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The Archaeology of Kentucky

In 1990, the Kentucky Heritage Council published The Archaeology of Kentucky: Past Accomplishments and Future Directions. This 788-page document contained a series of prehistoric archaeological contexts and an historic archaeological context. Each context summarized what was known about a particular temporal unit and outlined a series of research questions and objectives that was to guide future archaeological research. The intent was to update this document every five years.

As it turned out this was far too ambitious a schedule, and ​The Archaeology of Kentucky: An Update was almost 20 years in the making. A great deal of archaeological work has taken place since the 1990 archaeological contexts were finalized. Much of this work has been undertaken in response to federally funded or licensed projects. But other projects have been undertaken in advance of state-funded projects or in response to threats to significant archaeological sites. A great deal of university and grant-supported research also has been conducted throughout the state. 

The update of these contexts has resulted in a substantially larger, two-volume set. As in 1990, the authors of this 1,132-page document have attempted to summarize all of the major projects undertaken in Kentucky. Undoubtedly, however, given the best efforts of all involved, some significant projects have been omitted from this document. If this is the case we apologize, as it was not the intent of any of the authors to slight the work of others. It simply was an oversight given the vast amount of work that has been conducted since 1990.

Finally, though we have learned a great deal about Kentucky archaeology in the last 20 years, there is still much to be learned. While archaeologists have begun to address many of the questions and objectives outlined in the 1990s, and others are no longer considered to be valid, they also have come to ask new questions. This is what makes archaeology an exciting and rewarding endeavor.

As noted in 1990, with any document that summarizes what is known about the archaeology of an entire state, some sections of this document were in need of revision shortly after they were written. Thus, it is our hope that the next update will not be 20 years in the making.