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KAS Video Series: Volume I

Length: three episodes of various lengths

Release: 2000

Distribution: KET – broadcast and schools; KHC – home DVDs

The first volume of the Kentucky Archaeology series is a combinaiton of three short episodes about new research into the lifeways of ancient Native Americans in Kentucky. The epsiodes (descriptions below) are “Ancient Fires at Cliff Palace Pond,” “The Adena people: Moundbuilders of Kentucky,” and “Saving A Kentucky Time Capsule.”

Kentucky Video Series Volume One
Episode 101 - “Ancient Fires at Cliff Palace Pond”


This episode examines landmark research into the Kentucky’s first forest managers. Archaeologist Cecil Ison takes viewers to a spectacular site known as Cliff Palace Pond at Kenner Point Knob in Daniel Boone National Forest. Excavations of a rockshelter and soil cores from a nearby pond reveal that American Indians have been using fire to manage the forests for over 3,000 years. This scientific research is being applied to contemporary fire management practices of the USDA Forest Service throughout Kentucky.

The video begins with a description of controlled or “pre-scribed” burns by fire managers in Daniel Boone National Forest. Jerry Wolfe, an elder of the Eastern Band of Cherokee, explains how American Indians have used fire to nurture the health and “fruits” of the forest during the historic era. Yet, until the 1990s, scientists didn’t know that American Indians have been managing the Eastern Woodland forests for over 3,000 years.

Archaeologists visit the Cliff Palace Pond site to document traces of ancient American Indian life, including an ancient petroglyph (geometric design) and stairs carved into a rocky path to the Keener Point Knob plateau. Cecil Ison explains how sediments in a rare upland pond serve as a time capsule, recording over 10,000 years of environmental data. Paleoecologist Paul Delcourt, University of Tennessee-Knoxville, describes how the combined analysis of both archaeological data and pond sediments provide insights into how American Indians used fire to manage their environment for over 3,000 years. The video concludes with discussions about the importance of fire in the forests and how researching the past can inform the present and help us plan for the future.

Examining Core Samples
Archaeological data was combined with soil
core samples from an upland pond above
the rock shelter at Cliff Palace Pond.

Title Frame of Cliff Palace Pond video
Title Page: Cliff Palace Pond video.

Cliff Palace Pond Rockshelter
Cliff Palace Pond Rockshelter, Daniel Boone National Forest, Jackson County.


Cliff Palace Pond Rockshelter Excavations
Archaeologists with the USDA Forest Service conduct excavations inside the rock shelter at Cliff palace Pond.





KAS Original Artwork

The following illustrations are available for personal and educational use (See Related Content menu).

a) Cliff Palace Pond “teaching traditions,” Archaic period.

The elders in American Indian families play a vital role in teaching children about lifeways and traditional culture. This rockshelter scene depicts a boy watching men craft spearpoints and bannerstones for an atlatl or spearthrower. Two other children listen as an elder uses oral traditions to pass on history and lore.
Credits: Artist Rex Robinson, © 2000, Kentucky Heritage Council

Cliff Palace Pond "teaching traditions"

b) Cliff Palace Pond “Bird’s-eye-view,” Late Archaic/Early Woodland periods.

American Indians used fire to manage forests since the Archaic period. This “bird’s-eye-view” shows several controlled burns around Cliff Palace Pond in Jackson County. During the early Woodland period, American Indians began to domesticate native plants such as squash, gourds, sunflower and maygrass. Fire was also used to help clear land for small garden plots.
Credits: Artist Rex Robinson, © 2000, Kentucky Heritage Council

Cliff Palace Pond "Bird's-eye-view"

c) Cliff Palace Pond “fall harvest,” Late Archaic/Early Woodland periods.

