the deciduous-hardwood forests similar to those which you see in Land Between The Lakes today.

At the end of the Pleistocene such species of wildlife as mammoth, mastodon, horse, camel, bison, and dire-wolf were present. However, most of these animals became extinct around 8,000 years ago with the exception of the mastodon which survived the warmed conditions for another 2,000 years.

Still the environment you see in Land Between The Lakes today even differs from that at the time of the later prehistoric inhabitants. Obvious differences are features such as roads and power lines. Other more subtle ones include pine trees (planted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) and cleared areas which have been used for modern agriculture. In addition, the stands of timber in the area today are secondary growth. The virgin timber was harvested as fuel for iron furnaces which flourished here during the 1800's, and during prehistoric and early historic times the trees growing here were much larger than those presently standing. Several species of wildlife were present which are no longer here including bison, wolf, elk, and black bear.



Early man most likely entered North America from northeastern Asia via the Bering Strait area of Alaska and Siberia. The terminal glaciers of the Pleistocene set the stage for man's entrance into the New World. As these glaciers grew in extent, immense amounts of sea water were taken up in the ice. This had the ultimate effect of lowering sea level on the order of 300-400 feet. As a result, a bridge of land approximately 1,000-1,300 miles wide was formed, connecting Siberia with Alaska, the famous Bering land bridge. It is assumed that man entered the New World via this land bridge at a time around 15,000-20,000 years ago. The earliest radiocarbon dates for man's presence in North America fall around 12,000 years but an earlier date for human entry into North America should not be ruled out. There are radiocarbon dates on South American sites which indicate human occupation there by at least 16,000-20,000 years ago. Assuming that it would have taken some time for man to reach that far south, he must have been in North America at a much earlier date.

The earliest period of definite aboriginal culture in North America is known as "Palaeoindian," although the widespread use of this term is somewhat inappropriate. The term means "Old Indian" (Palaeo= old) and while the first cultures are certainly old, the term "Indian" implies a close connection to the historic tribes of North America which is almost certainly not the case. We simply do not know at this time enough about earliest man in the New World to make any guesses about his ethnic identity. Logically, it would seem that the Palaeoindian was Asiatic since the later Indians are of a Mongoloid stock. Beyond this we can say nothing.

The activities of the Palaeoindian are best known from the several sites on the Great Plains which contain spearpoints, knives, scrapers and other tools used by early man, in many cases in association with the bones of the now extinct ice age mammals which were hunted by these people. Most characteristic of the tools are the fluted "Clovis" and "Folsom" points, the former being associated with mammoth and mastodon and dated by the radiocarbon method at the Clovis Site in New Mexico at 9,000-10,000 B.C. Folsom points, slightly later in time (7000-8000 B.C.) are more frequently found in sites containing bison bones (Bison antiquus) suggesting that as the mammoth and mastodon became extinct, hunting activities centered on the buffalo.



The fluting, accomplished by the removal of long, regular channel flakes from one or both faces of the point, is a particularly distinctive "market trait." Several variations of fluting have been noted including single flute or multiple ones, short rudimentary flutes or long well-executed ones, which on Folsom points run almost the entire length of the point. Some points are fluted on both sides and some occur without flutes at all. However, all of the points are finely made with precisely controlled flaking.

Generally the basal edges of the artifacts exhibit extensive grinding, presumably an attempt to prevent cutting of the sinews used to haft the point to the shaft of the projectile. Some of these traits, notably basal grinding follow over into early Archaic points suggesting continuity in tradition from one cultural age to another. Many early Archaic points exhibit basal thinning which is accomplished by removal of several flakes around the concave base. This produces a kind of rudimentary flute which again suggests a close relationship between Palaeoindian and Archaic traditions of projectile point manufacture.

No datable habitations of the Palaeoindian period have been discovered in the lower Tennessee-Cumberland region but numerous surface finds of fluted Clovis points have been reported over the Tennessee, Cumberland and Ohio valley area. They are in fact found more concentratedly in this region than anywhere else in North America. This might just mean that this area is the original home of the Palaeoindians from which the fluted point tradition spread to other regions. This is a particularly tantalizing thought in view of the considerable variation in fluted forms which occurs in the southeast in general. However, until such points are found in deposits with reliable dates showing that these artifacts have temporal priority in the east, this idea must remain just that, a tantalizing thought.

Cumberland Palaeoindian Projectile Points

Quad Projectile Point  -------  Dalton Projectile Point


As mentioned above, in addition to the Clovis points several variations on the fluted point theme are found in this region including Cumberland, Quad and Dalton points. Two sites which yielded this kind of material were the Roach site on the Tennessee River and Henderson site on the Cumberland.

Since these artifacts are usually found in undatable contexts in this area, we must rely primarily on dated finds in other parts of the east for an estimation of the age of these cultures in Land Between The Lakes. Clovis points are Carbon 14 (C' 4 ) dated at about 7000 B.C. at the Bull Brook site in Massachusetts. They appear to be somewhat older in the west where dates from Arizona range from 7293 B.C.-9332 B.C. Dalton points have been dated at Graham Cave in Missouri at 6875 B.C. and in Alabama at 7640 B.C., suggesting an age of 9,000-10,000 years. These points have also been found in many contexts which suggest a later date for them, so that they may represent a transitional artifact bridging the gap between Palaeoindian and Archaic cultures.

