|Shannon, Kentucky's Indian mound, just to the right of the church.|
Long before Kentucky was settled, nomadic tribes of people wandered the forests and fields, hunting and gathering resources to survive. We know that when the first white men entered Kentucky, bands of Shawnee, Iroquois and Wyandot natives, with smaller factions of Cherokee, were present within the region; but long before those people, another cultures existed and left lasting remnants with their artifacts and ceremonial sites we still find today.Around 13,000 B.C., early humans began migrating into North America during the Pleistocene Era, probably with the glacier movements that linked Asia and the American Continent. Some of the earliest ancestors of indigenous North Americans, called the Clovis People, arrived around this time and first settled in what is now New Mexico. The Clovis People began migrating to other parts of North And South America; archaeological sites attributed to this early culture are found from Oregon to Pennsylvania and as far south as South Carolina. Other sites are found as far away as Brazil and Chile. A time at the end of the last great Ice Age called the Paleoindian Era, circa 9,900 B.C., descendants of the Clovis People had begun to appear in Kentucky, but the only evidence so far are a very few arrow and spear tips that have been found. Mastodon and other large mammals roamed Kentucky and gathered at the rich mineral springs and salt deposits. The early inhabitants hunted these giant beasts for food, clothing and shelter; in fact, remains of a mastodon were recovered in Sharpsburg, at a place called Fleming's Pond near the Sharpsburg Cemetery. In the nearby cemetery, there is a conspicuous earthen mound that greets visitors as they enter. This mound is indeed man-made, but not due to digging graves and discarding the unused soil.
|Mt. Sterling's Gaitskill Mound|
|The Gaitskill Tablet|
The Gaitskill Mound stands just off Kentucky 686 adjacent to the Gateway Plaza Shopping Center. Only slight archaeological excavations have been conducted yielding one curious object; a tablet made of baked clay that appears to be a spider with a human face on it. The purpose of this tablet is still a mystery.
|A small Adena mound in Sharpsburg, Kentucky|
|Shannon Cemetery mound|
Today, known and documented mound sites are protected by Federal Laws to preserve cultural and early American heritage. While we may never know the true customs of the earliest people to inhabit Kentucky, we can piece together their ceremonial practices through these sites. There are probably many more sites yet to be discovered, or realized, hidden along the ways or maybe even in plain sight. Arrowheads, spears and other early native artifacts are highly sought after by collectors, but are the physical remnants of the first people to arrive in North America, and should be treated as precious relics. The mounds were considered a sacred place for those early people, and should still be considered just as hallowed as they were thousands of years ago.
For information about the protection of Native American sites and artifacts, go to https://www.justice.gov/usao/priority-areas/indian-country/native-american-artifacts
For more information about Kentucky's Historic State Parks, go to http://parks.ky.gov/things_to_do/historic/