Gardening native plants allowed American Indian family groups to stay in settlements such as Cliff Palace Pond for longer periods of time. This “fall harvest scene” shows family members gathering food and processing deer at a rockshelter below Cliff Palace Pond.
Credits: Artist Rex Robinson, © 2000, Kentucky Heritage Council

Cliff Palace Pond “fall harvest,”

d) Graphic: Cliff Palace Pond “sediment stratigraphy,” Prehistoric Era

Cliff Palace Pond is a rare, isolated upland pond whose sediments record centuries of enviromental data, including wind-born deposits of ash and charcoal from forest fires. This graphic shows a 10,000 year stratigraphy of Cliff Palace Pond based on the analysis of soil core data collected by archaeologists.
Credits: Designer Jim Giles, Command Z Studios; KAS 2009

Cliff Palace Pond Stratigraphy

Episode 2 - “The Adena People: Moundbuilders of Kentucky”


This episode examines the legacies of the Adena people whose ancient culture is renowned for massive burial mounds and earthen enclosures. Dr. Berle Clay examines the search for elusive Adena settlements, which could tell archaeologists much about the lifeways of American Indians more than 2,000 years ago.

“The Adena People” presents an archaeological irony. Archaeologists know more about the ceremonial life of the Adena, than they do about their daily activities. Adena culture flourished in central and northern Kentucky about 2,000 years ago during the Middle Woodland period. Archaeologist Berle Clay, Cultural Resource Analysts, Inc., explains that until recently most scientific research focused on the Adena’s monumental mounds and earthworks. Therefore, relatively little is known about the daily life of the Adena people whose mobile lifestyle made their settlements difficult to find. Dr. Clay compares what is known about Adena life during the Woodland period to the farming cultures of the Late Prehistoric period.

Dr. Berle Clay, Archaeologist,
interviewed at Mt. Horeb
Earthworks, Kentucky.

Adena video introductoin
Title Page: The Adena People video.

Dr. Berle Clay

The video shows many examples of Adena mounds and artifacts, including pottery, mica, and stone tools. Archival footage of Depression-era mound excavation also is presented; western Kentucky's Wicklliffe Mounds Research Center mural of Mississippian life is shown; and scenes from Daniel Boone National Forest's Living Archaeology Weekend in Powell County depict people making stone tools, pottery, grass mats, and preparing food using traditional tools.

Adena gorgets

Adena Gorgets

Episode 3 - “Saving A Kentucky Time Capsule”

This episode documents efforts to preserve dozens of ancient mud glyphs (drawings) discovered deep inside Crumps Cave in Warren County. Archaeologists Valerie Haskins and Dan Davis take viewers on an unforgettable journey to see pristine images carved by American Indians over 1,000 years ago.

In 1994, a team of archaeologists and construction workers built the second largest cave gate in the world at the entrance to Crumps Cave. The gate protects a series of rare glyphs - pictures of designs, animals and people – drawn into a mud bank nearly a mile inside the cavern. Crumps Cave also contains prehistoric deposits and two bat species.

Before gate construction, archaeologists lead a video crew over rugged terrain, through narrow passages and past an underground pool to document the glyphs. A few have been marred by modern graffiti. Haskins and Davis discuss the significance of the glyphs, their age, and theories as to why American Indians may have carved these and other glyphs in the “dark zones” of dozens of caverns in the eastern U.S.

This “family group”
is one of the glyphs
preserved in Crumps Cave.

Landowner Bill Mahronic describes preservation issues at Crumps Cave, which is located on private property. Vandals have drawn their initials across some of the ancient mud glyphs. Under previous owners, the vestibule of the cave was looted, destroying 10,000 years of prehistory. David Morgan, retired Director, Kentucky Heritage Council, discusses how Crimps Cave serves as a model for cave preservation efforts. David Foster, American Cave Conservation Association, echoes the importance of preservation, calling the mud glyphs as important as any "Rembrant" archived in museums. (Update: Western Kentucky University recently purchased the entrance to Crumps Cave with support from the Kentucky Heritage Land Conservation Fund.

Saving a Kentucky Time Capsule
Title Page: Saving a Kentucky Time Capsule


This “family group” is one of the glyphs preserved in Crumps Cave


Archaeologist Dan Davis during interviews in the vestibule of Crumps Cave
Archaeologist Dan Davis during interviews in the vestibule of Crumps Cave.


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Last Updated 2/22/2010