Quad points have not been directly dated but association with Dalton points at the Flint Creek Rock Shelter in Alabama suggests considerable antiquity for these artifacts.

Similarly, no concrete dates are available for Cumberland points but material very like Cumberland from Russell Cave in Alabama is dated at 6200 B.C.

In all sites in Land Between The Lakes area where these artifacts have been found, they are intermixed with material known to be of more recent age. The assemblages from the Henderson and Roach sites showed greatest similarities to Palaeoindian material in Tennessee, the Nuckolls Site on the Tennessee River, where no radiocarbon dates are available. The co-occurrence of Palaeoindian and later Archaic material suggests, as do available radiocarbon dates, that the Palaeoindian habitation in the Land Between The Lakes region was later than that of the classic Palaeoindian to the west.

Hence, it appears that man was inhabiting the Land Between The Lakes region 8,000-10,000 years ago. How long before this time hunters were here, we cannot say.

The Palaeoindians in the western United States are known to have been big game hunters who preyed upon the mammoth, mastodon, bison, and other late Pleistocene animals. None of the bones of these animals have been recovered in archaeological sites in Land Between The Lakes. In fact, soil conditions here are such (acid) that bone is rarely preserved in older sites. However, it is believed that the mammoth did not become extinct in the east until 5,000-6,000 years ago and it appears likely that the first occupants of the lower Tennessee-Cumberland region were also big game hunters.

The character of the Palaeoindian culture in this region is such as to suggest that these early hunters wandered about in small family-bands, numbering perhaps 10-15 persons. Most likely the unit was composed of individuals which were all members of a biologically related family, referred to by anthropologists as an "extended family," and containing a man, his wife, their offspring and the wives and children of their male progeny. There was probably little in the way of a concept of territory since such a group hunting large animals and gathering wild vegetal foods would necessarily have to wander over large tracts of land in search of their food. The sites which contain Palaeoindian tools are few in number and do not contain large quantities of artifacts indicating the highly mobile or nomadic habits of these early groups.

Artifactual evidence from the sites includes for the most part spearpoints, scrapers, incising tools, knives, and drilling tools. Most of these tools are ones commonly associated with the taking and preparation of game indicating the dominance of this activity in the culture. Undoubtedly, however, these early hunters also utilized vegetal foods to a very great degree and tools (pestles and grinding stones) thought to have functioned in the processing of plant foods have been recovered from some sites.


The relationship between the Palaeoindian and Archaic - hunters in the eastern U.S. is not well understood. Considering, however, that in the Land Between The Lakes region early artifact types are found intermingled with Archaic types, an intimate relationship between the two ways of life is suggested. The fact that Palaeoindian and Archaic artifacts are not found to be stratigraphically separated suggests the possiblity that as the Pleistocene megafauna were becoming extinct around 8,000-9,000 years ago, the specialized Palaeoindian hunters found it necessary to shift their hunting patterns to a wide range of modern species, i.e., they became generalized hunters. Hence, the suggestion is that the Archaic cultures simply developed out of earlier Palaeoindian ones.

Support for this hypothesis may be drawn from several sites in various locations around the Tennessee, Missouri, Kentucky, Illinois area. At Modoc Rock Shelter in Illinois, typical Archaic projectile points were found in the same strata with Dalton points. At Graham Cave in Missouri, a similar situation existed. At the Big Bottom Site on the Tennessee River south of Land Between The Lakes, Dalton points occurred in an early Archaic contest. The similarities between Palaeoindian and Archaic points pointed out earlier are also very suggestive of this close relationship between the two cultures.

Logically then, the idea that the Archaic cultures developed from the Palaeoindian would appear to be a reasonable explanation. There is one stumbling block to this idea, however, and that lies in the very nature of the artifacts themselves. Perhaps one of the most outstanding characteristics of the Palaeoindian artifacts is the precision with which they were flaked. Most examples have been carefully finished by the "pressure-flaking" technique. Later, Archaic tools are rather crude in comparison, having been made by a "percussion" technique which results in a less-finely made artifact. We can suggest no reason why these peoples should change their habits in this regard if the same peoples were responsible for both traditions of artifact manufacture.


4 Early Archaic Projectile Points - 2 Lecroy Points - Decatur Point - Kirk Cornered-Notched Point



Motley Projectile


Top - Left to Right: 2 Benton Projectiles - Contracting-Stemmed Projectile - Ledbetter Projectile

Bottom - Left to Right: Kays Projectile - Little Bear Creek Projectile - Motley Projectile


Several archaeologists have taken this fact and others, such as the presence of ground and polished stone artifacts in Archaic assemblages, as an indication that a new population moved into the area. While this is a plausible hypothesis, it simply cannot be proven and the final explanation will have to await the accmulation of more evidence. However, the similarities in artifact manufacture discussed to this point would seem to outweigh any evidence for a new population in the Archaic.

Whatever the connection between Palaeoindian and Archaic, by about 8,000 years ago a new pattern of culture had emerged in the mid-south in general. Archaic sites are numerous and widely distributed. The number of types of projectile points is much greater, the size of the sites in general is larger and the nature of many sites differ drastically from Palaeoindian occupations; sites apparently occupied intensively over a long period of time are not uncommon and in some areas large "shellmounds" are frequent.

