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Red River Gorge: Site of Living Archaeology Weekend

 by Diane Comer

(Sept. 17, 2014) – Gov. Steve Beshear has proclaimed September as Kentucky Archaeology Month to commemorate the contributions made through the professional practice of archaeology toward the public’s understanding of – and appreciation for – the Commonwealth’s rich cultural heritage.

Red River Gorge

The designation also recognizes the success of Living Archaeology Weekend (LAW), Kentucky’s oldest and largest public archaeology event, which has taken place since 1989 in Red River Gorge. The 26th annual free event will be Sept. 19-20 at Gladie Visitor Center.

During Living Archaeology Weekend, hundreds of preregistered school students will take part in demonstrations Friday, Sept. 19, including how to tan animal hides, weave baskets, make pottery, mill corn, throw spears with an atlatl, and flint knap (make spears and weapon points). The public is invited to attend from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 20. Admission is free.

The governor's proclamation credits the Kentucky Office of State Archaeology (OSA), located within the University of Kentucky Department of Anthropology, and the Kentucky Heritage Council/State Historic Preservation Office for maintaining an extensive and growing database of thousands of archaeological sites across the state, many of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places or designated National Historic Landmarks. 

“This remarkable archaeological record documents more than 12,000 years of Kentucky’s past, from Native American hunter-gatherers and farmers, to colonial European farmers and African slaves, to their more recent descendants who farmed, mined and ran industries and businesses,” the proclamation reads.

“Our understanding of Kentucky’s indigenous history is still incomplete, many myths about it persist, and professional archaeologists working with the public are continuing to provide new insights into our collective past and greatly expand our knowledge about the cultural traditions of our ancestors,” Beshear said.

According to George Crothers, director of UK's William S. Webb Museum of Anthropology and the OSA, the proclamation affirms both the abundant quantity of archaeological resources and the important research these have yielded and have yet to yield about Kentuckians’ collective past.

“The prehistory and early history of Kentucky and the archaeological research that is conducted in the Commonwealth are on par with what others are doing around the world,” he said. “The declaration of Kentucky Archaeology Month significantly recognizes this work, and we hope its observance will encourage greater public awareness of the need to preserve these sites so that this tangible evidence of our ancestors can be studied and preserved for future generations.”

For a calendar of Archaeology Month events, click here. The designation of Kentucky Archaeology Month is a precursor to International Archaeology Day, which will be observed Saturday, Oct. 18.