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Site Name:
Site No.:
15Hr21, 15Hr22
Middle Fort Ancient,
Elkhorn Phase (A.D. 1200-1400)

Archaeologists excavating a long trench at Florence
Archaeologists excavating
a long trench at Florence.


The Florence Site Complex consists of two circular midden stains (organically enriched soil that is created by people living in one pace for an extended period of time) situated on adjacent upland ridgetops in Harrison County. Both stains surround a central area (plaza) that was purposely kept clean. Site 15Hr21 is the smaller village, and Site 15Hr22 is the larger village. They are located only about 130 ft from one another. Fort Ancient people lived at Florence beginning in the late 1200s and extending into the 1300s.

Some of the best information about Middle Fort Ancient village organization was collected from the limited investigations at this site complex. The two sites reflect sequential Fort Ancient occupations at this single location, possibly by the same group caused by an increase in population, which created a need for a bigger village.

Research Focus
In 1992, a research project funded by the Kentucky Heritage Council targeted the Florence Site Complex in Harrison County. Based on this research, archaeologists determined that the each village contained three concentric activity zones: mortuary, residential, and trash disposal.

Activity zones around Florence
Activity zones around
plaza at Florence.

Findings & conclusions

Site 15Hr21 is small (a little over an acre), with a diameter of about 262 ft. Although no obvious dark midden stain was observed, artifacts and features were restricted to a band approximately 82-98 ft wide that surrounded an area of about 82 ft that lacked artifacts and features. The site plan is interpreted as that of a circular village and plaza. Archaeologists estimated that about 90 people lived at this village.


Site 15Hr22 is much larger than Site 15Hr21. An elliptical dark stain, measuring 360 by 459 ft and containing an abundance of cultural materials, surrounded a lighter, central plaza area that was devoid of artifacts. The plaza measured 190 by 262 ft in diameter. The village plan consists of concentric rings of mortuary, residential, and trash disposal activities around a central plaza, which also contained a mortuary area (i.e., mound). No palisade was documented at the site. An estimated 25-30 structures would have housed a population of between 150-180 people.

Site Layout of 15Hr22
Site Layout of 15Hr22.

What's Cool? Activity Zones
Some people were buried in a low, conical earthen mound that was located along the northwestern edge of the plaza. The mound measured 55 by 75 ft. Undoubtedly originally much taller, the mound stood 1 to 1 .5 ft tall at the time of the investigations

Though some adults were buried in the mound, most adults and adolescents would have been buried in a shallow pit located next to the plaza. They were extended on his/her back. Several limestone slabs were often placed over the grave. The presence of a lens of ash and carbonized wood directly above the slabs, and hearths adjacent to the graves is suggestive of feasting and mortuary ritual.

Three structures were documented at Site 15Hr22. Structure 1 was the only one that was completely excavated. It measured approximately 13 by 16 ft, with the long axis parallel to the plaza. It was set in a basin, and individually-set posts lined the basin edge. The house had a prepared floor but lacked an internal hearth, large internal support posts, and any evidence of daub. No evidence of pits or burials was documented inside the house. The remains of a fallen wall section that consisted of cane/reed or broad-leaf grass interwoven with larger twigs was documented on the floor of this structure. Of note was the presence of an antler rack on the house floor, and scored antler tines. The tips of the antlers had been removed to make arrow points.

Clusters of large trash pits, some containing infant remains, were located behind each house in the trash disposal zone.

Pit features used for trash disposal were found between the houses and the outer edge of the dark midden stain. Most were large shallow basins. All of the antler racks recovered from these pits lacked their tines.

Map of trenches 1 and 3 at 15Hr22 showing different features
Map of trenches 1 and 3 at 15Hr22 showing different activity zones.




Structure 1 showing post holes in white
Structure 1 showing postholes in white.



Sharp, William E., and David Pollack 1992, The Florence Site Complex: Two Fourteenth-Century Fort Ancient Communities in Harrison County, Kentucky. In Current Archaeological Research in Kentucky, Volume 2, pp. 193-218. Kentucky Heritage Council, Frankfort.

Fort Ancient Chapter - The Archaeology of Kentucky: An update - Volume 2


Educational Resources

Last Updated 5/7/2013