In addition, the remains from the sites, bones of animals, indicate that a greater variety of local resources were put to use than in the preceding Palaeoindian period. Deer, elk, bear, and many small mammals provided a considerable portion of the food supply at the Eva Site in Tennessee. In some areas, south in Tennessee and Alabama and northeast on the Green River in Kentucky, shellfish apparently provided a dense, reliable resource base. In the Land Between The Lakes region, however, shellmounds are unknown, indicating that this food source was slighted in the lower Tennessee-Cumberland during the Archaic. All in all, reliance on a less mobile and more concentrated resource pattern is suggested as is an increase in population density.

The effects of adaptation to this broader resource base would have been reflected socially in these groups in more subtle ways than a simple increase in population density and a more sedentary existence. Subsequently, the concept of territory may have taken on meaning. In response to the trend toward a sedentary life, it is likely that the basic social unit enlarged in size. The small family-band organization of Palaeoindian times perhaps gave way to a unit comprising a larger extended kin group. This unit would still be small in comparison to later Woodland and Mississippian social units and in all likelihood individuals within each social unit selected mates from other 'social groups. That is, the groups were exogamous in their marriage practices.

The exogamous pattern of marriage began to create farther-reaching social ties between local groups and we may imagine that some type of higher-order social organization began to develop during this aqe. The existence of regional traditions of culture, reflected in varying patterns of artifact manufacture revealed by excavation of sites in northern Kentucky and to the south in Tennessee suggest that regional differentiation of culture was indeed taking place.

Whatever the general characteristics of Archaic life, the sites of this period which have been excavated in Land Between The Lakes bespeak a unique character for the Archaic occupation in this region. Three classes of Archaic sites have been recognized in Land Between The Lakes: (1) large campsites (located on or near the floodplains of the Tennessee and Cumberland), (2) smaller satellite camps (on the floodplains of large creeks in the upland areas) and (3) small kill-butcher sites (also in the uplands areas).

Excavation by archaeologists and students from the University of Kentucky, University of Tennessee, University of Louisville, and Murray State University have resulted in the recovery of chipped stone tools which bear a close resemblance to material of the same period found to the south of Land Between The Lakes, most notably along the Tennessee River. This suggests cultural unity between Archaic hunters in Land Between The Lakes and those living to the south.

General characteristics of the larger sites suggest a highly mobile population rather than the semi-sedentary existence indicated by deep deposits in other areas. The Archaic sites, while covering a fairly great area in many cases (Stewart County Site 74, for example, covers approximately 10 acres), are not deep deposits but are rather restricted to the top few inches of the soil, perhaps 18 inches at most. This certainly indicates a sparse and sporadic use of these sites and may mean periodic movement in and out of the area.

An example of this type of site was the Wallace site excavated by the University of Tennessee in 1959. Here artifacts were found to a depth of 1-1/2 feet. The assemblage consisted of projectile points, knives, scrapers, drills, incising tools, hammerstones and weights for spearthrowers; the tool kit of a hunting group. Artifacts from others, such as the Roach site, indicate that vegetal foods were also utilized. In general, then, the character of the larger campsites paints a picture of hunting groups moving periodically, perhaps seasonally, into the area from larger settlements farther up the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers.

Recent work by crews from Murray State University on sites in the uplands areas have broadened the perspective in this regard. Survey work during 1972 resulted in the location of several small camps and kill-butchering sites along springfed creeks in the higher elevations. These sites, too, are thin accumulations of artifacts and chipping debris which indicate sporadic occupation. Excavations at the Dead Beaver Site revealed the existence of a small hunting camp occupied discontinuously from about 4000 B.C. to 1000-2000 B.C. Artifacts comprised projectile points, scrapers, incising tools, stone knives and hammerstones. The absence of tools usually associated with the processing of plant foods probably means that such sites were utilized sporadically by hunting parties moving up from the larger sites near the rivers.

Numerous small sites yielding few artifacts other than knives, incising tools, choppers and scrapers (containing no projectile points) may signify the sites where game was butchered after the kill and prior to transportation back to the temporary hunting camps such as the Dead Beaver Site, and subsequently back to the river valley.

Beyond their basic subsistence pattern we know little about these Archaic hunters. However, burials recovered at Trigg County Site 33, in the upland areas each of Land Between The Lakes, tell us that their dead were buried in shallow pits, along with chipped-stone artifacts. One burial contained the remains of a female and infant, presumably mother and child. It is certain that they were feeling people, possessed of a great respect for life.

At the Eva Site, 26% of the burials were immature individuals, revealing a low rate of survival to adulthood. Sixteen percent were infants. These figures reveal the difficult way of life these people endured. Other material from these two sites indicate that the people had domestic dogs and many ornamental artifacts, including some made of copper. Ornaments are not frequently found in Archaic sites in Land Between The Lakes probably due to the transitory nature of the occupation here.

Hence, as we peer back through the drakness of time we may imagine a band of hunters in summer moving northward with their dogs from what is today western Tennessee. Their journey, along wooded river valleys, takes perhaps several weeks. Their portage is made easier by the ample game and abundant plant life which furnishes a variety of berries, nuts, and fruits. Two days earlier, they had passed another party to the south. The smoke from the campfires was clearly visible above the trees which covered the high bluff just to the north of a large stream entering the river from the west. Presently the party comes upon a familiar ridge, also to the west of the river, which is the site of the annual encampment.

The next morning a small party sets out along a small, meandering stream which enters the river from a broad valley. A day's journey upstream brings them to a flat toward the head of the valley, bordered by a high ridge to the west and with a pool of clear cold water in the stream to the east. The stream provides an excellent source of water and an attraction for the numerous species of game which abound in these lush forests. Several hills ring the upper end of the valley south of the camp providing springs which feed the stream.

