EKU archaeology students dig up the past at Daniel Boone National Forest

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WINCHESTER, Ky. (WTVQ/Press Release) – Since May, a team of young archaeologists have been in the woods near the community of Sandgap discovering the past of the Daniel Boone National Forest.

For four weeks, students worked on excavating, documenting and preserving artifacts and archaeological features in a rockshelter on the London Ranger District.

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“The site selected for excavation has been damaged by illegal digging [looting] in recent years, so we were worried that the valuable history preserved there had been lost,” said London Ranger District Archaeologist Mary White. “Fortunately, the team uncovered many remaining artifacts and features. Their work during this year’s field school helps [the Forest Service] document the site’s remaining history and helps us all better understand how early Native American peoples used the site and surrounding area.”

The team was made up of White, EKU Archaeology Professor Jon Endonino and the 13 members of Endonino’s archaeological field methods class or “field school.” The collaboration came as part of the National Forest’s agreement that supports biennial field schools on Forest lands.

“We are grateful for our partnership and the opportunity for our students to put their academic skills to the test in the field,” said EKU Archaeology Professor Jon Endonino. “Field school is an opportunity for students to apply the knowledge and concepts learned in their prior coursework while also collecting data in a scientific and controlled fashion, employing critical thinking skills in analyzing and interpreting data, and building ‘soft’ skills, like working as part of a team.”

Findings from previous field schools include artifacts such as food remains and broken pottery to “features” such as stone-lined earth ovens as well as hearths and fire pits.

This year’s field school found a stone tool manufacturing area from the Early Archaic period along with hearths, stone-filled earth ovens and refuse disposal pits.

“Many of our most exciting finds are features that are often the first to be destroyed by looters,” said White. “When first excavated, the ovens and hearths at this site just looked like natural areas of darker sediment. It was only because of the team’s training and experience that we knew to look for the occasional fragment or residue that told us what those dark areas actually were.”

White went on to say, “This year’s field school was a great success despite the history of looting at the site. But, really, we got lucky. With many severely looted rockshelters like this one, the history preserved at the site is often lost forever. The best way to ensure that future generations can learn from our past is by leaving the excavation of heritage sites like rockshelters to trained archaeologists.”

For more information about the Daniel Boone National Forest’s heritage program, please see the Daniel Boone National Forest website.

For more information about EKU’s archaeology program, please contact Dr. Jon Endonino at jon.endonino@eku.edu.