Two or three days are spent hunting in the wooded hills and hollows, especially along the stream which is the primary source of water during the warm summer months. The hunters are stealthy and with their short spears tipped with stone points reap a rich harvest of local animals. Three deer and a bear are taken the second day. Several groundhogs and other small animals were taken and consumed back at the camp. At the end of the foray, the butchered animals are placed in deer skins or net slings and loaded on the backs of the hunters. They begin their march back to the distant river plain where they will share their good fortune with other members of the group.


Following the Archaic period and about 500 B.C., a change in cultural patterns began to take place most notably signalled by the appearance of pottery in the archaeological sites in this area. Although this trait might seem to suggest a new cultural development, a more comprehensive look at archaeological remains from this period indicates that the basic hunting and gathering pattern of subsistence of the Archaic continued, modified by cultural development elsewhere. Particularly we note that most of the types of artifacts suggestive of the late Archaic persist into what is referred to as the Woodland period, specifically projectile points with contracting stems, scrapers, knives and other chipped-stone tools. Pottery of this "early Woodland" period, a type called "Alexander Pinched" (so called because the surface of the pots has been decorated by pinching with the fingers), was found at the Roach Site. Another artifact of this period is an ornament called a "gorget" made from polished stone.

In all honesty, it must be said that very little is known about Woodland culture in this area since so few sites of this period have been excavated. For the earlier part of the Woodland period (the time of Christ to A.D. 100) only two sites have been excavated and at only one of these has material other than pottery been studied. These sites are the Birmingham and Owens Sites located below Kentucky Dam (not shown on the map). The pottery at these sites is dominated by a type called "Baumer" (after the Baumer Site in Illinois where it was first found) which is tempered with sand, grit, or limestone. Early in the Baumer period, surfaces are decorated with a cord-wrapped stick or are fabric-impressed. Later, more surfaces are cord-marked.

At the Owens Site, C14  dated at 75 B.C. to A.D. 95, knives, drills, scrapers, and hammerstones were not abundant. Remains of deer and bison, the only identifiable faunal remains, were few in number as were projectile points suggesting that hunting may have become less important by this time. Similarly, shellfish remains were scarce. This would seem to suggest a greater dependence on gathering of wild vegetal foods and many circular pits at the sites may represent storage caches. Nut fragments were found throughout the excavated area. Beyond this we know little.

From about A.D. 100 to A.D. 700 our best information comes from the Driskill Site and the Detman Site. By this time pottery tempered with shell appears and cord-marked surfaces are predominant. A few examples of plain wares have been found along with a few sherds of incised pottery.

At the Driskill Site, use of the bow and arrow was practiced as indicated by the presence of small, light, triangular projectile points and various types of knives, drills, and scrapers were common. No definite evidence of structures was unearthed but a post-hole lined with bark suggests some structural remains. Rectangular houses with walls constructed of individually set posts have been found to the north in sites of roughly the same age as Driskill. In support of this suggestion is the fact that at the base of the Tinsley Hill Mound, two features (one 105 cm. long, the other 200 cm), which together consisted of an alignment of 12 posts varying from 8-11.5 cm. in diameter, were found. These wall foundations clearly pre-date the Mississippian mound since they are separated from the first phase of mound construction by a 15 cm. deep layer of sterile soil and may represent the remains of Woodland houses. Small circular firehearths at this site and circular storage pits suggest the importance of gathering and storage of nuts.

Hunting and gathering in general provided the mainstay of Woodland culture at this time. Recovery of remains through flotation techniques at the Detman Site (also not on the map) produced a variety of wild seeds and nuts. At the same site, deer bones were the most prominent animal remains and furnished about 80% of the meat supplies. Elk, wolf, fox, raccoon, opossum, squirrel, beaver, turkey, and large numbers of fish remains, including shellfish rounded out the economy of a hunting-fishing-gathering people.

Our picture of Woodland life in this area is far from complete but it is apparent that the culture was based on hunting and intense gathering of plant foods (nuts, berries, roots, etc.). The suggestion of a tendency toward greater use of vegetal foods is in keeping with other Woodland manifestations such as in Adena and Hopewell sites in other areas where literally tens of thousands of plant remains have been identified in site deposits. Along the lower Illinois River valley in central Illinois, for example, Hopewell sites have yielded predominantly hickory nuts, acorns, seeds of marsh elder and smartweed, the bones of white-tailed deer, ducks, geese, and fish.

In keeping with a marginal location, it seems that the Woodland developments here are less elaborate than those at larger centers particularly because of the absence of large, intensely occupied sites with burial mounds. This impression may in large part, however, be due to lack of study of larger Woodland sites here which have, at this time, not been located. Further study of the Owens and Detman Sites by University of Kentucky archaeologists will certainly add to our knowledge of this period.

Some information on the Woodland period is available from the Big Bottom Site to the south of Land Between The Lakes. Excavations at this site revealed six zones of deposit. The lower four and the single upper zone were Archaic and Mississippian, respectively. Zone two and the upper part of zone three, however, yielded artifacts typical of the Woodland period. Several types of spearpoints were found including types called Gary, Adena, Ellis, and Copena associated with a Woodland ceramic assemblage. These types of points, although not infrequent in Land Between The Lakes, do not generally occur in Woodland sites, but in what appear to be late Archaic contexts, suggesting the sparseness and the late date of the Woodland occupation in this area.

The late Archaic and Woodland burials from this site revealed that shallow, oval pits were commonly used for graves. Multiple burials (several skeletons in a single grave) were frequent and very few artifacts were found in the graves. The three burials containing artifacts had only Copena points with them. Many of the burials were bundle burials (bones disarticulated) indicating that some time passed between death and burial. After this time lapse, the bones were gathered and buried without the flesh.


Adena Projectile - Ellis Projectile - Copena Projectile

Hence, our knowledge of Woodland culture in Land Between The Lakes is limited, to say the least. From all indications, it would appear that some shift was taking place in food-acquisition, primarily in the direction of more intense food gathering, as is typical of Woodland elsewhere. Limited agriculture may have been practiced, but to date we have no evidence for it. Hunting was still very important, however, and was done using both spears and bow-and-arrow (at least late in the period). Finally, it would appear that the Woodland development in Land Between The Lakes was not an elaborate one but rather one showing influence from other more highly fluorescent Woodland centers.


The general character of Mississippian settlements (A.D. 1000 onwards) seems to indicate that the presence of this culture in the area is an intrusive one, again suggesting the marginality of the lower Tennessee-Cumberland to larger, more vigorous cultural centers. Furthermore, an intrusion into a hostile environment (the territory of Woodland groups) is suggested by fortified sites: early, Jonathan Creek Village (A.D. 1350-1400) and later the Goheen Site to the north (A.D. 1600 +85). Also falling within this time period, but without fortifications are the final occupation of the Roach Site (A.D. 1540 + 85) and the Tinsley Hill Site, occupied from roughly 1400 to 1650-1700 A.D.

The Mississippian incursion into Land Between The Lakes and other areas is obviously an example of a dominant and more vigorous culture expanding into an area occupied by a technologically less-developed people. It is probable that Mississippian culture developed in the Mid-Mississippi Valley having been stimulated by developments in Mexico as shown by remarkable similarities in pottery; where Woodland ceramic work was decorated by surface modification, the ware being primarily tempered by grit, Mississippian wares as a rule are shell tempered and have plain surfaces. Many times decoration was accomplished by adorning the ware with anthropomorphic and zoomorphic effigies although fabric impressed and incised surfaces are found as at the Stone and Shable sites on the Cumberland in Stewart County, Tennessee. Painted vessels are also common and in general the work is much more sophisticated than Woodland pottery.

Whatever the stimulus for its development, the intrusion of the Mississippian culture into this area was obviously not a peaceful one. Excavations at the Jonathan Creek Village Site in Marshall County revealed a large village with a defensive structure built around it. As time passed this fortification was rebuilt several times, each time the area enclosed being of a different size. Initially, the fortified area was small, with square houses built inside. Later, the village must have grown in size since the later stockades encircled a large area and many houses were present. Still later, however, the enclosed area shrank in size and several houses actually may have been built outside the stockade, suggesting that during its later occupation, a more peaceful situation may have been obtained.


The early occupation of the village was revealed to have been encircled by a stockade with large, rectangular bastions within which were built houses with walls made by setting posts into a trench. During the later occupation, a different kind of stockade with small square or semi-circular bastions encircled houses with walls built by setting posts into the ground individually. The defensive structure was made more effective by positioning: the stockade enclosed the village on the northeast; other sides of the village were protected by a bluff or the waters of Jonathan Creek.

Stone-box graves were found usually around houses and although badly disturbed by plowing, revealed burials usually extended, lying on the back. Infrequently, pottery vessels (open bowls or long-necked bottles) were placed at the head or feet of the corpse.

A wide range of chipped-stone artifacts included celts, chopping tools, knives, projectile points, hoes, grinding tools, and drills. Pottery was decorated with basket or textile markings or with cord-wrapped paddles. Utility wares were plain, globular containers with simple punctate patterns. Many were large, up to a foot in diameter and had lugs or strap handles.


The vigor of the Mississippian culture is reflected in the construction of large temple mounds, the labor of which could only have been sustained by an agricultural subsistence base. Indeed the hallmarks of Mississippian culture are the temple mounds, agriculture and hence permanent village sites. Crops grown included maize (Indian corn), beans, squash, and pumpkin, although hunting of deer and other animals continued, as did reliance on fish, including shellfish.

It is almost a certainty that several different kinds of wild nuts, seeds, and berries were gathered to supplement cultivated plants.

The mounds built by the Mississippians were generally intended as platforms for temples and several sites in the Land Between The Lakes area had mounds, Tinsley Hill being the best example. At this site, which was occupied during the climax of the Mississippian period, a temple mound existed, rectangular in ground plan, measuring 22 by 18 meters at the base and starting 7 meters high. Although the mound was badly eroded at the time of excavation, its remains suggest that a ramp led up one face, a feature typical of temple mounds.


Although the excavators supply no information on this point for the Tinsley Hill mound, possibly because of the badly eroded condition of the structure, it is probable that it was flat and bore a small temple. Although we know little about these structures, ethnographic descriptions suggest that they were small, provided a place where ceremonial objects were kept, and a perpetual fire (representing the sun) burned. Priests utilized the temple and pyramidal summit as a place for presiding over ceremonial occasions.

At several sites there is evidence to suggest that the first temples were not on top of mounds but rather on the original ground surface with mounds being subsequently constructed over the site of the temple. At the impressive Hiwassee Island site in Tennessee, reported by Professors Lewis and Kneberg, this was the case. At Tinsley Hill a similar situation was revealed by excavations into the mound.

As mentioned earlier, excavations to the submound zone revealed possible evidence of a Woodland structure separated from the first stage of mound construction by a sterile deposit. Above this, at 207 cm. below the mound crest, another series of post impressions was unearthed which paralleled what was to later be the longer, south side of the mound. A profusion of remains suggested a constant rebuilding of the structure and fired dirt areas in this zone probably represent the floor areas of at least three structures. These areas contained ash, charcoal, and burned logs, indicating destruction of the structures by fire, probably intentionally, in a cyclical rebuilding of the temple. The charcoal residue consisted primarily of cane suggesting that the structure had walls made of cane mats.

Subsequent to this period, the first mound building stage began. The early mound was very small, covering only the area occupied by the floor of the premound structure. Perhaps the site of the temple at this time became a holy place and hence provided the only possible location for the temple mound. The excavators believe that the material for the mound mass was carried up the bluff from the river floodplain below indicating the lengths of labor to which the users of the site would go to build their structure on this locus. The dirt was transported up the bluff basketful-bybasketful as revealed by loading marks within the mound mass. This first mound was small, standing only 65 cm. above the floor of the earlier temple.

At interval of time, indicated by accumulation of a fivecentimeter-deep layer of wash on the skirt of Mound stage No. 1, elapsed before the mound was enlarged. This later mound was constructed over Mound No. 1 and was considerably larger than the earlier monument, standing two meters above the premound temple and extending five meters beyond the floor area of the sub-mound structures. It was, however, of the same general configuration as Mound stage No. 1. Such structures are obvious indications of the labor available to these cultures, supported by their agricultural-huntinggathering way of life and bespeak a much higher population density than for the preceding Woodland cultures.

The greater concern or awareness of the Mississippians with things ceremonial is also reflected in their treatment of the dead. Where earlier cultures in this area had simply buried their dead in shallow pits in the earth, these later peoples carried out elaborate funeral rites. Excavations in the Land Between The Lakes area at the Jonathan Creek, Stone, Shamble, and Tinsley Hill sites have shown that these people prepared "stone-box" graves for their dead. In general, the procedure was to dig a pit into the ground to a depth of a few centimeters. The pit was then lined with slabs of stone, in many cases a floor for the grave being constructed. After the remains were placed in the grave, a cover of stone slabs was usually placed over it. In areas where stone was not plentiful, it is likely that slabs were transported considerable distances and Professor Webb, who supervised extensive archaeological surveys for TVA, suggested that boats were the method of transportation used to bring such material to Jonathan Creek Village.

There were several types of burial customs represented at Tinsley Hill, where a large cemetery containing 54 graves with 82 individuals was excavated. Here, 13 of the 54 burials were not in stone boxes. However, the most frequent burial custom was a stone box, containing a single individual with the skeleton fully extended. Several flexed or doubled-up burials were also found. In general, the skeleton was pointed west or southwest, purposely toward the river, or more likely, toward the setting sun. In many cases, the bones were disarticulated, indicating that the body had been allowed to decompose after death, with the bones alone being subsequently buried. This possibly indicates a long period of mourning between the time of a person's death and his actual burial.

Of course, several explanations for the presence of disarticulated burials are possible. Professor D. W. Schwartz, who excavated the Tinsley Hill cemetery, points out that among the Chickasaw Indians, when a person died away from home, the custom was to place the body on a scaffold and cover it with logs. Later the bones were retrieved, tied in a deerskin, transported back home and buried. Since there is some possibility that Tinsley Hill was occupied by the Chickasaw, this explanation merits serious consideration. However, the occurrence of both kinds of skeletal patterns could also indicate burial customs of different time periods as well as reuse of graves, so at this time it is not possible to state definitely what the significance of the different burial types may be. This does, however, pose a very interesting research topic for future study in this region.

The Tinsley Hill site yielded burials in the flat field. Not all Mississippian cemeteries were like this and several have been found with small burial mounds. Such a site is Stewart County Site 75, located in Tennessee on a bluff overlooking Lake Barkley, and under investigation by Murray State University students and the author. Although the site was

plundered by vandals before serious study of it was possible, it is hoped that it will yield at least some information on Mississippian burial customs of the mound variety.

Preliminary studies have revealed a small, oval mound, approximately 35 feet across. Apparently the stone boxes were constructed on or near the ground surface and were subsequently covered with dirt which was removed from the top of a small knoll just to the east of the mound. A local outcrop of limestone on the bluff 30 yards to the east probably furnished the stone slabs for the graves. No information is yet available on the burial types present at this site but from the graves uncovered by the looters it is obvious that the graves were oriented on a north-south axis, that is, the heads of the skeletons pointed either north or south. Unlike Tinsley Hill, the graves here parallel the river rather than pointing towards it. Another interesting feature of this site is that all the graves known to date are oriented almost precisely the same, probably indicating that it was constructed over a very short period of time. If this is the case, this site will likely yield valuable information with regard to burial customs over a period of short duration and may therefore shed some light on whether certain burial types are associated with specific time periods.

Such graves generally contain few artifacts, an interesting fact in view of the widespread looter's practice of plundering them in search of pots. Usually the only artifacts found are a few potsherds and an occasional projectile point, if any at all. At Tinsley Hill, only 3 of the 54 graves had either large sherds or whole pots. Where artifacts do occur, this may indicate high status or special social position for the individual involved. We are certainly aware of social distinctions within Mississippi culture. A special priest class is a certainty and the historic mound-building tribes had various kinds of chiefs.

Being agricultural, it is almost a certainty that these groups were organized on the matrilineal principle, that is, descent was recognized through one's female parent in contrast to the earlier Palaeoindian, Archaic, and Woodland peoples who were probably organized according to a patrilineal rule. It is also highly likely that some kind of Mississippian clan system existed, also based on kinship bonds, and that when an infant was born it became a member of its mother's social group (clan).

One's clan would have been a land-owning unit and almost certainly clans would have been joined together into larger semi-political units as among the historic tribes of the southeast. Such clans would have been named after a mythical ancestor through which all clan members traced their blood relationship. Such mythical figures were animals or plants which also served as the clan symbol or emblem. Clans would also have served other purposes, as for example in regulating the choice of a marriage partner. Among most historic tribes one was required to marry outside his or her clan: marriage within the clan was looked upon as incest and was avoided at all costs.

By about A.D. 1550, an interesting situation may have been taking place in the lower Tennessee-Cumberland. At Tinsley Hill excavations into the middle occupation of the site revealed that in the midst of the Mississippian period a group of people occupied the site who were making pottery of a distinctly Woodland flavor. The excavators of the site suggest that this is evidence for a reoccupation of the village by previously displaced Woodland groups. Sometime later these Woodland peoples disappeared, never to return again. Hence, it seems possible that Woodland groups persisted into relatively late times and perhaps attempted to regain possession of their original territory.

Whatever the situation, by about 1500 A.D., a decentralizing trend in village location began in this area. The Jonathan Creek site, apparently one of the main centers, began to shrink in size and several small villages show up along the banks of the rivers such as the Roach Site, final occupation of the Tinsley Village, Ford's Bay, Rodgers, Goheen, and Wilson Sites.

It is perhaps possible that limitations of soil fertility made sustained population concentrations impossible and necessitated the establishment of many small agricultural villages. At any rate, these villages are small generally containing ten or fewer houses and show a greater reliance on hunting large and small animals and gathering vegetal foods and fishing. Agriculture, however, continued as a major subsistence technique.

In connection with this change came one in ceramic manufacture. The earlier, rather drab wares were replaced by elaborate, sophisticated ceramics; incised, engraved and punctated forms appear. Painted wares were decorated by both negative and positive painting, the former technique requiring a number of rather specialized operations.

The increase in the number of small triangular arrowpoints in these sites is consistent with more extensive hunting activity. Again, as with earlier groups, the Mississippians had returned to a broad resource base, in part abandoning the specialized way of life which they had followed previously. As in earlier times, a generalized, diversified subsistence pattern proved to be the most stable, and is certainly one most consistent with this particular ecological setting.


Occupation of the Tennessee-Cumberland ended slightly before A.D. 1700. No archaeological site has yet been excavated which contained historic European goods of undoubted association with the aboriginal remains. At Tinsley Hill several of the graves contained European ceramics, nails, and other metal objects. However, these could have been introduced into the site by late disturbance. The excavation of the Stone Site yielded a fragment of pottery with what appeared to the excavators to be an impression of European lace, perhaps an altar cloth. This would seem to suggest that this site was occupied, at least until the period of European intrusion into North America. However, this constitutes the entirety of the evidence.

Therefore, from before A.D. 1700 to the 1800's we have no record of the peoples in this area. We do know that the Jackson Purchase was occupied by the Chickasaw Indians. The main Chickasaw settlements, however, lay to the south of this area in what is now northern Mississippi. Although we have no direct reference to the presence of the Chickasaw in Land Between The Lakes proper, the Jackson Purchase was owned by this tribe until 1818 when the U.S. government obtained the land by treaty. Professor Webb in his report on Jonathan Creek Village attributes the occupation of that site to the Chickasaw and the excavator of Tinsley Hill makes a similar suggestion for that site. It must be honestly admitted, however, that there is no direct evidence for Chickasaw occupation of these sites although it is certain that Chickasaw living sites must be among those along the Tennessee and Cumberland.

Few early sources are available on the Chickasaw. The Spanish explorer DeSoto and his expedition traveled and lived among this group in 1540 although he never progressed beyond the present site of Memphis, several miles to the south and west of Land Between The Lakes. The Frenchmen Marquette and Joliet sailed down the Mississippi in 1673 and contacted the Chickasaw, again south of Land Between The Lakes. At this time, the Chickasaw already had guns, axes, hoes, knives, beads and glass bottles for storing gunpowder, articles clearly acquired from European traders. In 1682, LaSalle stopped briefly at the mouth of the Ohio then proceeded to a point near the present site of Fulton, Tennessee, where he contacted this tribe. Hence, it is known that the Chickasaw were in the region as late as 1682. Unless other evidence comes to light to show that the post A.D. 1500 settlements in the Tennessee-Cumberland were owned by other peoples, it seems to be a safe assumption that the Chickasaw were the inhabitants of these sites.

For the 80 years following 1680 the Chickasaw were torn by encounters with the French. It was the plan of the French and English to employ the native inhabitants to carry out war against the opposing colonial government. Since the British had succeeded in winning the friendship of the Chickasaw, the tribe was generally bitterly embroiled with the French. Although a treaty of friendship was formed in 1702 between this tribe and the French, it was short-lived, and three years later, because of what the Chickasaw saw as French treachery, they became permanent enemies of the French. Some 24 years later, primarily because of their friendship with the Natchez tribe whom the French had practically obliterated, the Chickasaw again became involved in war against the French. As is well known, the French, in an attempt to secure the Mississippi for navigation, allied with the Choctaw nation only to suffer a severe shellacing at the hands of the powerful Chickasaw. In 1763, France, by treaty, ceded all lands east of the Mississippi to the British so that finally the Chickasaw could live in their homeland in relative peace. It is known that this tribe had settlements at Paducah and several others surely existed along the Ohio. It is probable that many of these settlements were occupied until relatively late times. The sites at Paducah were occupied at least until the early 1800's.

In October, 1818, Governor Isaac Shelby and General Andrew Jackson negotiated the "Jackson's Purchase" treaty with the Chickasaw by means of which the U.S. government obtained all lands west of the Tennessee River in Kentucky and Tennessee. Although Land Between The Lakes does not lie within the Jackson Purchase proper, it is likely that the Chickasaw from this area were also affected by the agreement if indeed there were any Indians living between the rivers, at that time. Thus, in 1818 the homeland of this Indian tribe ceased to be under the control of this once powerful nation, although many of the Chickasaw remained as late as the 1830's.

However, by 1820 most of the Indians. had decided to move west since they were being engulfed by a way of life so alien to their philosophy that the hardships were unbearable. Finally in 1830 the Indian Removal Act, which established Indian lands to the west of the Mississippi, was passed. Almost three hundred years after white contact, the Chickasaw were tragically uprooted in 1832-1834. Several other groups were similarly expelled (Choctaw, Seminole, Creek, Cherokee) in a march, called by the Cherokee the "Trail of Tears." Of one group of 12,000, one-third died en route. Ironcially, a few years later even the "Indian lands" were to be taken by the Europeans.


Clearing away the fog of time we see that the human history of Land Between The Lakes is more than just 150 years of white usage of this land. We have peered deeply into the past and discovered that human inhabitation of the green stretch of country has a history of 10,000 years or more. It is a history of an intimate relationship between man and land and clearly demonstrates the bond between man and his environment; a bond of which we are too often not cognizant. It is altogether proper that the TVA is conserving this province called Land Between The Lakes as a monument to that relationship.



At this very moment, archaeologists the world over are busily attempting to piece together the history of our species on this planet. At the same time, the information so badly needed to write this story is disappearing at an alarming rate. Highways are being built, land is being cultivated, shopping centers are being constructed and a myriad of other activities are destroying hundreds of archaeological sites each year. Legislation is now in Congress which would provide funds for archaeological work under certain circumstances. Even with more funds, however, it will still be a losing battle due to a lack of trained archaeologists.

Perhaps even more regrettable than destruction of sites through development and growth, is the fact that every year numerous sites are destroyed, plundered or vandalized out of pure ignorance or by the merely curious but uneducated, or, worst of all, by those who seek financial gain. Whether it is a million dollar Greek vase or a relatively worthless Mississippian arrowpoint, there are those who make it their hobby or business to randomly dig and desecrate archaeological sites in the hope of selling the materials recovered. Stewart County Site 75, the Mississippian burial site mentioned in the text, is an example of a site which was plundered by "treasure seekers" and as a result is now less valuable in terms of presenting information to you the public, to whom these remnants of the past rightfully belong. There are laws designed to prevent such activity but they are painfully difficult, if not impossible, to enforce.

The staff and administration of the TVA has been and is making considerable financial and human investment in an attempt to preserve the rich heritage of the past for you, and your children. The relationship established between TVA and the University of Kentucky gave the impetus four decades ago to the schools of anthropology and archaeology. This made the current research possible and helped reawaken the public generally to the need for preserving remaining evidences of historic and prehistoric man. Your assistance is required for this task. Please do not disturb any archaeological remains while on your visit to Land Between The Lakes. If you find evidence of a site, report it to the Information Office. If you should find something in areas outside Land Between The Lakes, contact the nearest University and let an archaeologist know about it. He'll be an enthusiastic contact and you'll feel better for having done it.


Beals, R. and H. Hoijer

1971     An Introduction to Anthropology. Macmillan, New York.

Burt, J. and R. Ferguson

1973 Indians of the Southeast: Then and Now. Abingdon Press, Nashville.

Clark, G.

1967 World Prehistory: An Outline. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Deetz, J.

1967 Invitation to Archaeology. Natural History Press, Garden City.

Driver, H.

1969 Indians of North America. University of Chicago Press, Chicago.

Hole, F. and R. Heizer

1969 An Introduction to Prehistoric Archaeology. Holt, Rinehart, Winston, New York.

Jennings, J.

1968 Prehistory of North America. McGraw-Hill, New York.

Lewis, T. and M. Kneberg

1958     Tribes That Slumber. University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville.

Lewis, T. and M. Lewis

1961     Eva: An Archaic Site. University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville.

Underhill, R.

1971 Red Man's America. University of Chicago Press, Chicago.

Schwartz, D.

1961     The Tinsley Hill Site. University of Kentucky Studies in Anthropology, No. 1.

Webb, W.

1952     Jonathan Creek Village, Site No. 4, Marshall County, Kentucky. University of Kentucky Reports in Archaeology and Anthropology. Vol. 8.